Creative agencies live and die by their ability to get, keep and grow clients.
If you're a creative agency leader or in agency account management and want some useful insights and tips then listen to this episode.
It's a compilation of soundbites from my guests who have shared some brilliant golden nuggets during the year I have been recording the podcast.
Welcome to Episode 42.
The first ever episode of this podcast went live on August the fifth 2020.
So one year on almost to the day, and I'm reflecting on the privilege I've had of interviewing some of the most interesting and experienced people in the creative agency world.
My goal as always, for you is to come away with helpful tips, ideas, golden Nugget nuggets of wisdom, and reminders for how to keep and grow existing client relationships.
And that is whether you are in an agency account management position, an agency leadership role, or you're looking to get into the industry maybe I've spoken to agency account management teams, agency leaders, strategist and consultants to the creative industry.
So I've reached this one year milestone, and I wanted to do an episode dedicated to highlighting some of the top tips that have been shared by some of my guests for getting keeping and growing client business. So let's start off with getting business
Tip 1: Getting business with Spencer Gallagher
And the first tip is from Episode Seven with Spencer Gallagher.
Spencer is the author of the book Agencynomics, and Co-Founder and Joint CEO of Cact.us consultants.
He built and sold his agency and now he helps other agency leaders grow their agencies. So I asked him what he would do if he started again to get new clients.
Let's listen to how Spencer replied to that question.
So, so if I started to get some more I'd work on my personal brand, I'd work on learning how to talk about the process to share what I'm doing to demonstrate my expertise. And I would I would start to, I would start to build a really good network of connections. Because the number one way now, around two surveys this year journey, one was the UK lead generation survey, and one was the global lead generation survey. And if you take out the number two, number three way for for agencies to get busy is always existing clients referring other clients or existing clients leaving, but if you remove those, because they've already clients, the number one way is through networking, speaking, thought leadership, and you know, and so those three areas, you need to build your connections. You need to you know, to do to set yourself some, some numbers. I mean, I used to have this thing a blue Halo where I'd meet 50 new people each month. And I think today, it doesn't, it doesn't have to be new people, but meaningful conversations on a regular basis will build your pipeline. And if you build your authority, then those two things come together. So that's what I would do.
Tip 2: Getting clients with Marcus Cauchi
Tip number two for getting client business, I'm taking it from Episode Three.
I managed to have a chat with Marcus Cauchi. Marcus is my old sales trainer and he has been hugely influential in my career.
And he's probably one of the most well known UK sales trainers and salesmen, and he's also the host of the hugely successful Inquisitor podcast, I'd highly recommend you have a listen that I think there's about over 300 episodes already.
So here's what Marcus said about the skills you need to get new business. Let's hear from Marcus now.
If you develop two skills, listening, and questioning, I've never listened my way out of the sale. I've talked my way out of plenty. And most people, when they're asking questions are asking questions to gather information to gain understanding if they're slightly better, but the best questions are the ones that deliver insight.
And this is where people go horrifically wrong because they don't prepare, they turn up and they prepare the pitch. But the pitch is broadcast. It's not collecting useful insight. It's not gathering the quality information.
By the time you've turned up, you should already know most of the answers to the questions you were going to ask. Because you can do www.google.com, what would Google say? It's not like that information isn't out in the public domain. And your buyers are very savvy nowadays, they've got the sum total of human knowledge with a few clicks of a mouse available to them. So they've done a lot of their research. And they're familiar, I think with their symptoms, but they're not necessarily ofay with that cause of their problems.
And it's your job to get beyond that. Because if you are making this initial sale, your job is to beat the status quo.
60% of buying cycles and up with the incumbent solution, whether it's home grown, or another agency.
Of the 40%, 74% of those will go to the company that displaces their current preferences, helps them recognise what the cost of staying stuck will be, creates enough points of difference.
And this isn't about the product necessarily. It's about what matters to the customer and creates enough white space between you and the competition and the incumbent. And most importantly here is being able to allay their anticipated fear of regret and blame. That's how you win business.
