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Managing Marketing: The Current State Of Client And Agency Relationships

Anita Zanesco

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Anita Zanesco is a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3 and is also a highly experienced Account Management practitioner. Anita shares her thoughts on the current state of client and agency relationships discussing the good, the bad and the ugly and pointing out not just where it goes wrong but why both parties should be more open and honest in communicating their expectations and needs.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and today I’m sitting down with Anita Zanesco who’s a Senior Consultant here at TrinityP3 but also someone that’s got a quite colourful career in account management in agencies. So welcome, Anita.

Anita:

Thank you Darren.

Darren:

I say colourful because you were the B&T Account Management person under 30.

Anita:

I was.

Darren:

For Brisbane, wasn’t it?

Anita:

No, I was in Melbourne at the time, it was for Australia.

Darren:

Oh, in Melbourne.

Anita:

Yes, I was working in Melbourne at the time, the lovely Jeff Ingle convinced me to do that one.

Darren:

Now you would have noticed I called it account management, not account service.

Anita:

Correct!

Darren:

What’s your opinion?

Anita:

Oh, definitely account management, yeah. It’s about managing pieces of business, not serving clients as far as I’m concerned.

Darren:

And what do you think is the measure of a good account management person? Because you know, I had fifteen years in advertising and probably can count on one hand the really good account management people.

Anita:

I think the measure of a good account manager is a person who has got quite a lot of good business knowledge, is quite strategic, going back in the day, twenty, thirty years ago, planning didn’t actually exist as a discipline or there was one planner in an agency of five hundred people and so account managers were expected to be quite strategic and to run the business strategy as well as the execution of any creative ideas.

I think a good account manager, apart from sort of having good business and strategic sense also has to be quite a people person. I think the really good account managers I’ve come across tend to have EQ as well as IQ and they can work very well with staff both internally and their own clients.

A good account manager certainly in an advertising sense or in a creative sense has to be quite a good judge of creativity and look at how a creative idea or a campaign idea and an execution can actually ladder up to a business strategy and what kind of results that could potentially get a client.

I think good account managers also have to be very good at listening. Listening to clients but also listening to their team around them. They have to be good, as they get more senior, they also have to be very, very good at nurturing younger team members and I think that’s something that recently I don’t see enough of. I don’t see enough of senior account managers nurturing junior account managers and sort of helping them understand their role in the organisation.

Darren:

It was the tradition, wasn’t it, that many account management people would start out with the old mail room job or the coordinator role and that you would actually be mentored as you moved through.

Anita:

Yes!

Darren:

As you moved through the ranks.

Anita:

You were trained. Yeah, you were actually physically trained. You were sent on training courses. There was a lot more rigour in terms of process and the way that things worked, and it felt like there were potentially more opportunities for account managers largely due to the fact that there wasn’t a huge planning department.

You see some agencies these days and their planning departments are massive. So, if you’ve got a planner that’s 100% on a piece of business, unfortunately what seems to be happening is the account manager is relegated to more of a sales role and more as you said, a service role as opposed to a management role. And they can get away with it.

Darren:

Yeah and this is the term, the ’empty suit’, or the bag carrier.

Anita:

Yes, yes!

Darren:

Because their strategic input is taken away so what’s left? Wining and dining the client? Well, you know, if you do that the client starts wondering…

Anita:

There’s not even the budgets to do that these days, yeah. I just think the joy of it is in actually working with clients on their business challenges and the issues that they face and actually then working through a process whereby you get to a solution that can actually help meet some of those challenges and opportunities.

Darren:

And that’s really the difference between management and service because service by the very word implies giving the client what they ask for whereas management is about managing all of the resources available to you, not just within your agency, but within the client’s business and within the other agencies you work with.

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

I mean, really good account management people almost have a sort of charisma or ability to get people to align and work together, don’t they?

Anita:

Totally. Totally. And I think one of the key things I’ve probably forgotten to mention when we were talking about what makes a good account manager is the ability to say no. Actually, the ability to push back and to stand up when a client asks for something and either say, “Actually I can’t answer that right now, I’ll get back to you”, or just say, “No, that’s actually impossible for us to give you a new idea by tomorrow”.

