In order to overcome this challenge, client services teams must take an active role in fostering a more collaborative relationship with their clients. But how? Here are three strategies that can help improve relationships for better mutual results:
1. Gain a comprehensive understanding of the business problem, not the media problem. Clients hire agencies to solve a business problem. However, they are often reluctant to share it out of fear of revealing competitive intelligence. As a result, they often make requests that put the cart before the horse: they want mobile or social, but they don't articulate what these tactics are intended to do. To be more effective, client teams must establish a level of trust that will bring the team into the inner sanctum, learn to ask the right questions to gain a clear understanding of the overall business problem and focus on building a media strategy to meet the desired goals.
2. Establish clear KPI and measurement tools to gauge success and manage expectations. Once the business goal has been locked down, map out specific KPIs and build in integrated measurement tools in order to accurately gauge success. This allows the client and the agency team to gain a clear picture of campaign performance and make adjustments along the way to optimize results. With digital media, effectiveness is best measured by analyzing the change in KPI from a baseline established before the campaign launched to measure how the needle has moved depending on the specific campaign. Another way is to understand what the break-even point is, and what the media needs to be to exceed that. Make sure you understand clearly what the client expects.
3. Cultivate the plethora of options to help clients make intelligent choices. Overwhelming choice can become a problem, and as we have already established, sometimes clients are attracted to the latest and greatest before carefully considering whether it will actually be effective in reaching their audience. Multiple factors can determine whether a particular buy will be advantageous, and it usually does not come down to cost. The potentially highest performer might cost more, while the least expensive may require a sacrifice in audience quality. Establish a systematic scorecard to determine which factors are important and weigh most heavily in the decision. Choosing incorrectly can not only be a waste of money, but it can actually be detrimental to the brand, diluting the message across an uncultivated audience.
In order to be truly successful, client teams must go under the covers to understand the core challenge the client is facing and then line up the strategy to overcome it. Ultimately, this may mean going out of house to find the right solution from a provider with a core competency in the niche that needs to be filled. The true strategic value of the agency is not only in its ability to devise the strategy, but also to cultivate the right solutions from the right partners and present these in a timely and efficient manner to overcome the stated business problem.