The Voice of the Underdog®
You want to know a secret? Every agency has a favorite client.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an award-winning creative shop, a big media firm, a social media studio, or a top 10 advertising agency. We’ve all got that one client that everybody loves and whose account everybody wants to work on. I suppose the same could be true in every type of business. But in the world of advertising and marketing, I know it to be true.
That’s not to say agencies don’t love most all of their clients. In my entire career, I can count the number of clients I haven’t loved on one hand. But we’ve all got our favorites.
The question, is why? What is it that makes certain clients stand out from all the others?
I had some thoughts of my own, but in prepping this blog, I decided to ask a number of my colleagues what they thought. And when I started looking at what everyone said, there were some clear themes that came up time and time again. If you work in an agency, see if you agree with our list. If you’re a client, here are five sure ways to become your agency’s favorite.
TRUST THEM WITH YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES
Call it experience, call it intuition, call it reading the tea leaves, but agencies know when you’re holding back on them. We know you have huge challenges and many, many expectations to satisfy, and we’d like nothing more than to help you deliver on every single one of them. But, often, clients choose not to share everything with their agency team, opting instead to give them a smaller piece of the puzzle to solve. Why?
Could be you’re not sure the agency is up to the task. Could be you’re trying to give them room to focus on the problem at hand. Could be you never even thought about sharing the big picture with them, or to ask for help on the myriad challenges you face. Suggestion? Lean into transparency and trust your team. They want nothing more than to make you happy, show you what they can do, and enable your success. Holding back, even for noble reasons, sends a signal that says, “I don’t trust you.” If you do, let ‘em run.
CREATE A MUTUAL SENSE OF CULTURE
Agencies and clients don’t have to share the exact same culture to have a fruitful relationship. But what is crucial is building a mutual sense of culture between the two companies. That takes work on both sides of the equation, but those shared values – that mutually created culture —transforms a business connection into a lasting relationship. In Daniel Coyle’s book “The Culture Code,” he writes about three requisite skills that every leader must master to create a healthy and thriving culture. First is “building a sense of safety.” Second is “sharing vulnerability.” And third is “establishing purpose.” Imagine building a relationship with your agency team with those three things in mind. It may not be how you’re used to thinking about the people you work with, but, from our perspective, it is a far more positive, productive, inspiring place to live.
TELL THEM MORE THAN THEY NEED TO KNOW
Despite the fact that agencies routinely sign NDAs as part of the client/agency relationship, we know there is still information clients don’t feel comfortable disclosing to their agencies. We understand the concern. But, too often agencies are asked to solve problems and make decisions without the information we need to make them. Whether we’re developing insights, strategies, or new creative, working with a dearth of information is like trying to pack the car for vacation without knowing what all has to go in the trunk. You can come up with any number of solutions, but until you know what all you’re dealing with, you can’t really solve the problem. Don’t be afraid to tell your team more than they need to know. They’re professionals. They understand privacy. And they’re far more likely to come up with brilliant solutions they never could have otherwise.
INVEST IN THE RELATIONSHIP
In every relationship, there’s a big difference between being friendly and being friends. “Friendly” requires courtesy, politeness, and a surface level of kindness. “Friendship” is far more intimate, requiring time, trust, and commitment. That’s why most of us can be friendly to anyone but can count our very best friends on a single hand. For some clients and agencies, real friendships are rare — whether on purpose or by accident. And there are a number of valid, understandable reasons why.
If that’s where you are as a client, based on my experiences and those of the colleagues I talked to, I would encourage you to rethink your position. Becoming the agency’s favorite client isn’t about popularity, or bragging rights. It’s about getting the best work. It’s about knowing you have people who think so highly of you that they literally go to bed and wake up thinking about how to make your brand and your leadership extraordinary. Invest time, trust, confidence, and love in your team and they will not disappoint you.
ENABLE THE IMPOSSIBLE
Believe it or not, sometimes all your team needs to do transcendent work is knowing that you believe they can. That may seem unnecessary, but think about the energy you felt the last time someone told you, or better yet showed you, they believed in you. That kind of positivity is what enables the impossible. It literally gives your team the confidence to solve any problem you throw in front of them. They know they’re good at what they do. But when they know you know, that’s a whole different feeling. It’s the kind that lights you up. And who wouldn’t want to work for someone who made them feel like that?
JULIE ONDRUSEK is chief operating officer at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top ad agency in Dallas. For more about challenger branding, read other posts from our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog
We challenge underdog brands to think differently. We help them find their voice, and urge them to blaze new trails to make sure they stand out from the pack. Whether you need an agency of record or support on a project, we are here to help you win.