How can agencies hold on to clients for longer?
Date: 10 October 2012 13:17
Pitching for new business is costly, and losing a valued client even more so. It is in the agency’s interests to nurture its relationships with clients, so that they last. But agencies have to be realistic, not all relationships will stand the test of time.
Julia Ruane, director of agency ChiCho Marketing, says that one way to understand the client-agency bond is by comparing it with romantic attachments: “First, consider how many people you know who get into a relationship because it felt right at the time, but then things change and they want to break up. Then, consider how many people you know who have been in a long-term relationship, and what they've been through together and why they want to stay together.
"That's the secret to the established client-agency relationship, both parties are fully committed to making it work, through the good times and the bad. If one side isn't fully committed then their eyes are likely to wander until they see someone else that looks like they would be better for them. In other words, I don't think that an agency should try and make each of their clients fall in love with them. They have to accept that some relationships are not meant to be. The best thing to do is to enjoy your time together and hope that you part as friends.”
Eight tips for making the client relationship stronger:
1. Stay in touch. Relationships are ongoing, you can’t dip in and out of them. Even if there isn’t a lot going on with your PR programme at a given point in time, make sure you find a reason to keep in touch with your clients so that they know they’re still front of your mind. And time and geography permitting, meet up and spend time face-to-face.
2. Be reliable. If you’ve said you’ll call, provide an update, or follow up on something within a certain timeframe, make sure you do as you don’t want the client to have to chase you
3. Show commitment. At the end of the day your client has hired you as they see you as a PR professional and the expert – if they could do your job as well as you can, would they have hired you? Reassure your client regularly that you’re the best person or team for the job.
4. Deliver results. Make sure you’re delivering the results your client wants to see and that will make them look good.
5. And then deliver more. People always like those who go the extra mile; from the mechanic who not only fixes a flat tyre but also washes the car to the shop assistant who fetches shoes to try on with an outfit. It’s the same in PR – offer something extra, something the client didn't ask for; throw in a new idea at a meeting, email over competitor coverage. It’s often the small things that keep a client loyal.
6. Be original. One of the best ways to ensure client retention is to offer fresh ideas – challenging and surprising clients with ideas to ensure that you are always adding value to their communications strategies and never allowing the campaigns to go stale.
7. Mix it up. For large accounts, agencies need to mix their teams up a little every few months. It’s important to get a blend between having fresh ideas and maintaining continuity.
8. Get closer and be personal. PR is all about people so it’s essential that consultants give their clients the personal service that they require rather than just tick coverage or target boxes without being close enough to a business to see how it evolves.
Thanks to Cath Shuttlewood, director of PR consultancy, SY1 Consulting for points 1-4, Lucy Kemp, deputy managing director at PR agency Seal for 5-6 and David Alexander, managing director at Calacus Public Relations for 7-8.
Written by Daney Parker