What I see and hear all the time in the relationship surveys we do and the workshops that we run is that agencies that account service people tend to say yes to clients, because it’s not actually their problem. They give it back to the agency and it becomes someone else’s problem to deliver it overnight.

Darren:

I wonder if it’s also because part of the remuneration model is now encouraging them to say yes to as much as possible because one of the things you do see is that the more work the agency does, the more money they get paid supposedly, so that you’re increasing your revenue for the agency if not necessarily your profit.

Anita:

Yeah, I think you can still say yes to a job. I think it’s more about how that job gets done then. A client can ask for something, but the role of a good account manager is to then manage how that job gets delivered and I think if you look long term rather than short term, what that ends up as the result is a much better relationship because an agency can then deliver the best work possible to a given brief.

Darren:

Now one of the things we both have to acknowledge before we keep going on this path is that most of our work, especially with pitches, running pitches, is because the relationship is either irretrievably broken down or the client has significant issues around an agency, so we probably see the worst of client agency relationships there.

Anita:

We do.

Darren:

And even with relationship management, just the process of asking the questions is inclined to bring problems to the surface. So, you know, we probably do see the sort of deep and murkier end of client agency relationships rather than the…

Anita:

The ones that are all swimming along nicely. Yeah, correct.

Darren:

Light and shiny and happy and you know, productive.

Anita:

Yeah. When we do like the strategic alignment work and we interview agencies that are in good relationships with their clients, we do hear a lot of that good stuff coming through as to why the relationship is still strong, what’s working, and very often, it does come down to strong account management that keeps that relationship going.

That’s because a really good account manager will resolve a conflict before it becomes a real issue. So, if there’s an issue with another person working on the business, a really good account manager will spot it, speak to the client about it and be able to resolve the issue internally. Which is really, really important.

It’s that relationship with the client and being able to say, “Look, you don’t seem like you’re really happy at the moment, is everything going okay?” It’s not a hard thing to ask. It’s the same as any other kind of relationship that you manage as a human being. So, a good account manager will spot that if it doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel as positive as it should be. And they’ll actually do something about it, and I think from a client’s point of view, the agency gets a lot of respect when that happens.

Darren:

Yeah.

Anita:

Or when a good account manager knows when to elevate it up the chain and speak to their managing director or CEO and say, “I actually think you need to put in a call, this isn’t going great”.

Darren:

It’s one of those things, if you’re always saying yes to your client, you know, how high to jump or…

Anita:

Yeah!

Darren:

You really end up just being part of the furniture.

Anita:

Oh, totally!

Darren:

Because you’re just there to say yes.

Anita:

Yes! And it certainly doesn’t help relationships internally in the agency either because yes people come back and that’s a real problem.

Darren:

Well that was one of the things I hated as a creative.

Anita:

I bet.

Darren:

In fact, I had an account manager once come back to me and say, “Look, the client really loved the press campaign, they just want to look at the headline and if we could do something with the visual”.

Anita:

And maybe the copy.

Darren:

Well I said, “Were they happy with the copy?” Well let’s get back to that later and I’m like? So really, they didn’t like it. Well I’m just trying to make sure that you know, and it’s like, just tell it to me straight. I’m a big grown up adult, you know, not a child.

Anita:

But again, what we see on the flipside is a lot is clients who are too afraid to tell the truth as well. And the clients will go, “Yeah well, you can work on this headlineif you think it’s got potential, but I don’t really like it the way it is at the moment. And this visual, I can see where you’re going”, and they tiptoe around it rather than saying, “You know what? I don’t even know why I don’t like it, I just don’t like it, I don’t think it’s going to work. Can you go back to the drawing board?”.

But often clients aren’t that transparent. So, you have this whole murky water thing going on and it makes it really difficult so I think a good account manager that can immediately put their clients at ease and say, “This is a completely open and transparent relationship. You need to be really honest and upfront with us, we will be honest and upfront with you” and the relationship will move forward. And I think those kind of relationships are outstanding when they actually happen.