Tip 3: Getting business with Nathan Anibaba
So continuing the theme of new business in Episode 31 we talked about having an agency podcast to generate leads new business leads, and Nathan Anibaba, who is the Founder and Managing Director of Agency Dealmasters provided some examples of how podcasting can help generate new business for agencies.
So here is Nathan, and what he shared about what makes a great podcast.
The secret to podcasting is that it needs to be educational. So people need to come away from it, learning something. It needs to be entertaining, and it needs to be fun. You know if you can do those three things, that's the magic trifecta.
But the most important one, especially for senior decision makers is that they have to know that when they spend their time listening to your show, they're going to come out of it better off, they're going to learn something they're going to improve, they're going to be better they're going to be able to implement something in their business as a result of it.
I hope you enjoyed that quote. And by the way, if you're not listening to the Agency Dealmasters podcast, you're missing out on a fantastic one.
Nathan has been doing this much longer than I have and has had some brilliant guests, including Blair Enns from Win Without Pitching and also Rory Sutherland, the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy.
Okay, so tip number four....
Tip 4: Getting clients with Mark Goulston
Tip number four comes from my chat with Mark Goulston in Episode 33.
It's not just about the tactics for generating new business, but it's also how you show up in your new business meetings and your ability to communicate and build rapport really quickly with those prospective clients.
Mark is an ex FBI hostage negotiation trainer. He's also a psychologist, a business advisor, consultant, speaker, and the author of the brilliant book, Just Listen, which I highly recommend.
And he reminded us about the power of empathy in your new business meetings with prospects. Let's hear what Mark says about new business meetings.
In my book just listen, I use a bunch of acronyms to make something easier to remember. And I said you want to be a PAL in conversations. And PAL stands for "Purposeful Agenda-less Listening".
And I think one of the reasons people don't listen is because most people have an agenda.
I wrote a blog on why people are afraid to empathise, especially in the business world. And one of the reasons people are afraid to empathise in the business world is if I really find out where the other person's coming from what's really important to them what they care about what they really need, and it doesn't match what I'm selling. If I'm going to be really showing that I'm of service and I care about them, they're not going to buy what I have.
So I'm afraid to empathise and bring up something that means I can't sell them what I have. But the problem is, you can if you're forceful, you may push something through to someone who's intimidated by that. But, boy, if it doesn't work out, and they feel that you've sold them too hard, you're not going to win many friends or influence too many people.
So we've listened to a few quotes, sharing some tips about getting new business, but what about keeping the existing clients that you've already got?
So let's turn our attentions to a few tips about this.
Now we know that keeping business is about strengthening your position as a trusted advisor rather than just being seen as an order taker.
Be more consultative and making sure you're consistently adding value to the client's business and surprising them with new ideas.
Tip 5: Keeping clients with Andy Young and Laura Cohen
On episode 16, and this is tip number five, I had the pleasure of speaking to the account management team at Skeleton Productions.
Andy Young and Laura Cohen shared their thoughts about what it meant to be a strategic account manager. Let's hear now what Andy said...
When you think of account management you think of a relationship builder. That's what you are, you're there to build relationships. But I've seen myself shifting definitely more recently to a more challenger mentality. And I think that kind of shift does elevate you in your client's eyes.
It adds additional value to them and as Laura says, it allows you to get the, get the briefs and get on to the nitty gritty so that when we go back internally, we can produce the best work possible because we fully understood their business, we fully understood their aims.
And again, to reiterate what Laura said, sometimes the client says, I want an explainer video for this, I don't want it done like this. And it's like, hang on, let's look at what you're trying to achieve. Let's look at who you're talking to. And let's see if that is the right way. You're saying you want live action. Maybe animation is better?
By having that you can really get people to think and it just builds it just builds momentum and you start then to become a trusted advisor and then they kind of reach out to you saying right, we're trying to do this in 2021. We'd love to have your input on the content plan. And things like that open up a whole new avenue of conversation and whole new way to add value to that relationship.
Tip 6: Keeping clients with Steve Richards and Ryan O'Keeffe
Tip number six for keeping existing clients was on episode 36.
