I recently moved back to an executive position on the client side from a C-Level role at a leading midsize digital agency. Many aspects of the client side have changed in my five-year hiatus, but the following client-agency pitfalls remain the same. If you’re an agency pitching new business, an AOR, or mid-project, take note of these red flags.
Tell me why you matter
Answer these two questions:
1. Why does your company exist?
2. Do you have experience and success in my business sector?
If you can demonstrate both, let’s talk.
Do your research
Show me that you know my target audiences and that your team has a basic understanding of my competitor set. Be sure to have a point of view when you walk in the door.
Get the green light
Make it easy for me to sell. Give me a Powerpoint that is easy to understand, based in researched fact, and that I can sell to management. Making me reformat work that we’ve agreed to or that we’re co-developing will simply delay the project.
KPIs are not an afterthought. When you show up with the big idea, tell me how we’re going to measure it. It’s okay to have softer goals with social initiatives, but you can’t show up without them. Better yet, show me how our solution drives compound results, e.g., how SEO and social work together to create activation.
Demonstrate short-term wins and show a clear time to value. I’m running both sprints and marathon efforts; don’t suggest a strategy with zero short-term wins. If there is a technical or pass-through cost, show me how it will pay off and when. This helps me manage expectations inside my company.
Manage our budget. Synch our spending with our timeline and let me know when we’re being inefficient. I can make decisions and staff changes that get us back on track. The worst thing you can do is to tell me when we’re almost out of funds and only 50-percent through the project.
Account management changes cause disruption. We both have to reinvest in a shared understanding of goals, history, and ‘the roadmap.’ Assign a senior person to oversee this transition or risk creating an inflection point for a change in the relationship.
Know our Plan B
What if what we’re doing isn’t working? When do we cut our losses, and what’s our Plan B? We should develop alternatives together. No one gets fired for executing on a shared plan.
Think ahead to what’s next
If you want more work, proactively pitch initiatives that are going to provide greater customer insight and generate activation. I’m not holding back a bucket of money; I have to justify greater expenditures, and budget approval can take internal pre-sales and procurement time.