Far too often agencies are advising their clients to stand up for a clear bold positioning without listening to their own advice, argues Mark Hadfield from iris.
So once again January is upon us. A new year.
January should be the time to put all your new plans into place, to take time to heed of all the predictions and trends.
But invariably for those leading agencies it can be a time of looking at pipelines and income trackers and getting onto as many pitch lists as possible.
It's a cliche for an agency to say it is a partner to its client, rather than a supplier, but it's an aim we constantly aim to live up to here at iris.
And the first part of this is assessing which client partners you want to work with.
Because after all, partners need to have the same shared beliefs and vision.
To do this, we work to the 4 F's below.
(I'm not sure if I've stolen these from somewhere, or amalgamated them via osmosis, but a google search doesn't bring too much up from our industry…)
When assessing which clients you should work with, have a think about:
Will this client, brand or account give your teams an opportunity to have fun in their work? Will it put a spring in their step and get them walking into work with a smile on their face? They'll either see it as something enjoyable, or they'll see it as stressful and demanding. And like it or not, they won't see the distinction between client or agency. So they'll either like working at your shop, or they'll find it demanding and leave.
Will this client give your agency and your teams a chance to shoot for the stars and make themselves, your agency - and crucially the client - famous? And famous for the right reasons: effective creative work.
Not every client wants to be famous, and as every network agency that works on tobacco brands know, invisible work can demotivate your teams.
Conversely, working with clients purely so you can create scam work (see most 'cause related' awards winners in 2016…) will come back to haunt you… as a few big networks have found out recently.
Will you generate a fair amount of income, margin or both from the new client? Whilst the new business rankings are infatuated with income, some clients might be more important from a margin point of view to your business. On occasion you might want the account to be a loss leader for bigger opportunities, or be a loss leader for famous work. But famous work with no income or margin doesn't pay of the people to work on the account, so getting the blend right is key… Plus if you have a team generating famous work, they'll probably want a pay rise soon or they'll jump ship.
You could argue for some team members fulfilment is the combination of Fun, Fame and Fortune above. For others it's quite separate. The key here is understanding the motivations of your teams, and what they want from their work. What they're interested in. What they believe in. What makes them feel good inside. It may end up being a bona-fide cause related brand, or a local brand that is close to their hearts. It'll rarely be that multinational that works with a roster of 50 agencies...
For agency leaders, it's key we look at the 4 F's from the perspective of our teams and not ours. After all, the coalface is a very different perspective to line items in an income tracker…
We're finding that by sticking to these 4 F's we're generally working with client partners in a way that is mutually beneficial. Do we always get it right? Definitely not, because those 4 F's above are subjective, and liable to change at any point. But they're a good guiding light and something that we're finding is helping build a happy, motivated and pioneering team.