How to Keep and Grow Your Agency’s Existing Clients

by | Sep 17, 2020

Why does winning a NEW client feel sexier than getting more work from one you’ve ALREADY bagged?

One day, Simon Rhind-Tutt got to work and found a memo from his agency’s chairman.

“I worked at a large international agency, and we were on the Gillette roster. A memo arrived telling us that instead of working on ONE of Gillette’s brands – we’d been given ALL of them. It was a massive piece of business worth millions.”

“The memo simply said: “Congratulations to all”.

Three days later, Simon got another memo.

“It said we’d just won the Alpine Double Glazing account – worth a couple of hundred grand – and there was to be an all-staff party to celebrate.”

“Even then as a junior account manager I thought: we’ve got this wrong. We’re celebrating winning a small piddly account that will probably bugger off in a year, rather than one of the world’s biggest clients giving us ALL of their business.”

Today Simon is one of the two founding partners at Relationship Audits, which helps agencies evaluate, solidify and grow their client relationships.

If you think your clients are loyal, Simon has some great stories that make you sleep with one eye open.

 

Simon suggests that having done a research study, his company found that it is in fact 25 times easier to win business from an existing client than it is to win new business from new clients. ‘Agencies chase and celebrate winning new clients, but generally don’t put enough into evaluating, investing and celebrating extra business they win from existing clients. I personally don’t think there is a bigger testament to the work of an agency than when a client renews a contract or gives extra work.’

Simon suggests the factors that he feels are most important when considering how best to maintain clients:

  • The Hygiene Factor: Doing what you say you will, on brief, on time and on budget.
  • Technology: Knowing your ways to communicate with the clients.
  • Generational Attitudes: We have found in Gen-Z and Millennials that the movement within jobs is higher and that there is often a lack of continuity for clients.
  • Procurement: Procurement will now have more authority over appointments than Marketing Directors.
  • Time-poor: Agencies are experiencing a reduction in head-count and a shift in responsibilities so are inherently time-poor. Those agencies that succeed are those who become an extension of the client’s marketing team.
  • Increased Competition: Not only are agencies now competing against eachother, they are also fighting for their proportion of the client’s budget.

 

Simon also explains how things may have developed in a COVID-19 context and how the agencies can work to combat its effects:

  • Nervousness/Insecurity from clients who are now reconsidering extra work or their team’s time.
  • Client reorganisation is happening. Many clients will be making staff redundant or putting them on furlough and as such, conversations are harder.
  • As clients become more anxious they demand more data on their agency relationships as a metric for value.
  • Relationships are being formed more closely with members of the team and account managers rather than the agency, calls are made via personal devices, something for directors to monitor.
  • Agencies need to work harder for personal interaction and relationships when they cannot meet face to face.

 

‘It is important to remember that every client in your top 3 biggest clients is also on someone else’s new business target list for the upcoming year.’

‘When it comes to client feedback the key is in precision. We need to know not just what might be an issue, but what exactly is the issue or opportunity and what do we need to do?’

What to measure when analysing client satisfaction?

  • Performance vs. expectations
  • Delivery
  • People and the relationship
  • Attitude and understanding the client
  • Added value and value for money
  • Performance vs. competition with other agencies on the roster.
  • Advocacy and emotional view of the client

 

‘Satisfaction is transaction based; a client might be satisfied with an agency but they are only as satisfied as the last piece of work. You need a relationship rather than a transaction to protect your business. That relationship is the bubble wrap that protects business.’

Simon explains that his company looked into the drivers of client commitment. He explains that these drivers are intention and opinion and that there are a number of different client types.

Committed clients are the most valuable to you, you are considered a trusted advisor to them and you will both like working with one another. They will recommend you to other clients and you don’t have to spend a lot of senior management time on managing their account.

Satisfied clients are those for whom you are meeting most expectations. The client feels valued and the chemistry is okay. But these clients are conscious of options and would take pitches from other agencies, they are aware of what they are paying.

Apathetic clients are never usually key-decision makers. The chemistry is variable and the agency isn’t seen to have any superstars.

Clients in the zone of rejection will have issues with the work. They won’t feel engaged or a valued client. They will also feel they are getting a poor value for money and will be actively looking to work with another agency.

‘We also run ‘lost pitch audits’ to find out why another agency has triumphed over the agency we are working with.’

Simon explains that meeting with or checking in with a client via some kind of survey or evaluation every 6 months is optimal.