InsightsPOSTED November 16, 2015

Impress clients with what you know, not what you do

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This post shares highlights from a New Leadership Skills for Client Service Professionals training session, facilitated by Tim Williams, founder of Ignition Consulting Group. 

The client-agency relationship is changing substantially. In a recent leadership training session, we learned that the tenure between a marketing agency and client has declined from 7.2 years in 1984 to 5.3 years in 1997, to 2.5 in 2013. “The days of the AOR are dying,” says Tim Williams, founder of Ignition Consulting Group and training facilitator.

In response, agencies need to adapt to a “whole different dynamic than in the past.” Williams believes that a significant mindset shift needs to happen, in which agency staff develop new working patterns and place a stronger emphasis on leveraging ideas and strategies, versus inputs and execution.

Bruno Gralpois, Former Director of global agency strategy at Microsoft, also recognizes the importance of this shift:

“Clients and agencies must redefine the value realized from their relationship and move towards a new level of strengthened partnership that intrinsically produces better outcomes for clients, through mutual accountability and risk-taking.”

Knowledge is power

Client expectations have changed and continue to evolve. Clients are no longer just looking for a creative concept, or a flashy campaign idea. They expect a deep appreciation and understanding of how their organization defines marketplace success.

A key takeaway from the training is that in order to adapt to these new expectations, as agencies we need to stop defining our work as service. We’ve not in the service industry – we’re in the knowledge industry.

Williams reminds us that if we only ever do stuff, we’ll never be great. “Clients don’t just hire you for what you do. They hire you for what you know,” explains Willliams.

At APEX, we have embraced a philosophy of driving business outcomes a priority for our clients. Outtakes such as impressions, front-page coverage and social media likes and shares are great – and important – but we always ask the important question: why?

We work in collaboration with our clients to ensure any media relations, social media and public relations activities are aligned with the big-picture strategy. In our experience, this alignment makes for excellent agency-client relationship building.

Bridge the gap

Navigating this evolving relationship is manageable by bridging the gap between what clients want from agencies and what agencies want from clients. But first we need to understand what the gap looks like.

Katie Boland also shared the top five causes of friction in client-agency relationships and Tim Williams’ recommendations to resolve this tension.

Interested in learning more about outputs, outtakes and outcomes? Check out this blog post from APEX’s Diane Bégin.

If you’re yearning for an outcome-driven discussion for your public relations program, get in touch with us!

Merissa King is an account manager at APEX Public Relations who lives for a good business strategy discussion. More goats!