One of the most important questions you will be faced with as you grow your marketing agency and attempt to differentiate your brand is this — What do clients want?
How agency clients think
Your clients are driven by the pursuit of incremental improvements each year. Better sales, better stock price, better consumer awareness, etc. Being better is the province of established competitors. It’s a game of incremental gains. It is in essence the way to grow a business. That is until… a new competitor decides to get in on the game. New competitors rarely try to beat you at your own game. They instead try to change the game. Instead of trying to position themselves as better, they compete on some meaningful difference.
Brand differentiation provides an advantage when the difference is meaningful to your clients. The key word here is meaningful. So, how do you stay updated on what’s meaningful to your clients. I know, you’ve spent many brainstorms discussing this very subject. But the answer is very simple — you need to put a system in place to listen i.e. track client wants, needs, and preferences.
Listening to clients
Listening to clients has the dual benefit of sharpening your current service offerings while also identifying unmet needs. Most agencies only listen to clients as part of their business development strategy. And some will remind their account teams to “keeps their ears to the street” during client engagements. That’s a start but it doesn’t consistently keep your agency on the pulse of changing client needs because it’s not structured or systematic. Your listening system must systematically:
- Collect client knowledge periodically
- Review knowledge to evaluate relevance and applicability
- Use knowledge to make informed decisions
Types of listening activities
“When you know better you do better.” — Maya Angelou
Here are a few listening activities I’ve seen agency leaders use with great success.
- Client seminars. Invite your clients to come talk to your firm so they can provide you with insights into their world. With the Covid-19 pandemic, you might want to think about how you can do this in a video conference.
- Industry meetings. This is a great opportunity to listen to prospective clients talking about their pains, concerns, and desires.
- Market research. One-on-one interviews with clients to check their pulse and find out how their needs are changing.
- Top-to-top meetings. These meetings are held with senior leadership of both the client and agency. You want to schedule these a few times a year to check in on service quality and gain insight into long-term planning.
- Client debriefings. At the end of each and every client project, you want to gain client feedback on what went well and opportunities for improvement.
How can your marketing agency act on client insight?
Do you have an active listening program in place to capture information from clients and grow your agency business? In an upcoming article, I’ll discuss how to build and deploy listening activities to react in real-time to your clients changing needs. Don’t miss the update — subscribe to my email newsletter for agency leaders, to read it as soon as it’s published.