Client Problems? Why Having “One Throat To Choke” Actually Increases Your Risk

Client Problems? Why Having “One Throat To Choke” Actually Increases Your Risk

In this guest post, the MD of Sydney creative agency GHO, Eithne McSwiney (pictured below), argues when it comes to solving client problems it’s the “diverse” agency that often trumps the “integrated” one…

It struck us recently that a healthy proportion of our new client opportunities have come about through businesses needing help to fix problems. Problems that have been created from creative marketing programs that didn’t quite go to plan.


Not a great starting point. Often this means a large proportion of the budget has been used on something that hasn’t yet been delivered. Also, the people managing the process are, understandably, frustrated by timeframes constantly blowing out.

Two things seem to be contributing to these scenarios.

The main one being that the companies commissioned to deliver the project have over-stated their capacity to handle the job or understated the business issues they are trying to solve. Or a bit of both.

The other being, the client team has been reassured that by having one provider work on the end to end solution it will be easier to manage.

It’s interesting that despite “one throat to choke” or “integrated” or “all under one roof” models being widely regarded for several years as struggling, the perceived simplicity of this has meant that this concept still has appeal.

But at what cost? Some of the war stories we are hearing suggest the costs can be quite high.

Yes, relatively straight forward projects requiring a mix of outcomes to be produced can be handled by one company. A basic marketing campaign, for example. But the rule of thumb we have observed is that the bigger the problem or the opportunity, the more you must employ a network of skills.

The question is, how can creative agencies, technology firms or consulting companies better service their clients in this way and reassure them that not having one throat to choke is not just OK, it can lead to a much better result in a shorter time frame?

There are a few things to consider to address this.

Collaboration is not so easy it seems. Whilst consulting firms continue to stretch into marketing production, or creative agencies profess wide technical capability, or technology companies employ UX designers, client organisations will find it hard to be confident that the team they put around a table will be genuinely collaborative and not try to cut each other’s grass.

To manage this, the main two lines of enquiry must be – How are you going to work together, and then who are you working with? Working agile, sprints, failing fast and prototypes are increasingly important for a reason. They work. They eliminate silos and provide rapid visualisation of the outcome you are shooting for.

Since we at GHO launched COLAB™ (our new facility tasked with the objective of solving business and consumer problems through collaboration), we have seen just how effective it is to have a diverse cross-functional team in the room working together to produce great results, fast.

Having the team approach the task with the right tools though is the easy part.

The biggest clue to reducing your risk is to ensure you are working with people who are genuinely good at what they do. But just as important, is for them to be open about what they don’t do. Ultimately its about bringing a group of people together who are equally focused on the end business outcome, not their short-tem needs.

Here are a couple of pointers to identifying the type of people you want to invite into your team:

  • They are confident about what they do well and can describe this through relevant work they have done in the past.
  • They are open with you about what they don’t do very well, or at all, but can show you how they have worked collaboratively with other specialists to deliver end to end solutions in the past.
  • They have work practises that have been borne out of their clients’ needs to keep diverse teams on track and motivated about what they are doing.
  • They have invested in technical tools to support point three – like prototyping technologies.
  • You are dealing directly with the actual talent not just the account person or project manager necessarily.

By embracing agile work practises with people who are motivated by working in diverse teams (rather than being hindered by them), your big, ambitious projects will be in good hands. Getting it right first time is most likely in a team where the end goal is a common one, and any problems along the way are identified, shared and resolved fast.

Too often with “one throat to choke” you are likely to find problems being identified too late, debates over what caused the problem and a painful path to resolution.

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