‘The art of retaining clients is in understanding their business values’
Raghu Bhat, Scarecrow M&C Saatchi; Rohit Ohri, FCB India; Priya Choudhary, MediaCom; Sulina Menon, OMD India and Gopa Kumar, Isobar, on how to garner long-term relationships with clients
Agencies secure accounts and start conceptualizing work for their clients’ projects, however, to keep and retain those clients is a tough job. The client may stay on with that agency for another project or move on.
Talking about his relationship with his clients Raghu Bhat, Founder, Copywriter, Scarecrow M&C Saatchi, said some of his relationships are 8-10 years old. “These are family-owned businesses or brands where the CEO/CMO hasn’t changed. But that’s outside our control. What we can do is to treat it with the same importance as we would accord to relationships with parents or spouse. Never let down their trust, do your best, be truthful and give it time. It’s hard work, but can be very rewarding”, Bhat said.
To foster and establish a long-term group of happy clients, an ad agency needs to understand the clients’ business goals and connect with them on a personal level.
At FCB India, Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman, CEO, FCB India, is proud of their agency’s long-standing relationships with their clients. “Seven of our top 10 clients have been with us for over three decades. What's our secret sauce? It's our hunger. Our hunger that pushes us to do better for our clients every day. Our hunger to learn and grow. Our hunger that says good is not good enough”, Ohri said.
Priya Choudhary, Managing Partner & Head of MediaCom (West), added that in order to maintain a healthy and long-term relationship with a client, it’s critical that we take ownership of their business objectives and jointly work towards achieving them.
“More and more clients are now asking us for business building rather than media or creative ideas. The media landscape is evolving rapidly and clients are looking for innovative thinkers and partners who can keep them ahead of the curve”, she added.
It’s not just the ideas that matter, a brilliant execution team which makes the ideas come alive and helps the client teams in day to day working is critical. Hence a stable, mature and passionate team is the next critical element in gaining client confidence.
Choudhary added, “The bedrock of all of this is trust, which once damaged is impossible to get back, so that I would say it is the most critical element. A compliant and transparent practice which is open to audit and scrutiny. However, this trust and respect need to be built both ways hence despite all the above being in place, there are times when we have to deal with pitches and review. Our attempt is always to provide an environment and a team which the client can trust and respect.”
According to Sulina Menon, Chief Client Officer, OMD India, client retention boils down to the strength of the relationship that an agency builds with their clients, beyond the personal bonds that we humans build with others when we work together.
She added, “My professional life has given me many dear friends who were once clients, but the true test of the agency performance comes from the business results that the clients attained because of their agency’s efforts.”
At OMD, Menon said that "we have always walked the talk and this reflects in the long-standing client partnerships that we’ve formed."
For, Gopa Kumar, COO, Isobar, in this day and age of fast and dynamic business environments, the equation between client and agency is changing and evolving.
“The only way agencies can retain clients, apart from other hygiene factors like good servicing and great creative product, is by creating value in the overall relationship. This added value is not uniform for all clients, it has to be unique to each relationship. If as an agency one continues to deliver what is expected, you are easily replaceable with another agency who can better you at pricing irrespective of your deliveries. It’s when you understand the business challenge and work with them to solve those challenges, an agency becomes a very important part of the mix and to an extent becomes irreplaceable. I also believe it’s just not an added value in the context of business only, it's very important to understand the challenges faced by people who are at the client end or who are working for this business across stakeholders”, Kumar said.
“As an agency, we need to be on the right side of the conversation in helping them out. We at isobar have had client relationships now running up for 8-10 years, just by believing in this thought process.”
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