Like the start of any relationship, agencies and clients come together with the best of intentions—each expecting a mutually beneficial outcome. Yet recent research shows that only about 40% of marketers are “truly happy” with their ad agencies. Repeated studies show that this dissatisfaction level stays about the same year after year. And just as alarming, only 55% of marketers say they would consider using their ad agency again IF they put their account up for review.

These statistics should sound the alarm for both advertisers and ad agencies alike. Think of all the time and money both sides invest in building a foundation for the relationship—all the hours spent on the transfer of information necessary to operate efficiently. Surely, there must be ways for these marriages to last long enough to recoup this substantial outlay
Here’s what both sides need to do to get the most from their initial investment of time and resources…

For client marketers, studies suggest a need to:

  • Work harder at providing clear direction and access to information that can make your agency smarter.
  • Be a good listener and show a willingness to experiment. Provide clear-cut feedback even when the news is bad.
  • Expect accountability on money matters and pay in a timely fashion.
  • Take time to review your agency the same way you’d review an employee. Tell them what’s going right and what areas need improvement. This will lay the groundwork for successful collaboration.
  • Effectively coordinate efforts among multiple agencies if you have multiple resources. Don’t expect one agency to “magically” orchestrate and integrate the efforts of the others. OR, recognize the value of one full-service agency with a single point of contact.

For ad agencies, studies of advertiser views show that the focus must be on:

  • Thinking strategically—finding new approaches to the client’s marketplace and/or communications with the target audience. Provide an objective viewpoint to help determine what the brand stands for.
  • Gaining a better understanding of the client’s business and market. Better insight equals better strategies and ideas. And ideas don’t have to be just about ads.
  • Developing unique creative solutions to execute the strategies defined, whatever the medium.
  • Presenting multiple creative options in response to assignments. Go the extra mile.
  • Offering a keen sense of today’s media choices and how to squeeze maximum value out of every dollar.
  • Establishing effective collaboration. Whether it’s with one person, an entire in-house creative services group, a sales team or whatever, build relationships that result in better work.
  • Maintaining good stewardship of money. Provide estimates. Be financially accountable.

A little extra time and initiative from both parties will go a long way toward avoiding an untimely and costly split. After all, learning to work effectively with an existing agency—one that’s already up to speed on your business--is always more cost-effective than searching for and training a new one.

Maybe we all could use a refresher course in basic business etiquette. In particular, the courtesy of a reply goes a long way toward making the right impression. If you’ve asked an agency or a vendor for information, a favor, or a proposal, please extend the courtesy of a response once they’ve met with your request. 

It can be just a simple acknowledgement that their proposal was received, or even a quick update to say you’re swamped and can’t properly respond at present. If nothing else, a nicely worded “get lost” would be better than no word at all. 

Fundamental business courtesies pay dividends. If an agency or vendor makes some form of proposal, and you don’t provide feedback, you might be saying any of the following:

  • You didn’t get the proposal when, in fact, you did. This opens you up to repeated follow-ups, wasting both your time and theirs.
  • That you haven’t made a decision yet because the whole matter is still under review. If that’s true, just say so.
  • The letter/proposal went into your spam folder. (Many people don’t ask for a “read receipt” for fear of irritating the recipient.) 
  • Your silence means “no,” or something has changed. Remember:  Any answer is better than no answer.
  • You’re waiting for answers from others. If that’s the case, let the other party know. 
  • You’re a procrastinator, disorganized or both. 

Whatever the actual scenario, your silence can be deafening to someone expecting a reply. So please try your best to respond in some way. When someone has given you time and attention, that’s something of value. You may feel it’s not important or of no immediate benefit to you personally. But that’s where you’re wrong. 

With a non-answer, you’re sending a clear message that you’re unprofessional. In an always-connected world with rapid-fire communication, that reputation can quickly spread. Not to mention that, should you ever develop a real need from the same person or business, perhaps a much more urgent one, the other party will remember your lack of courtesy and label you a poor investment of time. 

This year, the last of 80 million baby boomers will reach age 50. That means this group now represents one-third of the U.S. adult population. In another three to five years, 50% of the U.S. adult population is forecast to be 50 or over. And by 2030, this segment will expand by 34%, compared to only 12% growth for the 18 to 49 sector. 

