26 June 2007

Client agency relationship....

Very much enjoyed this cartoon from today's Times.

Strangely, it also worked for me as an illustration of the client/agency relationship (a strange quirk of timing, given the previous post).

I've held umbrellas over clients while I get wet. I've queued for coffee, while my client has been sat down all comfortable.

I've taken clients out for a bloody expensive meal with lashings of top quality wine, to not even be offered a cup of coffee when visiting their office the next day.

I've flown with clients, with me in economy and them - on the same plane - in business class. And arrived to find they are in a five star hotel on the seafront, while I'm in a hostel without hot water.

And I've had some lovely clients too. Ones that have sent birthday presents. Ones that have sent members of the agency team notes of congratulation when they've been promoted. Ones that have suggested I fly out on a Friday for a Monday meeting, so I can enjoy some sightseeing.

I work harder for those clients. I care more about the results. I'd suggest doing a 'Sunday for Monday' for those clients; I use up personal favours with journos for them. The same goes for the rest of the agency team.

To the anonymous comment in the previous post, yes, it is a business transaction and you do get a pay cheque. That is what counter-balances the crap clients.

The good clients - the ones that demand great results, but also listen to advice, the ones that are fair, the ones that are nice, civil human beings - they get better service.

In just about any knowledge-based job there is a need for positive working relationships. Good agencies thrive as a result of good leadership. Likewise, an agency-side team will always perform better with the client taking on a positive leadership role.

Agencies are very into 360 feedback. It wouldn't hurt if in-house PRs were appraised the same way....


Anonymous said...

Maybe you should start an online client ranking where people can rate the way they treat agencies with marks out of ten. At least that way, when they decide to choose a new agency, we'll all know what we are letting ourselves in for.

For example, how marks out of 10 would you give Microsoft? 5?

The Spud said...

Funnily enough, I've been having this conversation in-house for a couple of weeks with some of those new to the game (and relatively new to a B2B business environment).

The "good" clients are the ones with whom you can maintain a professional relationship based on mutual respect, the rest are those who consider themselves solely as buyers and consider their PR agency solely as sellers. And the buyer is king.

Once that barrier (or counter) is removed it's far easier to communicate on a level playing field, and the relationship becomes far more productive. Once you have a productive relationship you almost always have a "good" client.

Of course there are always those who refuse to accept that it's even a possibility, but it seems to work - at least in my experience.

Matt said...

Come on you lot, get real. Good clients are the ones who have lots of wonga and pay on time. Bad clients are dodgy businesses with uncertain futures who end up as bad debt. Sure, we love them to bits, they pat us on the back and tell us we're great, and then they fuck us over.

Whether they are nice or not is just, well, it's neither here nor there. We'd all love to think we'll walk away from clients who treat our people badly, but if they have money, we take it on the chin. We have to be thick skinned in PR because MOST clients - in-house PR types at least - are stupid, political, self-justifying idiots who make our lives miserable.

Interestingly, the only way of mitigating this is for senior people - those director level types who got such a pasting in your previous blog (who to take into pitches) - to build proper, meaningful bridges to more senior client representatives; bridges that curve elegantly over the heads of the weasels in the PR department. That way, we can exert an influence downwards - rather like a gannet plunging, beak like a sabre ...

Anonymous said...

I couldn’t agree more. I have had clients who fill the whole spectrum:

Those you go the extra mile for:

The 'good lad/lass'. You work hard for them as they are just that.

The 'aww bless' who is completely useless but knows it and appreciates the fact you have saved their ass on many occasions.

The 'NKOTB' (New Kid on the Block). Stumbled into a senior position and spends the whole time thinking how the hell did this happen and what the hell is PR anyway? Confesses to you as much and is grateful of the help you give them.

Those you do you level best but no more:
The 'grabber'. Takes all the credit and never thanks the agency.

The 'scary git'. Highly demanding but sadly knows his/her stuff. Treats agency staff poorly and knows when the wool is being pulled over the proverbial. Usually from an agency background.

Those you deliberately sabotage:
The 'ignoramus'. Has inherited the PR role as part of a larger marcoms brief and doesn't understand the value in it. Sees you as an unfortunate irritant that they have to deal with but would sack you in a second if they had the opportunity and would use your budget on daft advertisements or even worse, direct mail!

The 'c*@t'. Need I say more...

The 'idiot'. Perhaps the most dangerous. Thinks they understand PR as they did some work experience in a small agency 10 years ago. Has ridiculous expectations and will not take counsel. Thrives on a master/slave relationship and will blame the agency for what they perceive as terrible results but in actual fact is their own inadequacies.

I’m sure you all have more!

Anonymous said...

The best client relationship I've ever developed went to the point of the agency being asked to contribute to the client's 360 appraisal... so there is the occasional ray of light.

Occasional, mind.

Anonymous said...

ah a decent client, nirvana. I always thought understanding what they need to get an A* on their next appraisal was a good starting point. The best client is surely one you help get a better paid job at a firm with a bigger retainer somewhere down the line.

Ian Green said...

Our policy is - if, after a month, we've decided the client is a shit or, to be more correct, do not quite fit with our corporate vision, we drop them.
We're based in Yorkshire and are used to frank opinions. We don't mind "speak as I find" - we know where we stand.
It is the weasel words that damage the relationship and we have a very good Knobhead detector.
Having said that some of the knobheads are just that and even some of those are OK - once they know and you know they are knobheads.
Luckily we have none of them.

Anonymous said...

So, so true TWL! Clients that treat you with respect and a bit of courtesy certainly do get a better quality of service and better results when all is said and done.

And the former yankee, bug-eyed PR manager at that Logicless IT firm should bloody well take note of that...

Alexander said...

Got a client who takes his account team out for dinner when they've done good. He remembers birthdays and all other niceties. He always says thanks for a good job. He works with them. He defends them against 'corp' (really, genuinely does it) and kept us on in the face of a world-wide decision to move, fighting like a wee terrier to do so.

He's demanding, has a laughable budget and often drives the team here mad. His company is not particularly admirable or cool. But they've worked weekends for him before and would again.

In short, agree in spades with the point in your post. Have some sympathy with Ian Green, too. Can't quite get to 100% track record, but we tend to avoid the worst of them simply because you just end up losing good people with bad clients. Good people have more value to the agency than short term cash.

Prem said...

Alexander your last point:

"you just end up losing good people with bad clients. Good people have more value to the agency than short term cash."

Spot on. Shame more don't realise it.

And matt:

"Whether they are nice or not is just, well, it's neither here nor there."

Wrong. The money counters can take that pragmatic approach. I can too because I have a healthy eye on my bonus throughout the year... my execs? Na. Shitty client, unhappy exec, refer you back to Alexanders point.