Monday, August 20, 2007

Size doesn't matter (apparently)

A new study that has been conducted by Rainmaker Consulting called The Intelligent New Business Survey that compares and contrasts the stated needs of clients and how US marketing communications agencies engage with them to win their business.

They asked questions, in three major areas, of 150 big US brand spenders. These areas, which are pretty important when it comes to new biz in our world, are:

1) What prompts them to seek a new agency?
2) What are the most effective ways for agencies to engage with them?
3) Why do thy choose one agency over another?

Not surprisingly, the findings show a big difference between what the agencies in the survey said, and what the marketing decision makers said. This allows Rainmaker to make some suggestions for greater success in new business.

Size doesn't matter - in the main, clients don't feel that size matters, but of course agencies do. We (agencies) shouldn't sell ourselves so vigorously on size, nor should we worry about size being an issue. We've seen a lot of this recently as newer, smaller, more creative and more flexible shops have picked up iconic pieces of business.

(Instinctively knew this one.) 83% of clients don't feel that geographic location is an issue, but a lot of agencies do. However, clients don't feel that where you are is a barrier to them buying a winning solution. This is great for us to remember in Denver as clients in the US are all over the country. Plus, having worked in London for the last 5 years on clients in Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Greece etc. it was clear geography was no barrier to them.

85% of clients don't feel that agencies prepare enough
. The outcome is that Agencies must invest more in effective intelligence on their prospects. This used to be a big topic of conversation in the Elston household in London. Caron used to work in professional services - and they would routinely spend over 10% of the prize meeting, interviewing and reviewing with the prospect. It was slick. They'd produce full blown web-sites, detailed contact reports of all meetings, phone calls, films and proper books. A world away from two dozen PowerPoint slides that agencies so often churn out the night before!

Agencies should present a solution, not a discipline.
Again, feel good about this one having been in non-advertising for so long where we have continually built a solution to the problem rather than a discipline. Sometime to the point of ignoring the brief (more or less).

Clients want agencies to be far more proactive.
Often agencies just want to sit on the sidelines so we should be more proactive with our clients (that old chestnut!)

A major trend, and one which will undoubtedly impact on all marketing communications agencies depending on how prepared they already are, is the increase in demand from clients for better customer insights. Agencies should develop keener customer insights and communicate these energetically to their prospect-base.

This last one is both encouraging and frustrating. Encouraging as this is basically my area of responsibility and I love that the provision of insight (in all forms) has continued to increase throughout my career. Frustrating because of the ability to get quality people who get it (and I am blessed once again to have a team who do - but finding the right people is not easy, and getting the organisation to support and embrace also a challenge - but hey it's a change of culture so it wont happen overnight). We're making some good inroads, and we're growing so things are moving in the right direction.

And this leads to the reasons clients choose agencies. The top ten list are:

1. Quality customer insights
2. Chemistry
3. Creative work
4. Service level / response to needs ongoing
5. Cost control
6. Innovative / strategic thinking
7. Case for ROI

8. Client list
9. Strict adherence to brief
10. Seniority of account team

So, agencies. Invest in planners and strategists. Focus more on recruitment and build teams that get on. And don't worry about yourself - where you are, how big and to some extent who you also work for - they're not relevant.

You can get the full pdf of the survey here.

1 comment:

andrew said...

Craig Elston! Andrew Davies. Nice to stumble on you...dead envious of where you've planted your planning talent. I'm the chap you helped scope a planning function for Foxmurphy a lifetime ago.

Anyway, your 'size doesn't matter'... think alot comes back to chemistry and the basic 'relationship' because if that's right alot of the other stuff flows (particularly the receptiveness of clients to debate and challenge fuelled by insight). When choosing an agency the most important requirement, aside from the more obvious attributes asked for – creativity, project management etc – is balance. On one side you need an agency that is a sympathetic collaborative team-mate, who would do anything to make you successful. In essence a very close attachment to your mindsets and desires.

Trouble is this side of the agency will care as much about your feelings as it does about results.

On the other side you need an objective, detached view. Brutally, ruthlessly honest team-mates who demand you look at difficult issues and uncertain consequences.

When selecting an agency, clients should go into this with eyes open. Pay attention to the way an agency talks and the way it listens.

Agencies will want to impress with all the great things they have done for all of their great clients. But they’re sitting there because 'you' already know that. You need them to talk about their understanding of your problem and your project.