In public, most ad agencies, digital and PR firms won’t admit to having a favorite client. But they do. And these favorite clients get a lot more attention, the best people working on their business, the best ideas and, maybe, more services for a better price.
Recently, I was chatting with a colleague at an industry function and a woman walked past. My colleague stopped our conversation and said, “That’s the marketing person for what used to be our favorite client.
“Everyone in our company would stop everything when they called. And they’re a non-profit, so it’s not like we made a lot on their business. But we loved working for them.
“We would even get together and brainstorm ideas on how to help their business on our own. It was great!”
I asked, “They’re not your favorite client anymore?”
My colleague responded that there was a new day-to-day person in front of the marketing director. He said she doesn’t allow access to her boss and isn’t interested when his firm calls with new ideas. He followed that up by stating that this business no longer gets any special treatment from his firm.
As someone who’s worked at a fair share of agencies throughout the country, I’ve seen how people fight to work on certain clients and let others slide by.
You might think the agency (I’m using the term “agency” here for simplicity, but mean: design studio, digital agency, PR firm) should give equal importance to every client, but people (and agencies) are human (or filled with humans). And that’s just the way it is.
To attain “favored client” status and reap its benefits, keep at least some of the following (in no specific order) in mind:
•Give decent timelines – We understand that every once in awhile something has to be done at the last minute. But a client that continually says every job is hot will never become favored.
•Give a problem to solve – Marketing people love problems. Those are the things that we get out of bed in the morning for. Instead of saying, “We need a ______,” say “We have a problem driving customers to our new location. Got any ideas on how to solve that?”
•Provide budget parameters – Clients are afraid that if they give a budget number then their firm will take it all. On the flip side, your agency can’t give you a doable idea unless they know how much you can spend. Even a budget range is good. Hold a little back if you’re nervous.
•Provide feedback direction, not “change this to…” – Great clients say, “This isn’t right because…” and kill it. They also say, “This is close, but remember we need to focus on (such and such) in the message.” And “This fits because our marketing plan is going in this direction.” Great feedback.
•Push for the best all the time – The best people in this business want to do their best work all the time. They don’t mind—in fact they admire—clients who say and push for only the best work. Challenge them. Tell them when you don’t think it’s their best (be honest). The best client I ever had constantly pushed us. And we kept upping our game and did genre-changing work in their category. That pushed them ahead of their rivals while being outspent four to one in marketing.
•Thank them for great work – We all love praise when we do great work. One time a client sent me a bouquet of flowers for something I did. I always remembered that and worked harder than ever for them.
•Go for the bold – A client who constantly says, “They’ll never go for it” and lets ideas die on the table will take the wind out of his/her agency. Grab a bold idea. Take it up to the next level. If it dies, at least you tried. And you’ll be seen as a hero by your agency.
•Be accessible – We know you have a ton going on. And your agency, is just one of the many things you must deal with. Nothing puts a chill in an agency more than, “I haven’t heard from the client for a while.”
•Be organized – Even if you’re a bit overwhelmed (we all can be), have a problem and objective thought out. Have some background for your agency to grasp the issues at hand.
•Pay on time – Everyone at your agency knows which clients pay on time and which are laggards. This is talked about within your agency and turns off people from wanting to work on your business.
I realize this is a big list. But you can get a lot of love by adhering to just a few of these ideas. In the end you’ll get more for your marketing dollar and probably a lot more love from your agency.