Darren:

So, do you think part of it is as you touched on it before, that not only inside agencies there’s not that mentoring, but perhaps inside client organisations there’s not the mentoring that used to happen so that often you’ll find middle level brand managers that are trying to make decisions and sometimes they feel completely out of their depth.

Anita:

Yeah. I think we do see that and it often comes through one of the favourite statements in the evaluating relationship surveys that we do is knowledgeable and informed teams. It’s all around the experience of the team. And that does come out from the client end, certainly that it’s almost like people have either been promoted too early or they’ve stepped into positions from other departments and there’s a real lack of understanding of the marcomms process and the role of an advertising or media or PR agency and what their expectations are.

And so yes, that mentoring is not happening internally from the client side either.

Darren:

There used to be a thing, especially in creative agencies, there was a mystique about the creative process and about what agencies did which seems from my perspective to have turned into a mistrust now. It’s almost like what used to be a mystique has been replaced by, “Well, you know, I’m not really sure what’s going on there and can I really trust that?” And so, if you’re already insecure or unsure or haven’t had the experience to know how to work with the creative agency, you would then start to be concerned about it.

Anita:

Yeah and I think there’s probably not as much time being taken with inductions. There used to be a lot of time put into inductions where clients would spend some time at the agency to sort of try and understand why it takes a week to do something. Because anyone outside of the industry, well, who’s to say it doesn’t take a day to come up with a creative idea? I mean, it can happen in a day, we all know that, but it’s very unlikely.

Darren:

Well not if you’re being paid by the hour! It should take as long as possible, should it?

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

I mean I once came up with an idea in a meeting and got berated by the account director because he could only charge for the hour of the meeting!

Anita:

Hold it back! Hold it back!

Darren:

“Shut up! We could have gone away, spent two weeks sitting around and charged for two weeks’ worth”.

Anita:

But I think it goes back again to the other thing that’s exacerbating which is account managers that say yes. So, what happens is, client needs something, account manager says yes, goes back to the agencies, creatives scream, shout, throw things at the wall. Go home that night, work through ’til 4 o’clock in the morning, actually do come up with something, go back to the client the next day and the client goes, “Well, you know, great!”

Darren:

Yeah, do it all the time.

Anita:

So, every time, yes! So, this ends up happening all the time and then of course, there’s never any respect that an agency would need more than a couple of days to turn something around. Why should there be three weeks to come up with a multi-million-dollar campaign concept?

Darren:

It becomes the new expectation.

Anita:

It does.

Darren:

Because you meet the client’s expectations rather than hold…

Anita:

It’s just bad process, yes.

Darren:

Okay. So in that there is this whole thing about agile marketing and marketers somehow wanting the agency and the creative process to be part of that agile process. Where you have your stand up meeting every morning at 9 o’clock for 30 minutes and that ideas are thrown out on the table and then everyone runs off to do the work during the day and comes back the next day.

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

How do you think agencies are able to adapt to that?

Anita:

Look, I think they can, and I think certainly involving clients more rather than doing what we used to do and hold off for three weeks and then have an all-singing, all-dancing presentation I think just the channels alone that we’re using to communicate these days doesn’t really permit that anymore.

So, I think certainly agencies becoming more agile as in having more frequent meetings and involving the client and even just doing you know, ad-hoc kind of, “Look, we’ve got a few ideas we want to share but we can probably do it via conference call because it’s strategic territory stuff, or we’ll send you…” I think certainly being a bit more flexible like that, agencies can certainly adapt but on the flip side, it’s not a rational process, it’s something that has to evolve the creative process. It’s art.

Darren:

Yeah and it also requires a huge level of trust.

Anita:

Totally.

Darren:

Because for creative people to throw ideas out on the table in a meeting, it’s hard enough when they’re….

Anita:

That’s their work!

Darren:

It’s hard enough when there’s teams together or creative groups, they really need to build a level of trust.

Anita:

Yeah, there is.

Darren:

To do that in an open meeting with a client is incredibly….

Anita:

Yeah and to do it regularly, like every couple of days, when you’re working through stuff yourself, it’s actually, it’s a waste of everyone’s time because what will happen is, as the creative process evolves, things are thrown out along the way, things are tested internally and that’s where a client just needs to actually have trust in the agency going through their process that at the end of the day, they will get the best result. And I think as long as timings are upfront, and a client’s expectations are managed, then it will result.

