An open letter to clients: We just need you to be better

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There is an abundance of content out there from clients on how to be a better client, but have you ever thought to ask your agency? After all, we are the other half in this partnership. And that’s exactly what we’re looking for!

We are not the enemy. We are not hat wearing, quote bearing monsters (well, not all of us.) Although we may be in the business of making money, we are very conscious that this will only come as a result of making you money and offering you genuine value as a partner. And in a climate where there are thousands, quite literally, of marketing agencies, all offering to do pretty much the same thing we know that our relationship with you is pretty much all we’ve got to separate us from ‘ABC’ or ‘Destiny’ down the road.

We spend hours upon hours in workshops, seminars, meetings and consultations – all aimed at making us better agency ‘people’, but in order to balance this value exchange, it’s also critical that we help our clients to be better ‘clients’.

No-one would be prepared to be the best husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/friend/pet etc without feeling like they are getting the same back from their respective ‘partner’, would they?

We want to work in partnership with you, to produce work that we’re both excited by and proud to have been a part of creating.

The client-agency partnership is central to the work we all do as marketers, one that requires thoughtful management, transparency, and effective ways of working that all parties respect.

- Joseph Liu, founder, Ilumity

I just need it to be better

Unfortunately, that’s not even ironic, a client has said this to me. More than once. I like to think I’m a good interpreter, but unfortunately I feel even Yoda may struggle to interpret this sentiment and return anything particularly meaningful or wise. An article I came across recently identifies;

If agencies can’t understand what is being asked of them, how can we expect consumers to?

- Mette Davis, Founder, Mette Davis-Garratt Ltd

This applies to all stages of the creative process. From briefing, to planning, to review, to post campaign wash-up. Clarity is key. We make it our business to understand your business. But as much as we want to help you out as much as possible, we can’t do your job for you. You know your business, your competition, your strategy inside and out…and most importantly, you know what’s in your head! Help us out, let’s communicate openly and honestly. We’re not fussy with how you like to communicate, in person, over the phone while you’re driving or if you want us to sit in the kitchen while you make dinner…but let’s do it! The more insight you can give us, especially on what you want to achieve, the closer we can get to hitting the proverbial nail on the head. We want to make you happy!

My wife doesn’t really like it

Another sentiment which has really stuck with me. As much as I may respect your wife’s opinion, or your friend in IT, or your hair dresser… they’re not the target audience (most of the time). Now, we don’t like to blow our own trumpet as agencies, but we probably have centuries of combined experience between us.

We have also probably spent an incredibly long time (more than quoted for in most instances), interrogating the brief, assessing the objectives and gathering customer insight, to build a robust outcome to deliver against what you asked us for. We always document and agree the brief with clients to ensure we all know what we want to achieve.

Not only this, but the astronomical growth of technology allows us access to something we never had before…proof! Trust us to do our job. Let’s review this together. Use data and insight to drive marketing decisions, hand-in-hand with creativity. Most importantly, keep the customer at the forefront…they are your lifeblood. Also – ‘customer-centricity’ is one of our favourite agency buzz words right now!

Equally, consolidated feedback is key! I know I said your wife’s thoughts might not be necessary, but if you want to show her, do it before you give us your amends.

I need it ten minutes ago

OK, so we would love to be able to make stuff happen for you ‘right now’! But unfortunately, without other clients, we wouldn’t have an agency for you to ask this of. We don’t take lunch breaks, and COP certainly does not mean 5:30pm in agency-land. We will do literally everything in our power, to turn work around for you as quickly as possible. But to help us, we do rely on 2 key things – NOTICE and REVIEW.

We appreciate that you’re busy and you have lots of things dropped on your plate, and we’ll do everything we can to support you. But the more notice you can give us, the better we can plan and the better the outcome will be! Equally, don’t be the customer that gets their food in 5 minutes but doesn’t finish until 2 hours after your shift ends. If we supply you work in 2 hours and you don’t review it for 2 days, was it really that urgent?

As Former Heineken CMO, Lesya Lysyj previously shared with Advertising Age in ‘Your Agency Hates You and You Don't Even Know It’ - upon learning one of her team sent their agency back 40 times for a few lines of copy for a Facebook post…pick your battles!

Now, this isn’t about client-slamming. We know we can be guilty too. But as highlighted – be honest and be open.

Remember what we’re here for, to offer consultancy, guidance and sometimes to push you out of your comfort zone. We’re working on being a better agency all the time, so help us out. One of our core values at BWP is Respect. We’ll offer it to you, if you offer it to us (and probably even if you don’t.) We hold periodic 360-degree client review sessions. This is an opportunity for you to critique us as an agency, but also for us to review you as a client. This is all in the interest of building the best client-agency relationship we can, so we can do awesome work together!

Kindest regards

Megan Marshall, Senior Account Manager, BWP Group

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