When Did We All Stop Listening To What The Client Wants?

When Did We All Stop Listening To What The Client Wants?
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In this guest column, managing director of Seven Communications, Patrice Pandeleos (pictured below), argues many agencies are ignoring the one person that pays the bills – the client…

It’s not new news that there is a land grab between PR, media and creative agencies. But, what I ask is; when did we all stop listening to what clients want?

Patrice Pandeleos Photo

As I scour the industry news and hear agency management figures talk about the ‘evaporation of trust’ in media, creative and PR practitioners, argue about who should own social, if a media agency has the right to produce content, if a creative agency has the right to dictate ideas to media without understanding the role of each channel and budgets needed to make it a success, if PR folk have the right to come up with campaign ideas… I can’t help thinking – when did we all stop listening to what clients want?

Having worked in media agencies, PR and media integration teams, I feel we’ve forgotten who really matters – our clients.

Clients are increasingly becoming frustrated with agencies across the board – because agencies are too focused on their own agenda and bottom line rather than helping them achieve their business outcomes.

In the past 12 months, I’ve met with over 100 senior marketers, PR professionals and CEOs. They all share common complaints and frustrations, namely:

  • Don’t pitch for my business with your agency’s best and brightest and then palm me off to your junior team members to do the work: This is the fastest way to lose trust irrespective of if you are the PR, media or creative agency
  • I don’t care who comes up with the best idea, I just want the best idea: It’s fair game and clients are judging us on the quality of our thinking, not the type of agency you are
  • My agencies should work together to deliver integrated campaigns and stop squabbling: This is a common experience in my career, particularly when it comes to who should ‘own’ social media
  • I want more transparency. Full Stop: Clients know and, for the most part, respect that you are running a business. So, do the industry as a whole a favour and be transparent with the way you spend client’s money
  • Please treat your staff well: Clients invest time and money in their agency teams and don’t want them to burn out after six months and move on
  • Bring Innovative ideas to the table: Clients often say they want ‘innovative ideas, but not for innovation’s sake so think about how the ideas you present will help them achieve their business goals
  • Tell me if you don’t agree with me: I was told early in my career that you’ll never lose a client for challenging them with smart thinking, but you will lose them if you never challenge them. Clients pay agencies to give them informed counsel
  • Please listen to what I want: I can’t count the number of times I have seen other agencies pitch self-serving ideas with the aim to win themselves an award. Sometimes, clients just need to deliver business outcomes and that might mean not signing off on the sexiest solution

To all agencies – let’s stop talking about taking each other on, who owns what, who is better placed to do things – and let’s all go back to working with our clients to deliver solutions that meet their needs, not ours.

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