Proving just how important client relationships are here at Sense, Tuesday 2 April saw our Senior Account Director Jess MacGillivray (above centre) take Emily Taylor (above, second from the left), Consumer Marketing Manager at Zipcar, to the latest Marketing Agency Action Group’s Greenjam event entitled ‘Keeping the Client Fire Alive’. Both Jess and Emily sat on the evening’s panel to share their insight and experience on building strong client relationships, they themselves being a great example.
The event posed the question that if strong partnerships are commonly believed to produce the best work and lead to better results, “why is it that the average length of a client/agency relationship, even when a longer-term relationship is intended, less than three years?” Joining Jess and Emily on the panel chaired by Econsultuancy Managing Partner Richard Robinson were Ajay Joshi, who spent 10 years leading BT’s consumer marketing and advertising, and Paul Griffiths, founder of Client Advocates, which helps agencies sustain and improve key account relationships.
“Emily and I were asked about the relationship between Sense and Zipcar, who we’ve been working with for over two years now creating some great campaigns, and we discussed what the key ingredients were to a successful long-term partnership,” explains Jess.
“At Sense, aside from our expertise in planning, award-winning creative, measurement and research, and staffing, we are committed to building strong relationships with brands. To achieve this we believe it’s important to gain a deep understanding of how clients operate and the challenges they are facing. Emily confirmed that clients like Zipcar love it when their agencies show an interest in their business, rather than just the projects they’re working on. We also all agreed that it’s important to get to know clients on a more personal level if possible, making a human connection.”
Commenting on the evening, Emily says: “The GreenJam event reinforced why having a good a client agency relationship is vital for ongoing business success – especially in the marketing sphere. An agency’s biggest asset is their people, so having a solid relationship built on trust, communication and agreed expectations sets a client agency partnership in the best stead to produce the best results. Both parties understanding each other as businesses, but also as people, is essential to creating clear and honest lines of communication.”
Long-term partnerships should be built from the moment a new client is won, according to Jess, by immediately establishing set ways of working and regular reviews to spot any issues early in the relationship so they can be dealt with. It’s also important to manage the transition from the senior pitch team to the account management team carefully, with regular senior contact being maintained.
Going forward, it’s vital to bear the pitch promises in mind to ensure they are delivered, and remain focused and consistent rather than getting distracted by a new client, for example.
“Ultimately, it’s about being human,” says Jess. “Relationships are built on emotion. If a client likes you they’ll keep you, so get to know them well by giving them plenty of face time. This will enable you to be sensitive to their wants and needs, such as knowing when to put forward new ideas and when to hold back.”
The key, of course, is not simply acknowledging what needs to be done, but making sure you act on it and not letting the day-to-day routine get in the way.
“I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to invest time and effort in developing strong client relationships, both in terms of retaining and nurturing long-term business, but also for creating better campaigns. It really is a win-win for both agencies and their clients.”