Relationships are a central part of my life. I put a lot of effort and focus toward my family, friends, colleagues and clients. Even in the age of Facebook, I still send out 100+ birthday cards a year. I believe in making people feel special and staying in constant touch with them. Developing, maintaining and growing personal and professional relationships is a passion for me, one that I’ve been evolving for over 20 years as a marketing professional, primarily on the agency side.
As an Account Director at Primacy, responsible for managing and growing our clients’ business, relationships continue to be a central focus in my day-to-day work. We pride ourselves in having a 95% client retention rate and clients that will often bring us along with them when they move to a different department or company.
At Primacy, we have a methodology to Account Management that starts with hiring Account Managers with the right mindset – business-oriented marketing professionals with a solid grasp of the digital landscape. They need to understand and appreciate our “Digital with Purpose” mantra – it really needs to resonate with them. This isn’t about forcing personal agendas (or even the agency’s agenda). It’s about doing what’s right for our clients and our clients’ customers. Because, when we do that, everyone wins. And it’s this mutual success that sits at the core of our methodology – along with our emphasis on building strong client relationships. Along these lines, there are six essential tenants we follow when managing client relationships:
Understand the Client: Inside and out – Transcending digital
Earlier in my career at promotion agencies, I served as the inter-agency lead working with the advertising, media, PR and digital agencies to create integrated marketing plans. This experience makes me automatically think of my client’s business from an integrated marketing perspective. At Primacy, we hone in on the digital aspects, but keep the other pieces of the puzzle in mind to ensure everything is working together.
Create a Clear Plan for Success & Analyze Performance: Driven by Customer Needs
I love the analogy that you wouldn’t have your contractor build a house without a blueprint. Well, the same holds true with your clients…you shouldn’t start executing until you understand their business challenges, know what their competitors are doing and map out what they should focus on short term and long term. At Primacy, we work with our strategy team to create roadmaps for clients that outline tactics they should focus on so we have a specific plan to follow. When it comes time to execute, we regularly examine analytics to make sure we're achieving the desired results. If not, we can change course appropriately.
Be an Extension to Your Client’s Internal Team: Be Their Right Hand “Man”
Earlier in my career on the Unilever and Kraft accounts, my client’s team was short staffed and they needed someone who knew their business to help them. They asked for me to work at their office three days a week and be an extension of their team. I really enjoyed these experiences as it provided me with some client side experience, it allowed me to broaden my marketing role and, more importantly, get to know my clients more on a professional and personal level. Simple things like eating lunch with them in their cafeteria goes a long way.
Quality Matters: Any Solution is Only as Strong as its Ability to Deliver Results Consistently
As an Account Director, I’m the central hub to all other departments so I’m constantly following up and checking in with team members to make sure we’re delivering against expectations. I feel the most fulfilled when we can over-deliver to the client when they least expect it. This goes a long way to building a relationship, especially early on.
Execute On Time and On Budget: Managing Projects is an Art
I work closely with my project managers to make sure we follow the agreed upon timeline and stay within budget. At Primacy, we have a proprietary intranet that allows us to check our budgets in real time every day and since many of our budgets follow a time and materials model, we can give our clients regular updates. Recently one of my client’s budgets was tracking under so we were able to squeeze in a strategy project in Q4 that will influence our executional plans next year. I feel that our track record and transparent process sets us a part from other agencies.
Trust Goes a Long Way: Always be Upfront & Transparent
I can’t say enough about trust. What’s that old saying? “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, forever to repair.” I’ve worked at my fair share of agencies and have to say that Primacy is by far the most ethical one I’ve worked at. Maybe that explains why the agency has more than doubled in size since I started four years ago.
Sometime during your career you’ll be presented with the hard discussions...you're over budget, your team screws up, or you need more time. The stronger the relationship the better the conversations. I recently had to tell a client that we were 20% over budget on a large project because there were additional enhancements we didn’t expect. Because I told her about it along the way and went the extra “mile” by flying to her office on the agency’s dime for a creative presentation (that could have easily been done via conference call) she decided to pay the overage and eventually gave us more work.
Last but not least, I’ve learned first-hand to take a personal interest in your clients. When your client mentions their daughter's name, make note of it. In a weeks’ time ask about her by name. Your client will light up. Like anything in life, we all want to feel like we're important and that we matter. Client relationships should be no different.