Darren:

I also think there’s a problem with creative literacy sometimes amongst account management, but also especially amongst marketers and what I mean by that is, last century when I worked in creative agencies, I like saying that…

Anita:

Me too, yeah.

Darren:

Literally you could be at lunch as a creative team and come up with an idea and do the idea on the back of a napkin, right?

Anita:

Of course, didn’t everyone do that?

Darren:

No, no. But it would happen.

Anita:

It did. They were very long lunches, Darren.

Darren:

And then you’d come back into the agency and the art director would, in the terms that we use, whisk it up. Like literally get a marker and draw it up with stick figures or whatever and then you could review that, right, internally. But now, it’s like, you can’t, you can’t even show the client that wristed up idea.

Anita:

Yes, yes!

Darren:

Now it’s like, “Oh it’s got to go into the studio, and it’s got to have photography pulled down from photo libraries and type set”, before the client can even see it. Because they cannot read a layout. They cannot read a very simple expression of creativity.

Anita:

Do I agree with that? I ran a pitch really recently and the winning agency, that’s exactly how they presented their work, as scamped up drawings. It really did allow them to bring to life what they were trying to communicate. There were quite simple ideas, they did it via scamps and you know handwritten headlines, scribble for copy and the client came onboard, and this was a pitch scenario. We had three agencies, some agencies did the full on, beautiful studio, amazing visuals, it would have taken hours…

Darren:

Which is hours, hours of studio time.

Anita:

Hours and a lot of money. You know, beautiful work. But the fact is, the ideas weren’t as strong. So the agency that won, it was a really straight-forward, successful pitch in that their ideas were the strongest, the chemistry was the strongest and actually at the end of the day, the fact they had actually scamped it up worked in their favour because if they hadn’t scamped it up and if they’d tried to put it into studio, it would have been too finished and the idea may have fallen flat.

Darren:

Look, I agree. I think hand rendered layouts allow for a level of personal interpretation as to…

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

But you still get the idea. The more final it makes it, and I wonder if maybe it’s because agencies are not as confident in the idea so they’re trying to make it as finished as possible.

Anita:

Yeah, possibly.

Darren:

Having said that, we’ve just done a project with a large financial service company and you know, one of the things they’ve demanded is that all ideas need to be actually comprehensively mocked up in studio because…

Anita:

Are they paying for that?

Darren:

Well, and this is the problem is that because they need it, the marketers need to be able to present it internally to non-marketing people and so you know, we pointed out the costs associated with that and they’re unsure whether they should pay it or not.

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

Now, our point of view is they should absolutely pay it. If you can’t use mock-ups, ah, sorry, scamps, drawings, then you should pay for the mock-ups.

Anita:

But that goes back to your point about creative literacy and clients aren’t as literate as they should be in terms of actually understanding and interpreting creative ideas and understanding the difference between an idea and execution. So, by all means, look at an idea as a scamp and then if it helps, show executionally, the style that it will appear in.

Darren:

There was a great story I was told about a pitch for the British Army and they were doing press and they had all of the press ads all mocked up around the room and the General who was part of the decision making process said, “I particularly like this campaign, especially how you’ve proposed using Latin in the body copy”. Because they’d used Lorem Ipsum to set the copy and the layout.

Anita:

Awesome.

Darren:

So, I thought, this is how you can really mislead people by trying to finalise things.

Anita:

Yes, as soon as it goes into studio, then all of a sudden, the client’s saying, “So is the logo actually going to be that size? And that colour? I don’t think that colour is quite right.”

Darren:

The more final it is.

Anita:

Yes.

Darren:

So, we’ve sort of talked about the role of the advertiser in the client agency relationship, the need to be more honest and open in their communication. What about the role of the agencies? Because while I read a lot of the trade press with agencies complaining about marketers and the demands of marketers and how they’re not taken seriously and they’re treated like suppliers, what could agencies do from your perspective? Apart from saying no? You did say they should say no more often.

Anita:

Yeah. And I think agencies, what can they do better?

