By George Olexa – Strategic Account Director
Account managers at digital agencies often get caught up in the daily chaos of meeting deadlines, making clients happy, and generating new business. Once the contracts are signed and the creative brief hits our desks, we often find ourselves already behind schedule and in a mad rush to brief the creative team and get things rolling.
But amidst the chaos we have to remember that every project, no matter how small, should receive the same high level of strategic thinking. Particularly when a piece of business isn’t attached to big revenue, it’s easy to go into autopilot mode and just do what’s required. But take it from me that thinking “big” on every project can benefit your clients—and your business.
A recent example
My agency signed several new projects at once. One in particular involved a brand new client who had been referred to me from one of my long-term clients. The new client didn’t have a large budget, and was looking for someone to take on the task of micro-targeting 20 segments of consumers that they had recently identified. I started checking off my typical “to do” boxes: I quickly scanned the brief, made note of the segments, and reviewed the assignment to develop targeted acquisition email messages. Contract approvals had already put us behind schedule, so I set up a meeting with the creative team for the end of the day.
During lunch I re-read the creative brief and reviewed the 20 segments…and started noticing that some of them were strikingly similar. I started asking myself, “Are these really unique enough to warrant individual attention?” My first instinct was to ignore my concerns—after all, the project had a minimal budget and, because it was a referral, I had my doubts that it would lead to additional work.
Regardless, I couldn’t stop thinking that their 20 segments could really be reduced to 12 or 14 while still meeting the client’s objectives. I stared at my phone and thought; do I call this new client voice my concerns? Do I cast doubt on whoever on their side had spent the time to identify these targets? If I do call, and they agree with me, did I just shoot myself in the foot by reducing the scope of this project from 20 emails to 14? Would my boss kill me for losing money on an already small budget project?
Finally, I picked it up and called (half hoping that the client wouldn’t answer and I could just hang up). Of course, they answered, and I explain that while I was not privy to how the targets were identified, I felt some of them were so similar that it would be hard to develop unique messaging for each, and ultimately that the testing would be more effective with fewer targets. The client was very attentive and shocked me with their response: “You’re absolutely right. I didn’t really think about that when I got the targets. Wow, no wonder (client who referred me) recommended you guys! So, if I go with your recommendation, what does this mean?” I replied that it would reduce the number of deliverables and save you money. Needless to say, they were ecstatic to hear that they would be saving on their already tight budget.
We moved forward with my recommendation, and right before the campaign deployed I got a call from the client: “I’m so happy with the work that you guys have done with this campaign so far, and I really appreciate that you’re thinking strategically and looking out for my budget.” They went on to express their frustrations with their current agency’s tendency to always find ways to add scope to projects. They surprise me by saying; “If this test goes well, I want to shift more of my budget to you guys.” We hadn’t even deployed the campaign yet and we were already talking about the next project.
The campaign dropped and within two weeks I got a call from this client saying “I’m so happy with the preliminary results, I’ve talked to my boss and we would like to set aside money to begin working with you on a regular basis.” I almost fell out of my chair when I heard the revenue figure, and they asked “Can you invoice us today, in full?”
The relationship continued to grow and they ultimately became one of our most valuable accounts. While I’ll be the first to admit that this situation is far from common, I think it’s a powerful example of how strategic thinking and keeping the client’s best interests in mind can help foster the agency-client relationship and lead to great things. We all get busy, and sometimes it’s hard to put a lot of thinking and effort into a low budget project, but every once in a while it can pay off big time.
Do you have any stories where you put in extra effort to help a client that paid off? Share your thoughts and examples in the comments!