Do you really care enough to get the best of your agency, do you care enough to deserve the best from your client?

5 days to 2011, and 5 reflections on this last year. The year we moved out of the great recession. The year social media became a large scale affair.

I would like to start these by a thought that hit me on Christmas day as I took a long  drive back from a meeting. 2010 has been the year when I have most heard people in our business talk about how tough relationships had become. What many studies ‘promised’ seemed to come true: agencies and clients getting to close combat.

Maybe the Gandhi in me had been refusing to want to embark on that nonsense fight, but I have to admit that I am bemused by what I have seen happening. But more importantly, it seems to me that the right question to ask is: are clients getting better work and service by beating on their agencies, or are they getting quite the opposite. Or positively rephrased: are clients getting better and more effective work by caring for their agencies. (and I hear voices saying: why would they care anyway…)

To try and answer this question, I will help you relive the last week before Christmas, before that car trip got me thinking. In these 4 days, I lived 4 incredibly different client meetings. In which 2 camps emerged.

The first  group were genuinely interested in the relationship, in the people and in the agency. Not just that they made sure the people knew it by saying it openly.

The last group didn’t care really. They pay us to deliver, and demand it. And they do so with little care for what their ‘partner’ (yes that pompous word) really  think or want.

The bizarre thing is that this second group gave us a good evaluation, happy about the work and the results. So why should you care you would say? Results are what count aren’t they?

Well I have to admit that I was shocked by the kindness, the openness of the first group of clients. So much so that I could feel the effect on the team, and that I saw the real impact on the work itself. Not just are they getting better work out of the agency, they are getting more ideas, they are more openly invited in the process as active participants, and the yare getting genuine dedication by people in the team who would fight tooth and nail to get things done, to do whatever it will take to help their clients win.

Sounds silly, but this is totally human: you will work better for people who deserve it rather than for people whose behaviour can let’s be honest often be referred to in bodily parts…

Now let’s be fair, agency types have often behaved in exactly the same way. So what the hell is wrong and how can we fix it?

So here is a call that concerns both agencies and clients to change, because we are not going to spend the rest of our lives destroying the value we are all pretending to defend and build. A call in the form of a series of 4 ingredients which seem to me negotiable today

1- Want them to succeed:
You need to want your agency or client to succeed. Not demand it, but want it. And help them get there. This takes time from all parties, time to listen and explain, time to answer questions, time to ask questions. I am amazed how many people think they can bring the right solution after a one hour brief. If the solution was that easy no one needs an agency to answer.
This also means that when someone falls, he is allowed to get back on his legs, and helped.

2- Get interested in them
We’re all human, with desires, fears, passions. You will only get the best out of the agency, or out of your client if you know them. And if you genuinely care. Thank god life is not a powerpoint presentation! And let’s face it, we are all working for each other’s careers.

3- Admit you don’t know.
If we all had all the answers we’d be lone stars. We are living the most exciting of all times, when digital moves from a revolution to a reality, only no one really knows where it’s going, and only a close watch, experimenting spirit will help succeed. But still I have met very few people who have admitted not to know, admitted they were afraid, even slightly. And let’s face it everyone is today. So let’s enjoy finding the answers together, exchanging points of views. Exactly what we’re doing at #usguys on twitter.

4- tell them when it’s bad, and praise them when it’s good.
Bad bad bad. Do you know anyone who wants to have this told all day and keep going? Often the best things achieved are the hardest to get to. So look back: was the result worth the pain? If so say it, and learn from these successes together. Because people work better if they are encouraged, if they feel they are doing well. And if there is more of that that bad vibes.

4 simple ingredients, but I have to say that they are too often passed by, by lack of time, by personal pressure, by pressure from the purchase department who wants more pressure on ‘providers’.

So if I had to leave you with one thought to take in 2011 it would be the following; you won’t choose your enemies, only your friends. So treasure them as such, because you are going to need them to go forward.
And let’s face it, you won’t do better by making enemies of your friends.

For my part, I promise that’s the culture I will build in the agency, hoping it spreads a lot further…

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