Size doesn’t matter when it comes to agency clients

In an age where integrity is king, how can the modern agency be everything to everyone - no matter the size? David Sawicki explains.

A successful marcomms agency requires a multitude of retained client contracts in order to be sustainable. This requires all the relationship mantras of love; integrity, respect, trust and commitment and communication.

While many a successful brand campaign require the blood of our publicists, the sweat of our executives and tears of the brand in questions’ finance department, the passion and emotion marcomms people develop for the brands we work for is often inevitable.

But is it palpable to said client – large or small?

To avoid being the modern-day Don Juan of agency-led brands – pulling on campaign heartstrings one moment and leaving the office phone off the hook in another, agencies must find a balance of small, medium and large companies within their client roster.

Delegating time effectively between A, B and C clients is easier said than done, but identifying the strengths of each type of client allows your agency to a lot time and resources more effectively.

While client A is the household name that spells hefty workloads and big budgets, client B is the quiet yet profitable sleeper-hit, the B2B that no one has ever heard of, until now. Then there’s familiar client C, little dynamos promising to let creative flags fly on a shoestring budget.

When reflecting on your client roster, a good communications professional should recognise that the size of a brand isn’t everything, client retention is.

The commitment to turning small and nimble client C into a strong (and profitable) client A will define your agency and your reputation for effective work. This can take years, and your agency must be prepared for the relationship’s highs and lows.

Procter and Gamble (P&G) – one of the world’s biggest comms, marketing and advertising spenders – last week infamously stated that it is slashing agencies in half in 2018 from 2500 to 1250, saving over $750 million.

Of the agencies still standing, they have one year to prove their worth or get out. Its CMO, Marc Pritchard warned that the ‘media planning’ and buying industry needs to clean up its act if it wants to keep clients like P&G – client As – in their roster because they are raising the ‘creative bar’.

While any agency would love to have survived P&G’s indiscriminate culling, the company’s uniform statement that all agencies – any agency – better shape up start packing sends a powerful message. A big company with big budgets doesn’t spell creative and successful brand strategy. Is it possible that our A clients can learn from our B and C clients?

Small clients can make it big

Enter client C, the Melbourne based start-up, Frank Body circa 2013. Two women, $5,000 and an interesting, yet unrevolutionary used coffee rind body scrub matched by a savvy PR strategy. Over four years, the brand wooed the media by influencing and instagramming their products into a $20 million-dollar global beauty brand vehemently followed by the Vogue’s and Elle Magazine’s of the world. Today, with a 90,000 person wait-list for their 2018 product launch, it’s safe to say that Frank was an agency sleeper-hit – one that would require that early-relationship interest and passion for the brand to ultimately thrive with media.

While a budding brand with a tinier budget may seem like an after-thought amongst meatier, more time-consuming clients, it’s these fledglings that deserve the same love, energy and belief systems associated with bigger brands.

While the retainer size of each client is important, the longevity of the relationship with businesses A, B or C are what ensure the stability and reputability of an agency. After all, you never know who client C might turn out to be.

Size doesn’t always matter

A modern communications agency should not be siloed by client’s industry or size. In fact, account coordinators and managers need the freedom and time to fraternise over client WIPS and campaigns ideas – from property industry to fashion.

We all know a brilliant and creative PR idea could come from one person sipping their coffee on the tram en route to work. Sharing “what’s going on” with small clients could actually help the big guys and vice versa.

Take Kodak for example – why didn’t they invent Instagram? In 2010, Kodak was 300,000 people and Instagram was 12. While most marcomms agencies aren’t in the business of brand development, we should care about the financial and social health of our clients just as we would a partner in our personal life.

To mitigate the risk of a client list stuffed with flashy, yet baseless brand relationships, agencies must build long-term growth strategies for each client while adding enough sizzle and spice to the partnership to secure fast, realistic gains.

Variety in your client roster is good for business, so long as your team and your clients are grounded by integrity and respect for their industry, offering and your work.

David Sawicki is a business advisor and the founder and director of Third Wave Ideas.


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