Apr 16

Never Be a Client’s First Agency

There’s a popular saying among agency management that consistently rings true: “Never be a client’s first agency.”

Teaching a new client how the agency process works can be an arduous task. Such things as approvals, the review process, timing, the printing process, photo resolution, economies of scale in printing, billing and so many other topics require hand-holding and time-consuming education with the newbie client. Of course, even dealing with a new, inexperienced staff member within an existing client’s organization can be time consuming and frustrating.

As with so many challenges in life, a key to the “new client” issue is planning. Many companies have retreats for new board members for the purpose acclimating them to how things work at the top, the intricacies of government regulations, and what is expected – and not expected – of them. Advertising agencies rarely have such a luxury, and often have difficulty finding the time to build the needed internal systems to help with issues such as this. Yet, an investment in educating new clients can save time, money and relationships.

Here are some topics that would be helpful to cover with new clients:

  • How to select an advertising agency
  • Bios, photos and background on agency staff, including contact information
  • What is a creative brief and why it’s important
  • The Agency XYZ’s marketing plan process
  • The importance of research (both preliminary research and tracking/monitoring of results)
  • The secret of consistency in marketing & advertising (not chasing fads)
  • Marketing 101, Advertising 101, Public Relations 101, etc.
  • How to work with a copywriter
  • Questions & Answers about our agency’s bills

Here are some possible times that you can interject a discussion, an agency document, or a educational CD to prepare and educate your new client:

  • After scheduling a dog and pony show that pitches your agency to a potential client, but before your presentation
  • As a leave behind after a dog and pony show
  • After the initial fact-finding meeting with the client, or before you come back with recommendations
  • Before the first scheduled meeting with the copywriter
  • As an enclosure with the first billing, or as a mailing a week before the billing
  • When you add new staff to the client’s team

Finally, Gaebler Ventures offers some good advice on the client-agency relationship, and in particular what an advertising agency will expect from the business. These are points best communicated to the client in an educational manner early in the relationship:

“In order to make the most of your relationship with your ad agency, there are a few things you need to know… Apart from payment, there are certain things the ad agency will expect from you, the business owner. First and foremost, they will expect you to enter the process with an open mind. You know more about your company than anyone else. But keep in mind that one of the reasons you hire an ad agency is because you know your business a little too well, i.e. you may make assumptions about your product that aren’t as obvious to someone outside the company. The ad agency is an objective voice. Listen to what they have to say.

“Additionally, your ad agency will expect you to have a clear idea about what you want to accomplish in your advertising campaign. They will need to know about your target market and the sales goals you would like to achieve.”

By taking the time needed to build education materials that can be used with new clients, the agency can minimize the client’s learning curve, reduce frustration among agency staff, and ensure a long-term agency-client relationship.

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