As PR agency managers, we're always aware of the proverbial “wolf sniffing at the door.” A great client who does amazing work is always being pursued by other agencies.
This concern only grows when clients review their business goals for the coming year. No matter how good your relationship with your clients may be, there are always factors that can lead to agency re-evaluations - high-profile executive changes, mergers and acquisitions, and financial upheaval.
The savvy practitioner is also aware of four less obvious factors:
Success: A good client relationship is one that results in significant growth on both sides. The downside? As a company's profile becomes more prominent, an agency that was once the perfect partner can suddenly appear too small or too limited. Better to recruit a partner, introduce additional services, or propose a new team member than to discover too late that your firm has become a victim of its good work.
Relationships: While the high-profile executive changes are an obvious threat, growing too close to a client contact can be equally as dangerous. Our firm's strongest client relationships are ones where our team has become a valued resource to multiple individuals, departments, and business divisions.
Big ideas: We all devote a lot of time and effort to developing big ideas when we're pitching a new prospect. But often, once we get to know a client's internal constraints and budget limitations, it stops us from thinking big. Your competitors aren't hampered by what they don't know. They're still thinking big and pitching your client exciting new ideas. While they may never act on those big ideas, knowing that they're being thought about makes them feel good … and may result in one of those dreaded reevaluations. Why not surprise your client with a big idea today?
Perspectives: As you become an extension of your client's team, it's easy to focus on what they want instead of what they need. Periodic brainstorms by people outside of the account and regular evaluations of potential platforms for thought leadership initiatives will help your client confidently say “my firm already suggested that” when competitors come calling.
Anne Colaiacovo is partner and GM of the New York office of Allison & Partners.