Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is There Really a Client Lifecycle? | Evok

Wiki states that the average person remains at their job for 13 years. Sounds good, right? I mean 13 years. True, it’s an unlucky number for some, but better to be employed for any time in this economy. Heck, states that the average US marriage only lasts 8 years.

So, maybe it’s the advertising industry that is averaging down the 30-year gold watch anniversaries. A Spencer Stuart Blue Paper cites that: “It’s jarring to note that the average tenure for CMOs at the top 100 branded companies is just 22.9 months. Based on our data, only 14 percent of CMOs for the world’s top brands have been with their companies for more than three years — and nearly half are new to the job over the last 12 months.”

Just as in the lifecycle of a marketing manager, I often hear about the “lifecycle of a client” with an ad agency. I took an informal poll with some peers, and most stated that they expect to work with a client for about 4-5 years and then poof – the client goes off to perceived greener pastures. In fact, a client of ours stated that 4 years for an agency / client relationship is long, (pause for reflective swallow, as we’re in year 3).

So, does a client have a lifecycle and why? OK, this is where the stats stop and theories start, so jump off the bus now or open your mind…

Let’s say your contact at your favorite client makes it past the 22.9 months and actually wants to make a career out of it. That doesn’t mean that everyone else there does and he or she probably reports to a COO or CEO who may in fact report to a Board or Shareholders. Results have to keep coming. Here is why they may not be…

I hear things like, “the creative just wasn’t exciting anymore” or “no new ideas” or “just time for something different”. Yes, often, the creative goes stale, but it is not, in my opinion for a lack of creativity. Sounds weird huh? I’ll explain. By year three, the creative should be more on target and yielding much better results. I mean, you’ve been doing your unaided and aided branding research studies every year right? What client doesn’t want to pay for research? Never heard of such a thing…but, I digress. We’ll post about that later.

Here is my theory…The creative is there, the account is known better than ever and results should be increasing. But, you are now working in fear. What fear you say? The fear of losing the client.

When agencies go after a new client, one of my most and least favorite parts of being an agency principal, most go all out – balls to the wall – creative juices flying everywhere. We do. Why? Because they’re really not invested financially in the account. The revenue they could earn is “hope to get” money. “Hope to get” money is fun. It’s like a lottery ticket before you check the numbers.

But when an agency lands a client, it needs to staff up appropriately, buy needed research studies/tools, join relevant associations, upgrade some software, spend some time meeting with some new subcontractors – it’s time and money. So, the new “hope to get” money gets spent quick. You start servicing the client with all these tools, are in the new-relationship love affair with the client and integrating the new tools or new people into your team.

After a year, you’ve produced some results, the client is loving you, but you’re also loving the new tools, team members etc. Now, the money is still there, but it’s no longer “hope to get” money, it’s “need to have” money. It’s need “need to have” money because you’ve made all the commitments to service the client and it’s not like you were out there going after more “hope to get” money because you’ve been busy trying to get your new relationship off to a good start, and your team was already running thin anyway in this economy and you may not have the manpower to win new business and win over your new client at the same time. You made a choice.

In your second or third year with a client, you’ve now gotten accustom to running your shop with the new tools / resources etc. and have forged personal relationships with your new team members. They are really part of the team now – your family. You’ve met their families, understand their hopes, dreams and really care for them. Now, you’re afraid. You’re afraid of letting them down. You’ve put yourself in a position where the “need to have” money is “gotta have” money. You know that if you lose the client, you’ll lose the revenue and ultimately may have to lose some of your team members.

So, you as a manager may stifle the great ideas that are on the edge in favor of more conservative ideas that are “mainstream.” You don’t push the client anymore. You agree too much. You say you think “their ideas” are good whether they are or not. All, because you’re afraid to lose the client and by doing so, you do just that. You lose the client. No client wants a “yes man”. They want new exciting invigorating ideas. That is why they came to you at first, right? Are you afraid to give them what you feel they may not want? Are you afraid to push the envelope?