Darren:

Well there’s a line of thought out there that they should become more like consultancies, that they should be more consulted and come up with solutions and be less focused on the sort of production and implementation.

Anita:

Yeah look I think it’s a chicken and egg situation isn’t it? If a client isn’t paying an agency to spend the hours and the time on the business, then an agency can’t deliver that and we see that all the time, again going back to some of the surveys we run and there’s always a question on whether the teams are proactive and it’s always one of the complaints of the client that the agencies aren’t proactive.

But what ends up coming out in the workshops associated with those surveys is that agencies aren’t paid, they’re paid by the job. So, they’re paid by the project. So therefore, to actually sit back once a week and spend two hours just going, “So how’s the business going? How is sales going?” And to actually take the time to really get under the skin of the business and look at how an agency could impact a client’s business, they’re not actually being paid to do it. And if they’re not being paid to do it, it’s really difficult to allocate resource to spend time on the client’s business.

Darren:

Because the relationship has become more transactional…

Anita:

Totally.

Darren:

Because of the way the agency perceives they’re paid.

Anita:

Yeah, yeah.

Darren:

It’s interesting. But even under retainers I’ve seen clients complain, especially, we want to pitch our agency because they’re not proactive enough.

Anita:

Yes.

Darren:

And then when you go and talk to the incumbent, they go, “Well, here’s the 27 things in the last twelve months that we’ve presented to the client that were proactive and they were all rejected because they don’t have any budget for it”.

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

And then you go back to the client and go, “Well, there was 27 proactive initiatives”, “Oh yeah, but we don’t have budget”. So, what do you actually mean by proactive? Because why demand proactivity if you’re actually never going to support it? “Oh well, it just shows us that they’re really thinking about our business”. No, no, they’re thinking about your business, they’re thinking about getting done the things that you’ve told them that you need done.

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

But if they do anything beyond that, it’s futile.

Anita:

Yes, totally. And I think certainly the onus is on the agency to make sure the fit of their team is right with the client and that’s where I’ve seen a few instances recently where agencies have really struggled to find the right people on the right piece of business.

Now what’s a solution to that? Oh, I don’t know. One potential solution is to actually involve the client so make sure first, I mean, if it’s an existing relationship, obviously if there are issues you need to fix them. But if an agency’s hiring, involve the client. Let the client interview potentials, so then it becomes a little…

Darren:

Especially if they’re senior people or they’re going to be the main point of interface.

Anita:

Yes! And then the client actually feels some responsibility that that person is working with them. And it does so often come back to relationship though. The responsibility’s on the agency to maintain the relationship and I just think tiptoeing around a client who is either behaving badly or not briefing correctly or treating a team member badly, is just completely unnecessary. It is the role of the agency to go in there and just ask them what the issue is and get to the bottom of it and fix it. Just laziness not to.

Darren:

Isn’t part of the problem also, and Michael Farmer who’s Chairman of TrinityP3 in the US, has got this terrific graph that shows that agency fees in the US have decreased by 63% in real terms from 1995 to 2015, right? Isn’t part of the problem that clients are paying a lot less than they were for agencies?

Anita:

Yes, they are and they expect so much more. You look at it and I just sort of think, clients just can’t expect to get something for nothing. No one does. They need to pay for resources because otherwise how does an agency survive?

Darren:

But then I’ve had that conversation with marketers, and they go, “Well if the agency is willing to do it for so much less, why would I pay more?”

Anita:

Are the agencies willing to do it for so much less?

Darren:

Well, they’ve accepted it in the negotiation, and I saw this a lot in 2007, 2008, clients would phone us up and go, “Global financial crisis, I need to slash my budget by 30%, 40%, 50%, can you come and help us?” And I’d say, “Yes, but there’s a fee attached to it” and they’d go, “It doesn’t matter”. And then I’d find out afterwards they just turned to the agency and they said, “We’ll do your whole scope of work for 40% less”.

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

Right?

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

So, agencies have done that.

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

They are complicit in actually devaluing and when I’ve spoken to agencies they’ve said, “Oh yeah but we thought when the money came back, they’d pay us more”. It doesn’t work that way.

Anita:

No, it doesn’t work that way. It’s s not going to work that way.

