Some days the marketing and PR strategy you provide feels like it’s less important than the guy restocking the vending machines. Your client seems more interested in the new Coke products and less interested in the new campaign you want to role out. They become hard to get a hold of and it almost feels like the dreaded we think we are going to head in a different direction conversation could be coming up any minute.
How can you get your client to see you more than just another replaceable vendor and like a partner they can’t live without?
If you are an agency that is interested in building long term trust with clients rather than one that acts on their own short-term interests then take a look at our five steps below. You will be surprised to find that many clients are just as frustrated with the process as you are.
1. RFP: Request For Partnership
Treat the RFP, Request for Proposal as a request for partnership. Your agency should not be a vendor it should be a partner. A partner that is going to help propel the client’s business forward, push them outside their comfort zone and tell them no when something is not going well. I mean think of your closest and longest personal relationships, they aren’t filled with people who just tell you what you want to hear, they tell you what you need to hear to make you better. The same should be done for your clients if you want to be seen as more than just a vendor and a lifeline for the organization.
2. Develop Relationships With Other Agencies
Confusing? You might be thinking I read this to figure out how to build better relationships with my clients not with the competition- but hear us out.
Have you ever had to turn down a new client because you are too busy? Or maybe they need someone more specialized? Maybe you are an eCommerce focused agency but they are B2B? Or if you’re being honest you just can’t provide the help and focus they need right now?
This is when networking comes in. You want to be able to refer another agency who would be a better fit at the time. This is why strategic partnerships with agencies that offer complementary services are so important. When you refer the client to another top-notch agency you can still keep tabs on the client by checking in and also be on that agencies radar when they see something that might be a better fit for you.
If you want a strong client relationship, then you need to be honest from the beginning. As tempting as it is to add new clients and keep the money flowing to build success faster, trying to be everything to everyone won’t get you anywhere very fast. Sometimes saying no is the most helpful thing you can do for your business. And you never know, your honesty could have them coming back to you when they have a project that fits your agency perfectly.
3. Go Beyond The CMO
In the mind of some CEOs marketing is just another expense. They have never had a relationship with an agency partner that was able to prove ROI, leads generated, sales made and the customer discovery processes like you can! So it’s your turn to change that perception. In the normal day-to-day, you will probably be in contact with the CMO and their marketing team but in order to be a strategic partner and trusted advisor then you need to work on building a connection with the CEO.
Spend time learning everything you can able the CEO and everything you can about the organization and business structure- not just the products they are selling. This will give you insight into the CEOs mind because the business culture is most likely a reflection of him or her. Based on everything you learn, shape a strategy that impacts more than marketing but the company as a whole and set up a meeting with the CEO to share it. Throughout this meeting work on building trust on a peer-to-peer level and offer unique insights based on the research you did on the organization. The goal is to get invited back again. This not only helps you build a relationship with the guy or girl most likely to decide if you stay or go but also help the marketing department gain some clout too. Everyone can win when your agency is seen as a partner.
4. Plan Account Reviews
No one likes account reviews but if you really are a partner to your client then it should an opportunity to showcase all you have done together over the past year.
When your client brought you on, you made a lot of promises, set goals and hopefully measured success along the way which has all lead you to be seen as a true partner, not just another vendor. Don’t look at the account review as giving them reasons to cut ties, instead use it as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship by displaying everything you have accomplished.
It’s important that you get stakeholders input in here and don’t forget to ask for feedback too. As much as you want to use this as a time to brag about how great your partnership has been there is always room for improvement. So don’t ignore the feedback, take those areas that can be further developed and use that to showcase a plan for the future and how you will provide continued improvement as the relationship continues.
5. Treat Vendor Like A Bad Word
If you don’t want your client to think of you as a vendor don’t let them call you a vendor. If you have truly done everything above then the relationship between your agency and the client should feel personal.
If they refer to you as a vendor, stop them and correct them in the most polite way. Let them know you see yourself as a partner in their success, you aren’t just someone that shows up every once in while when they have a project or problem but you are part of their team.
Wrap It Up
Everyone knows a good client is hard to find. The key is helping your client see you as a partner they can’t afford to loose. The easy part is the pitch the hard part is forming a relationship that goes beyond the project and becomes a real partnership where both parties feel like they are winning. By becoming an integral part of their success your client will want you involved in as many projects as possible and keep you around for a long time.
Did you find the above information helpful! Then download this FREE e-book, How To Escape Your Agency’s Reporting Nightmare here.