Client’s challenges must take priority

Agencies part of the value-adding solution

It’s easy for agencies to become introspective when times are hard. How many of us have been in meetings this week to establish how we bulletproof our agencies for the next few months? How many of us travel to work with a head full of worries about budget cutting and penny pinching? When the future looks challenging, it’s tempting to run for cover and wait for your clients to drop the bombshells.

The problem with this approach is that it makes it difficult to appreciate the client’s perspective. That client travels to work with their own worries, pressures and concerns – and agencies have a choice, and a huge opportunity, to be part of the budget-draining problem or part of the value-adding solution. That means not adopting a head in the sand modus operandi. It means working with your clients to fully understand where the threats and opportunities lie for them and then addressing these first – before you think about your own challenges.

Let me give you an example. In the sales promotion arena, brands are under huge pressure from retailers to offer price-based promotions. The focus is on dropping price, but we know from history that value-based promotions are far more effective in terms of encouraging brand loyalty, in terms of protecting the brand and also, once you look at the bottom line, in terms of offering a fixed, meaningful reward that can be planned for (as opposed to a price promotion that sees the brand lose money with every purchase). So, offering to pay a winner’s mortgage or fuel bills for a year is more effective than knocking prices down for a quick fix sales hike.

The client may well agree with us, but they still have to answer to retailers adamant that consumers are demanding price promotions. We hold workshops that help clients state the case for this route to market. We focus on their battle, not ours. We know clients want return on investment and accountable activity, but we also know that they aren’t sure exactly how they should be measuring success so we help them evaluate us. We understand the challenge is vastly different to what it was a year ago, so we appreciate that we might have to change tack at a moment’s notice.

Essentially, it’s about stepping outside of your own challenges and focusing on those of your client. Don’t worry about your agency – be best friends with your client and the rest will fall into place. 

Sharon Oliver is Account Director of SMP 

SMP is a member of the MCCA 020 7535 3550

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