Choose to work with clients you respect – and who respect you

A little bit of respect goes a long way in life and in business, Sefiani boss Robyn Sefiani writes. After several instances where it was sorely lacking, she has a message to those on the client side.

Three things happened last week that reaffirmed my philosophy in business: to only work with clients you like and respect and who show you respect in return.

The first thing that irked me was the continued total silence from a well-known data warehousing company who asked us in January to provide an urgent proposal for crisis drill exercises across five APAC markets.

We had been highly recommended to them and were grateful for the introduction. We immediately swung into action with our Asian partner to develop a bespoke, comprehensive approach we were proud of, and sent it to the company’s communications manager.

Silence. Despite calls and emails over several weeks, more silence. We then sent a LinkedIn message to her CMO and received a polite reply saying they were “refining the brief”.

Six months on, and still no acknowledgement or thanks for our proposal which took several people many hours to develop.

The second incident: we were contacted six weeks ago by a lobbyist in Washington DC who had been referred to us by a contact in London. He also required an urgent response, this time for position-affirming opinion articles for a media behemoth seeking to maintain regulatory status quo in Australia.

We responded with our considered advice and heard nothing. Yesterday I followed up and today received the response “we are currently on hold on the project”. It would have been nice if he could have acknowledged receipt of our proposal and let us know without us chasing – right?

The third thing was a conversation I had with another agency leader about servicing levels and expectations of some big global brands. He told me one of their largest clients is being consistently and massively overserviced and despite addressing this with the client, nothing had changed due to expectations on the client side. I’ve seen and heard this before over the three decades I’ve led agencies, where some global brands have the view that it is a privilege for an agency to work with them and a master/slave relationship is acceptable. It’s not.

On the flip side, I experienced the opposite sentiment last week when approached and invited to participate in an RFI process with a high-profile global brand in the financial services sector.

We didn’t just receive an email from procurement, but rather a call and invitation to meet for coffee followed by an invitation to participate in the agency review process. The conversation was respectful, friendly and helpful, outlining the RFI and RFP process.

I could sense immediately this was a prospective client I wanted to work with, and I want my Sefiani colleagues to have the opportunity to work with. We will give our response the gold star treatment, put our A-team forward and offer competitive rates for our services.

If we are lucky enough to win, we will treat this client like gold, always be thinking about them, and bringing proactive ideas to the table to help make the brand shine and our client’s life easier.

So, a message to those on the client side – treat your agencies well and they will reward you many times over in return.

Treat them poorly and expect sub-standard work on your account and high team churn.

A little respect goes a long way in life and business.

Robyn Sefiani is president ANZ & reputation counsel for Sefiani, part of Clarity Global Group.


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