Everyone who works in an ad/PR agency has to go beyond being a good marketer to being a good businessperson on behalf of our clients.
That may sound like old news to some of you, but the time has come to apply added substance to the words. It’s time for agency employees to think as their clients do and make decisions accordingly — to anticipate a clients’ needs and be able to act on gut instincts.
I am sure you hear from clients that they value your passion and commitment to growing their business. But are they also telling you that they need to see better alignment between your agency’s thinking and their priorities? If not, you can be sure they are thinking it.
This is actually good news for creatives. The most original ideas will always be the best ideas, if you do your preparation right. Being informed and relevant about your client’s industry is fundamental. Perhaps your agency team’s reading list should include daily business publications, online blogs and the trade journals of the clients they serve. This would provide insights into the challenges and opportunities that clients face every day and facilitate a common language between agency and client.
I am suggesting that agencies take greater ownership of their role in making clients’ successful for this year and beyond. Clients are demanding greater accountability from their agencies; I hear a growing chorus every day. With better analytics tools comes a louder call for agencies to link their ideas to results with more consistency.
If you have an idea that you are in love with, ask yourself, “Is this going to make the most positive impact on my clients’ business?” If you don’t know the answer, ask your supervisor what the business goal is. And if you still aren’t clear about the business intent of the project, it is your responsibility to figure it out, and have the courage of your convictions to recommend the right solutions. There shouldn’t be such thing as a dumb question. Smart queries and curious minds lead to better thinking and execution.
Those who create content are now held accountable not only for seamless execution, but for how those ideas perform. It is a subtle change from just holding the agency strategy and account-management teams responsible, or in just having analytics experts focused on results. The most significant shift is in having art directors, account executives, public-relations experts, strategists, copywriters, social-media managers, technology coders and project managers all become responsible for clients’ success. If business schools are correct that incentives drive behavior, perhaps everyone who affects a clients’ business should be rewarded or penalized for how ideas perform.
Of course, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. A growing number of agencies have analytics in their quivers. But how many are applying it to measure the outcomes of their own work? Imagine how your clients would react if you proactively reported on how your ideas perform on a regular basis.
Some of the change that needs to happen can be learned; some is innate. Young creative people are curious about business, and want to know that their thinking makes a difference on their clients’ bottom line. Now take that a step further, and demand that creatives ask deeper questions in briefing meetings about the clients’ business challenges, market share, revenue goals and quality of the sales force. That is how everyone at an agency, not just the creative teams, should approach new assignments. When that happens inside agencies like muscle memory, it will be a welcome change.