How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right. View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
The 4Es of Client Management
Swapan Seth, CEO, Equus Red Cell
Almost always, every agency believes that God has cherry-picked possibly the worst clients for its agency. When at The Sports Bar in Phoenix Mills, they hear about the wonderful work on Happydent, they say, “Oh there the client has no say. Prasoon ke dimag mein idea aata hai, woich banata hai. Client has no role. That is called client confidence.”
Even if this were true, it is a tad insulting to the client’s intelligence.
On the last public holiday, I got a call from a client who was ostensibly sharing with me certain observations that he had on the way we were running his business. Every paragraph was punctuated by “I have nothing against the agency. You guys have done a grand job but I was wondering…”
When agencies hear a sentence pregnant with praise winding up in “but I was wondering”, the false defence mechanism of the agency, Pavlovian like, rears its ugly face. The tale hitherto wagging stiffens up.
Mercifully, I had decided that once I reached the age of 40, I would stop speaking and commence listening. I listened to the entire conversation, switched off the cell phone and decided to write this piece.
What did he want?
What do all clients want?
In my submission, they are the 4 Es of Client Management.
Enthusiasm: Clients like enthusiasm from an agency. They like an agency that happily embraces their problems. Is enthusiastic about finding solutions. Has a smile on its face and an almost jihad-like approach to the task. What do agencies instead do? Build barricades of postponement: demand a brief (agreed sometimes a brief is very critical but what more would you want to know about a free pack offer on Ching’s Noodles?). Or say that they would want a more focused marketing brief (it’s another matter that once the marketing brief does come in, you understand jack about it).
How many times have you, on your own bat, shared an excellent packaging idea with a client whose business is largely based on product presentation? How often have you chatted with fellow passengers in the lounge of an airline to discuss how they feel about their cell phone company? It’s not intrusion. Consumers like telling their problems. And clients like hearing them from us. I try and share one piece of interesting information with one client on a weekly basis. It has invariably got nothing to do with what is expected from the agency. I firmly believe that at the end of the day, the expectations have to be set by the agency. The surprise must be given to clients.
Endurance: We judge our clients within the first two meetings: so either he’s cool or he’s a pain. In my book, it’s all about endurance. The client-agency relationship is a long-drawn-out process. And because it is so, stamina is critical. Some clients come around quickly. Some take their time, if at all they do. In such a race it is vital to pace oneself. In any agency-client relationship there will come that inflection point: either in the client’s organisation or within the agency and that can make all the difference.
Unfortunately, for most agencies this business has become a bit of a scam game, so we don’t really give a monkey’s toss for clients and the need for endurance. We are running towards the awards deadline. That’s requires no stamina -- just plain speed, guile and an abject disregard for the rules. Endurance is equally important for the client. He knows every agency plays 20T. But he’s also looking at the Test match turnout. I have always endured with my clients. Played by their rules and then over time shown them different rules. They respect that.
Empathy: At the end of the day, a client has a job to do. And advertising is just one part of that job in many, many instances. Clients seek that understanding from their agency. They want their agencies to empathize with their goals, tasks and delivery needs. And I have often seen that if you empathize with their needs, they invariably reciprocate by empathizing with you during your troubled times. If they want that brochure done overnight, there must be a practical reason for it. If the deadline is unrealistic, there must be a plausible reason for it. All clients are not unreasonable at all times. Agencies need to understand that. You must attempt to make a client feel that you don’t just want his business, you also want his problems.
Equality: There are some clients who feel that there should not be any equality between them and their agency since we are employed and they the employee. In my cowboy days, I would vehemently fight that. I would always believe that we are partners. The truth of the matter is that in certain client corridors, the agency will be dealt with equally and in others, it will not be. It is how you walk those corridors. Now here again, there is a fine line. Many clients, secretly admitting to equality in intellect, will still wish to demonstrate an inequality in status. Agencies find that hard to stomach. I have now learnt to live with it comfortably. It’s not about sacrificing your pride. In fact, I believe that the moment you bring your pride into it, you have sacrificed the relationship.
All of this does not mean we do not have a point of view. It simply means that a client too can have a point and a view. We must see it more often.