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What clients are looking for in their Agency leads to become true strategic partners

Abigail Dixon, Director of Labyrinth Marketing and IPM Diploma Course Leader, shares how agencies should understand the clients changing needs to become their ‘go-to’ Agency marketer and strategic partner.

Working closely with both brands and agencies, I hear a lot about the changing dynamics and what both sides are doing (and could do better) to build a long-term, valuable relationship. You will have noticed it – budgets are squeezed, the rise of in-house agencies and a decline in retained agencies, ZBB being the norm. The need for agencies to demonstrate their value has never been greater.

But do you understand what is driving these shifts? When we support clients with their brand planning or long-term strategies, we see their role is changing from what you knew 10 years ago. Gone are the days of a client-side marketer’s role being communications-focused, where they set an annual marketing budget and simply use agencies to deliver tactical activation and campaigns.

The changing role of the Marketing Team

Marketing teams are being increasingly tasked with leading the commercial agenda of the organisation – the deliverables within their job descriptions have broadened and they now often have to take on wider commercial responsibilities. This may include production, financial forecasting and reporting, plus demonstrating the returns on any marketing investment with creative activation (i.e. with their agencies). They need to identify and commercially size growth opportunities and demonstrate return on all investments – so if they need their current agency structure to support this, they’ll look for alternative models.

What would clients like to see from their Agency Leads?

Here’s the good news… you can ensure your agency team has the right skills to meet your client’s changing needs.

Fundamentally, delivering commercial returns is key – common gripes we hear from clients are their agencies “say the right things  but don’t always take the time to understand or even want to know the commercial realities we are dealing with all the time”.

As is appreciating the wider scope of their role, taking a lead and defining clear ways of working to get the best out of each other.

How you can become the ‘go to’ Agency Marketer

  1. Invest in building close relationships and trust with your clients – concern yourself with their vision, mission, corporate goals, strategic direction etc; with the aim of attending strategy planning meetings together, sharing SMART objectives, goals and budgets (and even offices) to become one team.
  2. Use relevant metrics – know how to calculate ROI and talk the same language as your client’s senior management, providing rationales and justifying mechanics to deliver their objectives with clear KPI’s. Make it easy for your clients to see the benefits and obtain sign-off from the Board.
  3. Continual training & up skilling – training is not just for the junior team members. Training will give you fresh perspective, new skills, viewpoints and anecdotes – clients love to hear new news and know their agency is “on it”. You are often the most fun part of their day; share your creativity and knowledge!
  4. Ensure you get the basics right – Account Management 101. Don’t make your client chase you! Deliver when you say you will, attention to detail, weekly status, timing plans, budget monitoring etc. Be respectful of their time (especially now they have less) and consider how your actions make their life easier.
  5. Instil a culture of curiosity and continual drive/improvement in your agency. See it and share it first! Passion and enthusiasm go far when demonstrating your added value to their business. Look up, out and share, as their time is now limited.

Abigail Dixon also works with the IPM as a trainer for the IPM Diploma – an essential guide to Promotional Marketing and Brand Activation for those who are ultimately the front line of brilliant client relationships. For more information on this and other IPM courses, please visit https://www.theipm.org.uk/, contact the IPM at Learning@theipm.org.uk or call on 020 3848 0444.

If you would like to find out how Labyrinth Marketing can help you, then get in touch with Abigail Dixon at abigail@labyrinthmarketing.co.uk