(This is the second in a series of three articles on agency client retention.)
Perhaps nothing signals the impending end to the agency-client relationship more than a client’s belief that the agency does not really understand them. If the agency’s work is not reflecting what the client knows and believes about their brand, then the relationship will not last long. This is a fundamental building block for the relationship and has a direct impact on client retention.
Since the client’s perception will define the business relationship’s longevity, managing the client’s perception of how your agency understands their brand and its evolution is vital to successful client retention. A proactive agency should never get to the point where a perceived misunderstanding of the brand becomes an engagement-ending event. To stop this from happening to you, focus on these three critical practices – achieving pre-engagement clarity, managing the account management, and regular business check-ins.
Key Practice #2 – Managing the account management
Account managers come in all stripes, but often they can be more junior staff and are primarily tasked with acting as a combination project manager and communication funnel. Once the engagement gets under way, the account executive (AE) managing the relationship is the agency’s pivotal piece in the partnership and the client’s perception of it. Agencies often assume that the client will know what to expect from their AE, and that the agency gets to define how the role will function. But be careful here, as these assumptions can miss key opportunities to gain the client’s trust and deepen the engagement. When starting the relationship and assigning an AE, try considering some of these questions:
- Has the client indicated what they want from their AE?
- Do they want more strategy and consulting or more tactical execution and project updates?
- Does the client have the ability to translate and connect marketing activities to business outcomes, or does the AE need to provide that skill to ensure success?
- Does the client personality or their business niche demand a specific type of AE to be more effective?
- Have we discussed with the client how we typically manage the engagement to see if the process meets their needs and expectations?
- How can we check-in with the client as the engagement unfolds to ensure they are happy?
- Do we need to endure the senior executives or owners on both sides to connect periodically?
- How will we as an agency measure the effectiveness and success of the AE?
Answering some or all of these questions will help the agency build a process that can meet and exceed the client expectations, while also providing clear direction to internal staff. It may also reveal some interesting truths about the strengths or weaknesses of your current AE model, and about the kinds of clients that may better mesh with the style and skills of your existing account execs. Proper analysis on these questions and appropriate assignment will aide significantly in client retention.
Next, read about the critical importance of regular business check-ins…