No amount of face-to-face reviews, 360º appraisals or KPI measures can provide as much genuine insight into how an agency/client relationship is progressing than one heartfelt and unguarded client comment.
“I hated you when we first met” was how one client recently opened a discussion with me. Admittedly, a number of agency personnel and clients had just returned from a full day of corporate hospitality at the Cheltenham Gold Cup and were continuing in style in the bar of the hotel opposite the agency.
“I hated you because you told us things in the pitch we didn’t want to hear”, our client qualified. Amidst a few anxious glances and a perceptible silence falling over those within earshot, this delicate situation could have gone either way.
“But I love you now!” the client in question quickly added, picking up on the change in mood. What followed lifted the spirits. True, we had pitched and effectively ignored large sections of the pitch brief and proposed what we felt was right. 18 months later we had a happy and successful client who felt confident enough to share with us their initial feelings. And during those 18 months we had produced a clear strategy that was made live through deliverables such as trade and consumer advertising, social media, exhibition design and printed material for stockists.
It takes courage, trust and a commendable level of professionalism to appoint an agency when your heart says ‘no’ but your head says ‘yes’. Luckily for both parties in this instance the relationship is working out to our mutual success and enjoyment.
I suppose mutual respect is the basis of a fruitful relationship. Ideally though, getting on with each other is key otherwise it all falls apart.
Like most agencies, we try and take a view on whether to pitch or not before we even begin the process.
Potential clients are effectively asking you and other agencies for a point of view and potential solution – for free.
So, if a disembodied brief appears in your email asking you to pitch, ignore it; if a company declines the opportunity to meet with them and discuss the pitch brief, walk away. If historic client data that could affect your thinking isn’t available then pass up the opportunity. Like I said, it’s all about respect. Agencies spend £000’s in pitch costs so if you are going to pitch, try and find that client who has the time, commitment and foresightedness to recognise that your pitch response might be the answer they weren’t expecting but it’s the response the brief needs. Then watch the love grow.