If sheer numbers alone don’t convince you of this market’s potential, consider spending. Boomers dominate in many consumer categories. They control about 70-75% of U.S. wealth and contribute more than 40% of all dollars given to U.S. charities—making them the nation’s largest single group of givers.

So what are the best ways to reach this lucrative market? Baby boomers have a unique perspective on life that colors their spending habits. Therefore, you’ll need to take a far different approach than the one you use to sell to younger audiences. 

Here are some essential tips for communicating with an older population: 

  • Give them the information they crave. Having been exposed over time to hyperbole, they tend to be cynical. A straightforward approach appeals to their practical decision-making process.
  • Far from being set in their ways, this group remains open to switching brands. Give them good reason to do so.
  • Boomers are busy. Most still work, so they appreciate simple messaging. Quickly demonstrate how your product or service will enhance their life. 
  • Boomers have greater sensitivity to value in their purchases, and they “value” security and comfort.
  • Make sure the images you use are images an older market will recognize and relate to. Ideally, you should have people with a 50+ perspective driving these communications.
  • This segment remains optimistic and has hopes for the future—a great deal more so than those already over 65. Keep this in mind when crafting your messages.

In terms of where to reach them:

  • Look for them online. About 80% of those 50+ use the Internet. More than 70% report buying products online, and more than 80% indicate they search online for product information before making purchase decisions.
  • Don’t overlook television. Even though they’re spending time online, they spend equal hours in front of that familiar screen they grew up with.

More than half of marketers in a recent survey said they think it’s “very important” for agencies to have a good understanding of a client’s business. Remarkably though, only 2% felt they actually do.

Wow! That’s a tremendous gap between expectations and perceived performance. And if you believe that greater knowledge drives better performance, the impact of that gap will undoubtedly impact the quality of an agency’s work. 

So why does this gap exist and who’s to blame? Is it the agency’s fault? Or, the client’s? We believe some of the fault lies on both sides.

As a marketer, you might want to consider:

  • Do you encourage your agency to commit the necessary time to dig deeper and learn more about your business? Or, are you bidding out every project on the basis of price--in spite of whatever performance and knowledge an agency has demonstrated in the past?
  • Are you giving the agency enough attention to help them acquire the appropriate knowledge? Are there ways you could be more supportive?
  • Are you open to new, unsolicited ideas from the agency regarding your business? 
  • Do you share performance data such as website analytics, sales reports and feedback from various sources?
  • Are you encouraging the agency to gain greater education, such as attending seminars that pertain to your business? What about offering to compensate them for at least some of the time involved? It should be a worthwhile investment.
  • Does your agency account manager have marketing capability and maybe even some client-side experience? If so, are you open to his or her advice?
  • Have you shared your sales and business objectives with the agency and explained how you regularly track progress? In other words, have you attempted to involve them in your progress toward achieving your goals?

For agencies, have you thought about:

  • Putting a knowledge development program in place to achieve better understanding of your client’s business? Have you requested your client’s help in this regard?
  • Being proactive in recommending research, so that everyone involved has the opportunity to learn more about important factors such as customer perceptions and purchasing criteria?
  • Whether your account management has the necessary marketing experience and skills to relate effectively to your client’s goals?
  • Rotating people on the account less frequently, so that each has an opportunity to close the knowledge gap? 

A little extra effort and understanding from both agencies and clients could make a remarkable improvement in the quality of the advertising.

AuthorPeak Biety

The Craig Douglass article this week in Media Post's Marketing: health blog was a refreshing…and inspiring read. We love the challenge to summon one’s courage, dare to be creative and go big. Importantly, he also observes the importance of the process. We frequently see people wanting to hurry past the up-front work needed to get to a creative strategy that can help ensure the success of a great creative product. Take the time to get the guidance right. Apply important tests to the strategies identified, e.g., is main idea relevant to audience? Is it easy to communicate? Is it sustainable? When satisfied, let the creativity begin!

AuthorPeak Biety
CategoriesGood Reading