Clients Need More From Their Agencies – Are Your Account Teams Keeping Pace?
We’ve worked with hundreds of agencies around the world on their approach to organic growth and strategy – global holding company networks, smaller creative boutiques, digital innovators, PR firms, and more. We’ve worked with the best in the business and those who want to adopt the growth practices of the most accomplished in the business.
With the continued shift to project-based work, shrinking budgets and reduced timelines, it has become difficult to provide the same level of strategic impact. Further, agency cultures have become reactive, running from one client fire to the next.
More importantly, the expectations of clients have spiked. They’re demanding deeper consumer insights, strategy that cuts across a growing number of channels, and more immediate business impact. To that end, clients are paying a premium for agencies with a more effective strategic process – one that drives their business forward in a measurable way.
Ultimately, the goal of your account teams should be to satisfy these new requirements – and leverage them for account growth. They should be providing a level of strategic service that generates more business for the agency by delivering on the new needs of clients.
They should lean in. Proactively craft new strategies that will help clients achieve their business growth goals, thereby, generating more revenue for the agency. It is possible to achieve this without feeling like a salesperson.
Client Decision-Makers Focus on Meaningful Business Outcomes
Your client-side marketing chiefs are being held accountable for tangible business impact like never before. As marketing now has the potential to be more effective, the pressure to do so has increased. They grow the business or they’re out. And it’s black and white for your teams: they play a role in this pursuit or they don’t. In fact, from a client perspective, why give more business to agencies who don’t focus on business outcomes, rather than the growing number of agencies who do?
You might be thinking, “Yes Mirren, we know this already.” Then act like it.
Most Account Teams Do Not
In fact, most teams are focused on the metrics of old. They speak to lower level measures such as awareness, impressions, reach, website traffic, brand preference, engagement, click through rates, and social engagement. The problem is that every one of these can be improved – but without increasing revenue by one single dollar.
Poorly Written Client Briefs Make Matters Worse
Most client briefs inadvertently set up account teams to fail. The challenge is that over-burdened marketing chiefs delegate much of the day-to-day agency management down to their more mid-level and junior team members. Unfortunately, these lower team members don’t have the the strategic horsepower to accurately represent the business needs of the organization’s C-suite. As a result, they write briefs with an uninformed focus. Of course, this is in those cases they actually write an official brief. Ultimately, agency teams often end up developing work that is in stark contrast to the needs of senior clients who are focused on business growth.
Align Your Account Teams with Senior Decision-Makers and Their Unique KPIs
Senior clients measure impact in a manner that is much different from their marketing managers, procurement and agencies. They focus on Key Performance Indicators, the metrics by which the C-suite tracks the performance of the business and its marketing. Clients live and die by their own unique set of business KPIs. They are personally evaluated against them, and, more importantly, they are compensated against them.
Here is where many account teams miss the mark: KPIs are unique from one category to the next. They are completely different as you move from retail banking to QSR to hotels. The clichés and soft outcomes of most agencies are too generic to measure and improve specific business performance. Broad metrics are, in fact, dead. As senior clients are being held more accountable to directly improve revenue, their KPIs have become very specific. Category-specific.
Which Account Team Are You?
Clients have many choices when sending out briefs to their roster agencies. Which account team would be more compelling to a retail banking client: one focused on driving Customers per Branch, New Accounts Opened and Products per Customer – or one focused only on creativity, digital transformation, storytelling, impressions, awareness and website traffic? In the hotel industry, would it be a team focused on driving inbound inquires, duration of occupancy and spend per occupancy – or one focused only on social media impressions, engagement and click-throughs? The answer is obvious. And with a growing number of agencies who also address category-specific business impact, why give more business to those who are not? If you were in the client’s shoes, would you?
Which Business Are You In?
In fact, clients have begun to ask this critical question of agencies. Are you in the business of communications impact or business impact? Are you a tactical marketing vendor or in the business of generating meaningful revenue growth? If your teams aren’t focused on driving business growth… well, then there are lots of better options to select from. When you combine the power of management consulting firms and in-house agencies, it’s time to decide whether you step up or step out.