I had the pleasure of speaking to the delightful Steve Richards and Ryan O'Keeffe from Jago.
Jago helps agency leaders build their personal brand and Steve reminded us of how you know those in account management can also build their personal brand and establish trust with their clients.
Let's hear what Steve had to say.
Recruitment's becoming more like marketing.
And one of the things that will attract talent into your business is if you have an employee branding programme.
Actually the fastest growing businesses, a large percentage of them, have employee branding as official programmes.
Employee branding is basically personal branding for the employees where they are pushing out the company's marketing and brand through their own social channels.
Because they get 560% more engagement than the company channels.
So actually, if you're an account manager, it makes sense for you to be investing in your personal brand for your career opportunities going forward, but also for maintaining those relationships.
Because if you're on LinkedIn (or wherever) putting out content and your clients are following you on LinkedIn, you're front of their mind and it helps you scale trust faster and quicker, and build stronger relationships, deeper, more meaningful relationships with your clients because they're not just having account management calls. They're seeing you in between the calls and totally buying into you and the value that you bring.
Tip 7: Keeping clients with Simon Rhind-Tutt
Tip number seven comes from Episode 27, I had the opportunity to chat to Simon Rhind-Tutt and Carey Evans from Relationship Audit and Management (RAM) and they shared a top tip.
RAM have interviewed hundreds of clients over a huge number of years. They basically audit the relationship between clients and suppliers.
So they work on behalf of agencies to go in and interview your clients. And they always listen for what's not being said and they ask the difficult questions.
So inevitably, they come back with these really deep insights about how your clients really think about you.
Simon had some wise words to share about tactics for us in the account management role, to improving client relationships.
Let's hear what Simon said:
With the intensity of deliverables and the problems associated with remote working, one of the casualties of this are regular post project reviews.
What we're seeing is they're being sacrificed just in the charge to get everything done.
If you are holding regular post project reviews, to look at what's worked and why it's worked, particularly in terms of process, but also to look at where problems have occurred, and what the agency can be doing to prevent those problems occurring again, one of which may be forward planning, you will have a much much better client relationship.
GROWING CLIENT BUSINESS
I hope you're enjoying these insights and tips for getting and keeping client business.
We're now going to turn our attentions to growth of accounts.
So reflecting back on all of the interviews I've had, I wanted to pull out a couple of quotes that I thought were really relevant to this area.
At the end of 2019 Gartner conducted a piece of research among 700 business to business organisations, and account managers.
And they asked them what they thought it took to grow existing business.
And a lot of account managers said exceptional service.
But the surprising reality and the conclusion of this of this research was the actually, you have to have client improvement conversations.
And that means being hugely commercially aware, understanding your client's business, and also having the ability to offer insight and help your client grow their business.
So the starting point is having commercial acumen, understanding their business, their industry, asking great questions to uncover challenges and then pro-actively surprising the client by bringing them new ideas, and helping the client capitalise on these future business opportunities.
Or conversely helping them avoid future problems.
So for this, you need to be situationally aware, which means keeping an eye on the changes in your industry, the clients industry, and also the market in general.
So there was a lovely quote from Carey Evans from RAM which highlighted the importance of sharing your knowledge. And this was on episode 38.
So let's hear what Carey said.
100% of clients want their agencies to leverage their learning with other clients to their benefit.
25% of agencies do so.
100 versus 25. It's dead easy, right?
If you're doing stuff for a certain client that works and you see an analogous situation with another client that could benefit from a similar sort of situation, then why not share? (confidentiality being prime of course), but you can certainly talk broad principles as and when you do it.
Of course, the great thing is you can also turn these things into case studies, whereby it becomes an agency library of how to reapply learning from one situation to another while making adjustments at the margin.
Tip 9: Growing clients with David C. Baker
Tip Number nine comes from Episode 24. I had the absolute pleasure of chatting to David C. Baker, who is the author of the book "The Business of Expertise", and the co-host of the massively popular 2Bob's podcast.
David consults with agency leaders he has done for a number of years.
And this is what he had to say about how to grow existing business.
