Keeping long-term client relationships fresh takes a lot of effort in today’s business environment. All of us are bombarded by new technologies, ideas and options as we go about our work and personal lives. And let’s be candid, with the quick pace of change in marketing, staying current is a challenge that requires considerable time and effort. Digital evolution continues at a rapid pace and isn’t showing signs of slowing down. On top of this, pressure to demonstrate ROI and do more with less seem to be evergreen requests. If you can rise to these challenges with a partner you like and trust, you can inject fresh energy into old relationships and launch new ones with early wins and excitement on both sides.
At LoSasso Integrated Marketing, we have found that the path to successfully meeting these challenges begins with admitting two things: 1) No one has all the answers, and 2) we all have to think differently. If we continue to do things the way we always have, we will fall further and further behind.
This is where things get really interesting for the client-agency relationship. We are living in Darwinian times, and the risks are equally high for clients and agencies. But at the same time, we have an incredible opportunity to grow smarter and stronger together — and we need each other. Clients need a trusted partner with modern capabilities and an ear to the outside world, and agencies need clients that see them as a partner and are determined to evolve. We each have a vested interest in the other’s success.
With these realities in mind, we’re taking a different approach to planning and budgeting with our clients — and it’s been key to keeping our relationships fresh. Every industry is facing changes in the way their prospects communicate, consume information and make purchases, so strategic planning and research are more important than ever.
Below is an overview of some of the processes and tools we have developed in recent years that have injected energy into our client relationships and insights into our work.
- Customer research and organizational buy-in
- While we have always favored research at LoSasso, we are finding that it is more valuable now than ever. There is no better way to get attention at the executive level and elsewhere in the organization than to bring in the voice of the customer and important insights about changes in the buyer market. Clients and agencies strengthen their bond and stimulate ideas when they collaborate on improving their understanding of the customer. Discovering how mobile technologies, online research, peer-to-peer sharing and the modern buying process are changing buyer behavior is crucial. This is often a key role for CMOs, but we find it’s not done often enough. Agencies should help facilitate surveys and focus groups, and organize key data and information throughout the year to share across the organization.
- Online auditing
- With the importance of all things digital, regularly evaluating the areas of strength, weakness, opportunity and threat in clients’ online properties can provide a strong foundation on which to build, and a benchmark against which to demonstrate change.
- Establishing benchmarks and KPIs
- Marketing is more measurable than ever before, so establishing an agreed-upon measure of success helps agencies. It sounds like Marketing 101, but a lot of times we see agencies push metrics that just aren’t important to clients. Agencies, clients and clients’ C-level executives need to align their efforts and demonstrate ROI.
- Benchmarking customer perceptions can help validate and reinforce the importance of your KPIs to the sales channel and the executive team.
- Website analytics can be connected to CRMs and automation software to provide much better predictive insights as to what is truly driving sales. This is impossible without transparent collaboration of talents that normally reside on both client and agency teams.
- Long-term planning
- When everyone is busy and budgets are tight, change is difficult. Without a long-term planning process, there is no framework for ensuring that change happens. We have developed the “5-3-1,” which is a long-term planning and visioning session to help our clients build a road map for what they envision one, three and five years from now.
- Budget allocations
- Budget allocations for the modern marketing mix are very different, yet the budgeting process in many organizations hasn’t changed. Working with the same budgets year after year with marginal increases is at best maintaining the status quo and at worst seriously limiting the efficiency of your marketing messages. You need a different budgeting process to ensure you prioritize properly; otherwise, the most important initiatives are often the last to get funded. To help with this, we developed this budgeting worksheet. It has helped bring a new perspective to budget allocations going forward.
While these tools and processes help strengthen our client relationships, it’s still important to remember that nothing works without a great team of people. For that we turn to our PACT, an acronym for the core values that we hire for, live by and look for in our clients: Passion, Accountability, Creative Insight and Team Focus. Ultimately, this is the linchpin, because when good people work well together, the result is smarter work and a stronger, more mutually rewarding relationship for both the client and their agency partner.