Delivering ad agency value and being paid for it.

May 28, 2009

ufo-masterlock-590x384I have often been challenged by other agency leaders about the apparent conflict between suggesting that agencies should provide value and be proactive at the same time as warning them about adequate resource management and cost control. In my experience it is possible to do both and do them well.

Most clients will pay for value if it is indeed value as defined or perceived by them. Too often agencies find themselves in a position where the client refuses to pay for work because they just do not see the value in what we are charging for. To us we have provided value and we deserve compensation. The bottom line is just because we put in the hours does not mean that we should be paid.

It all starts with listening. Listening to the client when they tell you about what they want, need and expect. Agencies are generally very poor listeners and overzealous talkers. We love to hear our own voices and opinions and quite often drink our own KoolAid. Take the time up front to listen to the client, ask questions and clarify anything that is not clear. Raise any concerns up front and agree on deliverables, timelines and outcomes.

Sometimes we are too eager to get started, do not ask questions for fear of hearing what we don’t want to hear, and think if we just go ahead and do it we will be fine. This is where the wheels start coming off. Here are some examples of how you can deliver value (as perceived by the client) and contain your costs:

  • Stick to the assigned budget. If the budget allows for 10 hours copywriting make sure the writer does the best they can within the time allowed. Not the best they possibly can, given no time limit.
  • Think first before assigning multiple creative teams to work on the assignment. Does it warrant it? Can you afford it? Would it not be better for both if you just assigned the team best suited through experience and talent to address it?
  • Take a close look at your client team. Do you have the right mix of junior and senior talent? I suggest you discuss expectations with your client, and point out cost implications if their expectations seem unreasonable. I have often politely said “okay, if that’s what you really want the cost implication is X. However, if we do it this way you will still get the same level of support and the cost is X-5”. Their response was to do it the suggested way.
  • Submit cost estimates ahead of the work not afterwards. Clients hate surprises and we seldom get paid for them.
  • Being proactive does not have to be costly. Here are a couple of approaches I have used successfully;
    • Each month assign a client to the agency and have everyone come up with proactive ideas for them. Invite them in for an afternoon and have selected people present their ideas.
    • Client CMO summit. Once a year get the senior marketing people from all your clients together for a day’s summit to share ideas etc.

Delivering agency value to clients and getting paid for it is not hard as you may think.