So what do you advise agency leaders do when they say to you that they want to grow their accounts, what are your go to pieces of advice for them?
The single thing that I think is most important there is to keep simulating the first year you work for the client.
So when you presumably, when you land a client, they were already working with somebody else. If they weren't, then they probably are not a good client.
In other words, you're not the first agency they're working with. That's a sign of a client, that's a good fit.
And they came to you, because something about the previous firm was stale.
They weren't reinventing things. They were just doing the minimum, whatever those things were, and you impressed them out of the gate.
And you were a little bit surprised you landed it, and now you're doing everything you can to fill those expectations that they have.
But then you slide into the same thing the other previous agency did, and you have new clients coming along all the time. And you kind of forget these and you don't every year say, All right, let's not just modify last year's plan, let's instead look at what would we do completely differently if we inherited this plan from another agency? What could we do differently.
And I think that's the biggest thing you can do to grow accounts and to keep them.
The goal isn't to keep them forever. The goal is to keep them for the right amount of time. And that could be for two years or five years. Seldom is it longer than that.
And the key to that is to there are a lot of things out of your control, obviously. But the key to that is to treat it like it's a new year every year and this is a client we're still really trying hard to impress.
Tip 10: Growing clients with Sam Bridger
And finally, tip number 10. I want to give you a tip about asking for referrals, which is a great way to grow your existing client business.
I too often meet agency account managers who feel it's too pushy or too salesy to ask their clients for referrals, either to other areas of the business or to their network, even when the relationship is really, really strong.
And sometimes account managers anticipate that the client might feel that they don't want their agency to work with anybody else. So that's another reason that they don't ask for referrals.
But I spoke to Sam Bridger on episode 22. And Sam is an interim marketing director. She's worked in marketing at a high level for over 30 years and has managed a huge amount of agencies through her time.
And I asked her the question about referrals and whether in her experience working for multiple different companies and multiple different agencies, whether she'd ever been asked for a referral. And here's what she said.....
If you're if you've got an agency that's working really well with you, and you love them, it's been going on for a while and they've been performing really well and bringing you new ideas, new insights, etc. Have you ever been asked by an agency of that kind for referrals? e.g. can you refer me to other parts of the business or can you refer me to....
That's really interesting Jenny I don't think I ever have actually. I have done it. I have said to other parts of the business 'you should work with this agency'.
And the example I gave earlier on about the Mercedes roster got agencies working for other parts of the business.
But I don't think anyone has ever explicitly said "Could you recommend me to someone you know", whether inside or outside the business.
So that's, that's a really good tip I think. Do that.
Okay, so if someone had asked you, would you have helped?
If I thought they were a good agency, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. You know, it's all about helping each other out. So, yeah, I would have no qualms in recommending it.
And I have, you know, subsequently as a client, obviously, I've gone on to, from one business to another entity. I've worked with that agent that afar but wonder if they could help us. You keep hold of the good ones.
Again, I hope you're taking notes and getting some inspiration from these tips that my ex guests have shared.
So to finish off, I want to finish off with a little good news story from one of my account accelerator participants, Laura Cohen, she actually put into place the referral strategy that I teach, and her confidence grew as a result, the positive response that she got from her client, when she asked him for a referral.
So I want to share this little quote from Laura now:
Asking for referrals at the beginning seemed a very unnatural thing before. And for the training, it made complete sense why you would do that because it also instils total confidence in what you're about to deliver to the client as well. And it's just sometimes we're very British about it. But with a client that I had in mind then I contacted them and just asked them about, you know, the referral and he was absolutely completely afraid. It was it was like a normal process. It was expected. It's that confidence to say 'this is okay, this is normal. It's okay to ask for referrals'.
I hope you enjoyed these top tips for getting keeping and growing client business and maybe your you'll implement one or two of them.
If you'd like to join my account accelerator training programme, which is for agency account management teams to help them grow existing business then the next group starts on 23rd September 2021.
You can find all the details at https://accountmanagementskills.com/training or drop me a line on LinkedIn at Jenny Plant, or send me an email at Jenny@accountmanagementskills.com.
I look forward to speaking to you