The most feared event for every ad agency leader is that dreaded call from a key client, informing you that they have decided to put their advertising account into review. Behind the decision are normally numerous factors, some controllable from an agency perspective and some not.
If you have been following my blog, by now you will have heard me go on about minimizing client churn ad nauseam. That’s because I consider it, without doubt, one of the most important pillars in my “Five Pillar Agency Growth Strategy” approach. Churn has to be proactively managed and supported by robust “Key Account Strategies”.
Some of the causes that lead to a review are beyond the agency’s control. In such cases there is really nothing you can do to prevent it from happening. There are others though, that fall into the controllable category and can therefore be minimized or at least influenced by agency management.
Let’s start with some examples of the uncontrollable.
- New CMO comes on Board
- Client company merger or acquisition (change in control)
- Global ad agency realignment
- Disappointing business results
- Geographic relocation
- Term of contract expires and regulations require it to go out to tender
- Unprofessional behavior on the part of a client or agency staff member.
Now let’s focus on some of those that are controllable.
- Lack of pro-active thinking and fresh ideas
- Lack of integration of ideas. The agency works in silos versus working for the greater benefit of the client/brand.
- Lack luster work that fails to deliver the expected results.
- Client driven by ROI, analytics and measurement, while the agency remains focused on creative, gut feel and fails to embrace metrics and measurement.
- Excessive turnover within the account service team leading to client dissatisfaction.
- The need for new or additional capabilities, channels or media that the agency is perceived to or does not have.
- Disconnect between the brand strategy and the creative execution.
- Perceived gap in the client/agency relationship from a price/value perspective.
- Noticeable lack of innovation and innovative thinking around the brand.
- Agency perceived as not flexible or agile enough.
Every one of the causes listed above can help trigger the decision to put the account up for review. The biggest contributor however, (although not always stated directly), is the clients perception that the agency does not share their worries and ultimately does not care if they succeed or not.
Leslie Winthrop from AAR Partners tells this amazing story about a client company that approached her about conducting an agency review for their advertising account. On further questioning the client told Leslie that they were happy with the work and results, liked the people and enjoyed working with them. Surprised by the answers Leslie asked why then did they want to hold a review? The clients answer was simply, “Because I do not think they share my worries and it does not appear to matter to them if I succeed or not. I feel that I am out there on my own.”
Makes you think doesn’t it?