Darren:

Isn’t that a lack of business understanding?

Anita:

It’s a lack of business understanding, and I think if agencies are doing it at the detriment of training their staff or paying their staff less, then relationships won’t be maintained. It’ll end up walking. It’s the same with any kind of arrangement. There will only be a certain amount of time that they can survive if they cut their costs that much and then all of a sudden it creates negativity around that client because of course, they’re not making any money from that client.

That client’s a loss. So, then all of a sudden, they’re trying to replace that client. It’s like well, as soon as we can get something else in that category, we’ll just let that client go. It’s just not healthy.

Darren:

Well, and we’ve seen FMCGs, consumer packaged goods, whatever you want to call them, their budgets over the last twenty years have gone, they used to be the blue-ribbon clients.

Anita:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Darren:

Now it’s like the chicken feed in most agencies.

Anita:

Yeah, it is.

Darren:

And yet they still have the same expectations that they had when they had multi-million-dollar budgets and now they’re turning up with a couple of hundred thousand.

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

For creative agencies, where does the alignment come from? When does the alignment of expectations occur if the agency is unable or unwilling to stand up and go, “You know what? X dollars buys you X. Y dollars buys you Y.” Not two X, not two Y or three Y.

Anita:

Yep. And that’s where the really successful agencies will survive because they will stand up and they will have those conversations with clients and say, “This is how much it costs us to service your business and this is what you will get as a result. And we are the right team for you.” And really good clients will pay the money. They will actually recognise the fact, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Darren:

Well you’ve run a lot of pitches with us.

Anita:

Yes.

Darren:

How many in your experience, have been decided on price alone?

Anita:

None.

Darren:

Yeah.

Anita:

None. But we are very, very clear as you well know, with clients that price is the absolute end game, that it’s the actual end of the process but, we always ask a decision on an agency be made before we actually reveal what we’ve done in terms of financial benchmarking. And then we discuss price.

If there are huge differences between two agencies and one is the preferred agency, we then work with that agency to bring their prices in line with benchmark. And I think that’s the beauty of us having benchmarks.

Darren:

Or come up with a sustainable solution.

Anita:

Yeah. But that’s the beauty of having benchmarks as well. Because everyone loves a benchmark. Everyone loves to know, well actually, this is the industry standard. We’re not too far off it. Or, we’re so far under. As you know, we are very honest with agencies that are under benchmark and we say, “Actually, we think you need to up your resource here. Or up your rates, your hourly rate, because you’re actually well below benchmark”.

Darren:

Especially if they’re under resourcing because there’s nothing worse than saying to a client, “Yeah, yeah, we can do it for X dollars” but you’re really doing that on a proposal of having half the resources you’re actually needing.

Anita:

That you actually need, yeah.

Darren:

What all that means is you’re going to overwork your resources, or you’ll be going cap in hand back to the client going, “Please, can I have some more?”

Anita:

Yeah.

Darren:

You know because you’ve undercooked it. Actually, and interestingly, we’ve had from my experience, two pitches in the last eighteen years where we did the benchmarking, but the negotiation was done by procurement and in both cases, they didn’t go for the preferred agency, they went for the cheapest agency, right.

Anita:

Yeah, well that’s what procurement would do, yes.

Darren:

So, what do you see as the biggest issues with procurement’s involvement in marketing and what do you think is the biggest benefit they can bring to it?

Anita:

I’ll start with benefit. I think the biggest benefit they can bring to marketing is really having that financial nous and that financial knowledge and being the numbers people. I think that’s invaluable.

Darren:

The commercial folks.

Anita:

Totally. Procurement will have a view on where the numbers across the business sit. They’ll be very, very strong and they will also bring a marketer who is getting carried away with the most glamorous, creative agency in the world, they will bring them right back to earth if the numbers aren’t stacking up.

I think the biggest detriment of having procurement involved is if they are allowed to run the pitch and if they are a key decision-maker. I’ve run a lot of pitches, some really big, where procurement has been in the room. But, at the end of the day, it’s been marketing’s decision as to which agency they’re going to appoint based on strategic, creative and cultural alignment. Because that’s going to lead to a long-term relationship.

