WEIGHING OPTIONS: When Clients Don’t Sign.

A client contacted us and after much discussion via telephonic conferencing, my agency was asked to provide a proposal – to justify what we assumed was the start of a long term creative agency/client relationship. We were hired! I thought. I ran around the balance of the day jumping up and down and patting myself on the back. (I pulled several muscles in process.)

So much for putting an optimistic spin on something. They would not sign. We tapped our budget to come up with a professional proposal — complete with visuals.  But, this was a classic case situation where the client wouldn’t sign.

This client wanted a full array of services ranging from marketing consultation, research, media buying, creative work, all in pursuit of our developing an effective campaign to brand for them. Here was the problem, the thing that prevented us from being hired by this client. They had a marketing unit headed by a company principal. Apparently our offer which included a marketing plan created a sense of territorial infringement.

Territorial infringement is the problem with most client-agency relationships. This company really did not have a staff dedicated to doing advertising work. They didn’t know the nuances of developing a campaign – but yet our work was viewed as conflicting with the marketing department. I wanted to scream: “Hey! We know how to brand you! We know where your customer base is! We have the know how – you don’t!”  My emails and phone calls eventually went from stridency to beseeching. Like all business, I wanted the account.

I decided on  another path: explain the advantage of hiring an agency as opposed to doing it themselves. This client company was a growing business.  Since most business owners are swamped running their business, that alone prevents them from conceptualizing, creating and ultimately implementing a campaign to grow the business.  Ad campaigns are not improvisation. They require time, energy and insight that comes with being an outsider.   An agency frees a company’s staff to do what they have been trained for. So, an agency is merely an extension to a marketing unit.

Would we have done a creditable job? Of course. A creative agency makes its revenue by working closely with and for a client. Agencies can benefit any size business, but they have to have a clue about the benefits of advertising, PR and other forms of promotional communication. We can access resources a marketing department doesn’t have. Plus, the more creative people are at agencies.

Even for an experienced company, developing a brand can be a complex undertaking. Advertising, public relations and creative agencies help this process by using its expertise to develop brand awareness. We also target the most effective market. Agencies can also promote a business by lobbying individual media to get the most cost effective advertising in each market.

Well, explaining all of this or even a part is exhausting. We are a small shop. A small shop can  specialize in one particular area of expertise, such as online advertising, or go big. We have to be talented and versatile. Was this company was afraid of taking us on? No. New horizons make one hesitant to proceed. That’s the nature of being a human being.

Bernard A. McNealy, President


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