Clients want Great Work, but they Stick with Great Relationships.
Introducing the “Getting Real with Garfield Group” Series. We took to our employees - the experts on the frontlines of our agency - to see how they really feel about some pressing issues in our respective lines of work. This series of blog posts offers our readers a deeper look into the minds of the Garfield Group team to understand how we approach our day-to-day work while learning about our overall approach to strategy and company culture.
By Angela Kostreva and Beth Burnston
Think about the last time you experienced any type of business transaction. Whether you purchased something online, paid for a service or needed some insight from customer service, you likely tracked the cost, but - more importantly - noted the quality of the experience. Consider dining at a restaurant: great service often sets the tone over great food, and it also brings people back for more.
Now think of this in terms of the client/agency relationship.
Robert Solomon writes in his book “The Art of Client Service” about a conversation with a client in which said client fired him. The client explained the decision, saying, “I love your work; the agency is very creative. But you guys are just too hard to deal with; everything is a fight. If I have to choose, I’ll take an agency a little less talented but a whole lot easier to work with.” We think this pretty much sums it up.
Clients want to work with an agency which provides value beyond cost effectiveness (although, of course, we always stay on budget!). Financials certainly play a role in forming relationships, but as account managers, we deal with this balancing act and find the key remains in building strong client bonds with an ultimate goal to become a strategic partner.
Account managers must transform into stewards of their clients’ brands. We champion becoming hybrids of account and strategy in order to take a holistic view of what we want to achieve in terms of the business perspective - ultimately using that to inform account management. Of course, this requires access to your clients’ business goals and aligning on key metrics or achievements.
Earning access to these insights stems from a commitment to transparency and truthfulness, and the resulting partnership proves the value of inviting agencies to comment or counsel on big business decisions as they leverage industry knowledge combined with an informed perspective of the brand’s position and identity.
While account managers remain the face of this relationship, they also become the agency’s communicators of the brand. Account managers represent critical players within an agency as they anticipate client thoughts and needs while understanding client comfort zones and likes or dislikes - even identifying those changes to push clients past these comfort zones to achieve greater success. Account managers become the agency steward of the brand, too, and bridge all departments of an agency to deliver informed work which achieves its maximum potential. Clients who trust that their account managers can effectively and accurately communicate their goals and brand to the rest of the team receive value by avoiding unnecessary explanation, drawn-out timelines and inaccuracies in concepting or deliverables.
Our experience shows us that these relationships, while critical within the walls of the office, also play a role outside of the workplace. Networking forms an entire system of colleagues and coworkers who help navigate our professional lives. Mentors come to life from establishing strong connections with others in our industry - whether in the form of clients, superiors or professionals. Account management means taking relationships seriously and working on them to achieve the fullest benefits, and this permeates all aspects of our lives.
We refer to Solomon again as he writes, “Advertising is about the work, but remember that advertising is a business. Business is about relationships, and a great relationship allows great work to flourish.” Account management allows client relationships to found themselves on a bond with an agency extending beyond a transactional process. Sharing client goals and visions takes work and return on investment to the next level, and with satisfaction comes stronger bonds. In the end, this exchange becomes priority in successful client relationships, and account management represents a cornerstone in reaching such a state of working together.