Like most things, it revolves around money. I hate that part of the industry. Really, I do. Most people who think they know me, think I’m all about the money, but the people who really know me, know I’m not. I’m about family, first, second and last, and my team at the office is part of my family.

Do I think there is a client lifecycle? Yes, for some clients, for some agencies. But, I believe it is not because of the talented team of people in your agency. It comes from fear and we, as leaders, need to be stronger, bolder, more willing to take risks – even in today’s economy, especially in today’s economy.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Funday Morning Web Comics, Funny Cartoons, and Funny Comic Strips: Mark of the Wolfe

Funday Morning Web Comics, Funny Cartoons, and Funny Comic Strips: Mark of the Wolfe: I try to come up with a corresponding pun for the title of my cartoons, but today's won't make sense without an explanation. Mark Wolfe...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

5 Ways to Strengthen Client Relations

All too often, freelancers look at their clients as one-off opportunities. They do a job, complete a project, and when payment exchanged, they wave good-bye and never look back. But regular contact with former clients should be an integral part of your freelance business.

Call it public relations or just good business practices, but treating your clients as part of your regular business network– not just as cash cows– can be a wonderful strategy.

Not only will clients feel that you care about them for more than just a paycheck, they will also feel more inclined to recommend you to their colleagues for future projects. The time you devote to nurturing those client relationships becomes a kind of investment that can lead to returns later down the road.

If the rapport is particularly strong, you can also ask clients to be active promoters of your services by having them write recommendations and testimonials that you can later use for your own marketing efforts. In other words, maintaining good client relations means more and better business for you.

Here are five tips for strengthening your business relationship with clients.

Keep track of everyone.

For my own business, all my editing clients get recorded on a spreadsheet that details existing and past clients, as well as their projects. It includes the client name, the project description, client contact information, such as e-mail address, telephone number, social media accounts, and a “client notes” column.

The notes column is where you can write in comments about each client, listing personal details (interests and hobbies; family details), as well as your impressions about each one (were they difficult to work with? Did they have trouble communicating over e-mail and prefer in-person meetings?).

Drop a line to your clients.

When is the last time you were in touch with an old client? It doesn’t take much effort to send off a short e-mail message or to make a quick “touching base” phone call. More often than not, your client will have some thoughts about a prospective project or may send a few leads your way.

During any meeting or interaction, avoid the aggressive sales pitch, and focus the conversation on the client by asking questions about their business and work (be sure to review your “client notes” from your spreadsheet for any useful “intelligence”). Read more on how to create value for your clients and to get quality referrals.

Get the big picture.

Take a holistic look at your clients needs. First-time clients may have hired you to solve specific problems or to work on a particular project. But you can often generate more business by pitching new ways to help them.

If they have a business and are growing, they may have needs that you can help them fill. One time, after I had completed a ghostwriting book project for a client, I found out through casual conversation later that the book was now part of a larger effort to launch a website and to reach out to fellow professionals.

It was clear she had no idea how to start a promotional campaign around her book. I offered her a few bits of advice and she ended up contracting me on a mini-marketing project where we worked together to craft several press releases for different audiences.

Make it easy for clients to get updates on you.

Maintain a blog and write about your experiences with your freelance business; write about the industry you’re in; address common problems your clients might have and write about potential solutions.

Push those blog posts and any other relevant content out to your clients via a newsletter or regular e-mail updates. Fire off this communication campaign on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. If you have a big roster of clients, use an e-mail marketing service like MailChimp, AWeber, or iContact.

Aside from blogs and regular updates, you can also show your engagement to clients through your social media channels. Make sure you have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn and find out if your clients have the same accounts– and interact. Read more on how to maintain a dynamic social media presence.

Don’t be stingy.

If your client mentions a problem, be generous with advice. You don’t have to conduct a full-on consulting session, but if you’re meeting over coffee, you can give a few pointers.

I had a colleague ask me to read over web copy for his new social networking community group. I gave him some pointers to help him tweak the writing. While the meeting didn’t lead to a job, the colleague bought one of our books and has been active introducing me to his network on LinkedIn.

Sometimes doing a little pro bono work earns bigger rewards over the long run.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by dolgachov.

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