It’s a bit like marrying the richest man in the world. Yeah, we’d all love it for a nanosecond, but is the relationship going to last? Probably not. Well, you never know, it might have, hey? So, I think certainly I’m witnessing a situation from afar at the moment where procurement is running a pitch and it’s interesting when procurement, and I’ve seen this before, when procurement are actually leading the pitch management.

It allows so little room for chemistry in the management of the process whereby agencies aren’t even called by their name. The emails are going out saying, “Dear Agency”.

Darren:

Yeah.

Anita:

There isn’t a real understanding of the importance of chemistry and culture, strategic alignment, creative alignment, all the things we value so highly when we run a pitch. When procurement runs it, because at the end of the day, procurement just want to get a result. They’ve got a to-do list and they’ve got an end point and they’ve got a number that’s the end point and that’s where they want to get to.

Darren:

So, I’ve had that conversation many times with procurement and they say it’s because their job is to make sure that everyone, all of the agencies, suppliers and vendors as they like to call them, are treated equally. And they’re concerned that our process, in fact they think it’s a weakness of our process, that some agencies could have a benefit over other agencies by building better and closer relationships with the client as part of the process.

Anita:

No, that’s impossible.

Darren:

Well, I pointed out that they all get the same exposure.

Anita:

Totally.

Darren:

If they build a better relationship, it’s because it’s a better fit.

Anita:

Totally, they do it within the boundaries of the meetings we allow. There’s no direct contact when we run a pitch.

Darren:

It infers to me that what they claim to be a pure procurement process totally lacks emotional intelligence, emotional quotient.

Anita:

It’s all about the numbers.

Darren:

That somehow the emotion has to be completely removed and that it’s just a check-list of facts to actually select the right supplier.

Anita:

Yeah, and they’re forgetting it’s actually a relationship that they’re pitching, and relationships have a huge emotional component. Even business relationships. Especially in marketing. So, yeah.

Darren:

It’s interesting. So, what would you recommend improving, if there’s a marketer listening to this, what is the one thing they could do to start building a better performing relationship with their clients?

Anita:

With their agencies?

Darren:

Ah sorry, with their agencies?

Anita:

Yes. The one thing they could do, if they only did one thing, I would suggest sitting down with their agencies and having a come to Jesus session as early as possible.

Darren:

And doing that regularly.

Anita:

Oh, definitely doing it regularly. But if they’ve never done one, do you know what, if there are any issues, get them on the table. Get them on the table and stop thinking that the grass is greener on the other side. It’s amazing that clients and agencies, they both do it.

Clients are always thinking, “You know, is this agency the best fit?” They’re always looking for issues. One of the things we see is clients and agencies don’t celebrate their success enough. So, they do a project, tick it’s done, great, move onto the next one. They don’t actually stop and go, “Wow, we actually did a really good job. It had its little hiccups along the way but aren’t we awesome for doing this together?”

Darren:

And here’s what we learnt from those.

Anita:

And here’s what we learnt. There’s not enough of that happening. And equally, agencies are constantly slagging off their clients. Well, don’t! Just tell the client what the issue is. And move on with it. Just say, “Look, we’ve got issues here, here and here. We don’t feel like your briefs are comprehensive enough so what we’d like to do is actually do a briefing session for two hours”. I mean, it’s amazing when you actually…

Darren:

Proactively manage your client.

Anita:

Yes! When you actually stand back, and again, that probably goes back to all sorts of things including time. Because no one does seem to have as much time anymore to spend proactively doing things like that but that little bit of investment of time will save you hours and money and heartache down the track.

So yeah, from a client’s point of view, if there was one thing that they should do, it’s actually getting everything on the table. And if they can’t do it themselves, then get a third party to do it.

Darren:

Like us.

Anita:

Like us. Like Evalu8ing.

Darren:

And that was the advertising component of today’s podcast.

Anita:

Evalu8ing.com.au

Darren:

Anita, we’ve run out of time but thank you for coming in and having a chat.

Anita:

You are very welcome, Darren.

Darren:

And one last question before we go; who is your best client that you’ve worked with?

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley. Find all the episodes here

 

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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