The consultancy –client relationship like all ties runs into a stormy patch every now and then. Maybe it’s genuine reasons; sometimes it’s a lack of deliverables on the consultancy’s side, lack of transparency on the client’s side or just plain old boredom with each other. Whatever the cause, keeping a client is both science and art.
Learning from real world relationships
In order to map the client-agency ties, Ideosphere Consulting has devised an infographic that mirrors a marriage or relationship. This allows their employees to map at what stage their relationship with their client is and devise solutions accordingly:
According to Shoebahmed Shaikh, director, south, Ideosphere when it comes to implementing deliverables is the time issues begin to crop up. He says this is, “ When we notice the socks lying unapologetically on the floor (typos in content), the unwashed dishes (unanswered emails) and some of our special guests do not show up (key media plays hard ball). We bring her flowers (online coverage) and she stares longingly at that pearl necklace in the shopping window (print mainline). We introduce her to our social circles with pride (industry influencers) and she wants to know how it’s helping with the breakfast, lunch and dinner (business impact). “
Shaikh says this is when, “The dreaded C-word rears its ugly head – Compromise. This stage is usually the true test of the client servicing team, especially the managers, on whom the onus lies for planning in advance, always having a Plan B and upping the motivation levels of the foot soldiers. The agency senior leadership needs to bring out their binoculars to catch any storms brewing on the horizon. “
Clayton D'Souza - Associate Director, Spag Asia, advises that, “Sometimes a client can rely heavily on an agency’s expertise or shy away from providing constructive criticism. Similarly, agencies can sometimes be so focused on giving the client what they want, that they neglect to speak up when they have suggestions for better solutions. Hence collaboration is key, and tactful, thoughtful and constructive feedback is a good thing.”
The ability to manage the client’s multiple communications requirements can also become a make or break factor.
Neha Bahl, founder, Qube Communication, feels that one way of keeping the client is to make sure that there is one point service for all marketing activities. She says, “These days clients prefer companies who have their own or external wings for social media activities, YouTube activations and many more. Clients find it difficult to manage a lot of companies could be difficult for a brand and creates lack of coordination as well.”
The 7-year itch
Inspite of active relationship management, discontent always creeps in after a while. Shaikh says with tongue firmly in cheek that there are many ways to keep a marriage going. Hide the cutlery is an age-old advice. On a serious note, he says that, “ The longer an account will sustain, the more opportunities we get to experience important milestones together. We travel together (events), anniversaries and promotions (client business growth), reviews and eventually the kids become more important (coverage frequency is usually met).”
However Shaikh advised agencies, “To keep things fresh, innovate on story creation and bring out the big guns like value-adds on newsletters, blogs, social media and workshops. While the leadership and senior account managers should take more ownership of this, junior-servicing teams might be best positioned to identify these innovation opportunities.”
Shaikh warns that, “ Failure to reinvent on both sides will eventually lead to heads turning towards greener pastures. This is best symbolized by his ability to go from being just an agency to a real ‘partner’. Missed media opportunities begin to really sting and the existential questions of whether we are strong enough to survive this are brought to the table. It starts to seem prudent from a business point of view to settle for an amicable divorce and pick up the learning and broken pieces to rebuild a new relationship elsewhere.