“Look at how they stand out from the rest”. Perhaps, one of the most pleasurable sentences a client can say, that will bring pure joy to the executives of a digital agency, whether active in digital marketing, or in e-commerce. Having observed hundreds of collaborations between digital agencies and clients, as an e-business consultant, Panayiotis Gezerlis, CEO of Convert Group, highlights the elements that will make you “stand out from the rest”.
If I were to capture the statistics from the approximately 200 collaborations I have witnessed between clients and digital agencies in the field of digital marketing and e-commerce, I believe that on the part of the client there would be:
• 5% exceptional partners, there is no chance we would ever substitute them even if they raised their salary by 50%.
• 25% acceptable work, we will renew the collaboration next year.
• 20% we are not satisfied, but changing now is too much trouble…
• 30% this relationship isn’t really working, we have to change.
• 19,9% I wonder how we have put up with it, we change NOW.
• 0,1% (!!!) it is our fault for not letting them do a good job.
What is interesting is that various clients of the same agency would evaluate it differently, according to the level of satisfaction in the relationship that has been formed. I would say, though, that “good agencies” should have 70% of their collaborations in the first two options, while “problematic agencies” should unfortunately have only 30%.
Are the digital agencies always to blame?
Of course it is not only the agency’s fault when something goes wrong in the collaboration. I honestly believe that, to a large extent, it is the client’s fault, though very few clients would have the objectivity to admit something like that. There are also instances where no party is at fault: the partners don’t get along, it’s common. While at other times the circumstances do not let the business relationship flourish. But let’s focus in this article on the mistakes the digital agencies make when managing their relationship with their clients.
✔ Before the collaboration begins…
Don’t go alone to a meeting. Take with you your associate that will be in charge of the account. I constantly see it happening, the client evaluates better a potential relationship when they get to know the people with whom they will cooperate during the project. And remember: let your associate talk also, so the client will get to know them better. If you send your offer to your client on time, then know that you “will win the match without even playing”, because there are not a lot of people who do that. I am honestly impressed at how late many agencies are in sending the collaboration offer to the client (and I must admit I have fallen into this trap myself, delaying sending the offers to our clients). And I think you will agree with me that most offers only take about two hours to get ready…
Follow-up… I don’t mean a pressing follow-up, in order to “sell”. What I mean is that it would be a good idea to send your client an article that might interest them. Something about the industry that you think it will improve their strategy. It is certain that the client will feel that you care about them and this will make you move up the scoreboard. If the client, at the end, chooses to collaborate with your competitors and not with you, don’t start moaning and complaining about how unfair things are and how you made the wrong choices. Thank them as cordially as you can by sending them an e-mail, for taking the time to evaluate your work and wish them good luck in their new collaboration. I have witnessed collaborations return 1-2 years after the “rejection”, because the digital agency displayed (among its other qualities) great politeness when they lost the job.
✔ During the collaboration
Set achievable goals in your cooperation with your client. Or, to put it in other words: set goals. Collaboration in a digital, mainly performance marketing, if the client’s goal is to “make money” is pointless. This is not going to happen; we all know that we are pressing our luck when we are guided by vague goals. A lot of times I have observed that if the goals are not communicated clearly from the start, there might be a different perception in each party’s mind: for instance, the digital agency creates turnover with its campaigns, while the clients look for profitability, even with low turnover. This is a debate regularly and extensively discussed in performance marketing agencies.
✔ Be honest during your collaboration.
If you make a mistake, own up to it, don’t attempt to hide it or blame your client for it. And I really think that there is no chance you won’t make a mistake in a year, no one is infallible.
✔ Have you ever heard of the phrase “data puke”? This is something I observe in most digital agencies.
Data and reports laid out in dozens of slides, and when the progress meeting ends, no one knows where to focus or what decision they should make. The approach you should take should be meaningful and actionable data. It is better to have 4 slides with reports and include more verbal communication (you can also have 10 more in back-up slides), than 40 slides with tables. Also, I am pretty positive that half of the clients DON’T understand most metrics, so make them as simple as possible.
✔ Show the client how much you work for them, otherwise they won’t appreciate it.
A report at the end of the month, including what you did for them is not such a bad idea.
✔ When the collaboration finishes.
Have a meeting with your client so you can review your collaboration. Include what you achieved and what you could have done differently to support the needs of your client even better. In Greece, we devote too little time on post mortem and we ignore the value of feedback (which normally we would have to pay to acquire it).
✔ Last but not least, support your client’s transition to another agency, don’t make their lives difficult.
There is no point in moaning, boycotting the new collaboration or withholding information from the account’s history. All these belong to the past. Show that you stand by your client, even if they chose someone else. There might come a time when they realize what they have done and come back to you!
*This article was initially published on marketingweek.gr .