Not expecting your ad agency’s major client to put its account into review!

ad agency review“I was not expecting my major client to put their account into review!” Really?

I was talking to an agency colleague today and in discussion he brought up the fact that their major client had unexpectedly put their account up for review. My response was “really,” not from surprise that they put it up for review, but more at his response.

I thought back on how many times I have heard the same statement and more alarmingly, how many times it ended in disaster for the agency. Current agency statistics put the incumbent agency’s chance of keeping the business at about 1/18. The number is even worse if the review is as a result of significant client dissatisfaction.

When I probe further, the reasons are almost always the same.

  • Poor client service
  • Need new ideas and fresh thinking
  • I feel I need to know what other agencies are out there
  • No proactivity from my agency
  • Unhappy with the strategy or creative
  • Agency does not seem to care whether I succeed or not
  • We have been together too long, the relationship is stale
  • Agency client conflict. We hate working with them

The tragedy is that the situation could in most instances have been avoided if we just treated our existing clients as well as we do our new business prospects. Bottom line is that they are at least as important, if not more important!

We are happy to give away our best thinking and ideas for free. We do not think twice about assigning our best people to work on the opportunity/pitch. We conduct extensive consumer and competitive research on our dime. We actually in many instances mobilize the whole agency against this new client opportunity, often at the expense of the existing client or clients. To exacerbate the situation, if we are an agency with an aggressive new business target, this cycle just repeats itself over and over again. And then we are surprised when an existing client puts us up for review? I suggest that we should not be!

So, before it’s too late and you find yourself with a similar communication from one of your major clients, I have some 5 suggestions for you.

  1. Existing clients are as important as new business and should be treated as such. Consistently deliver value to them.
  2. Allocate time and resources on a regular basis to proactive thinking and ideas against their business.
  3. Maintain outstanding client service levels and monitor this through quarterly or at least 6 monthly reviews.
  4. Balance your existing client needs against new business growth activity. If the opportunity is likely to put your current client at risk through stretched resources…walk away from it. Unless it’s a game changer for you.
  5. Always keep in mind that existing clients are usually way more profitable than new clients. If you keep losing existing clients your business will be populated with new clients who may never get to profitability.
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