So I'm wondering if anyone has noticed this new twist on the agency-client dance lately. It used to be that you got business either by:
A) Doing a good job, getting great results, maintaining your reputation, and credibility - and then clients continued to refer business to you.
B) Participating in a lengthy RFP process where you're pitted against several other agencies, at the end of which you provide a comprehensive proposal to the client.
But in the last several months, we've had a half dozen clients go one step further.
Here's the scenario: A prospect calls you for a discovery meeting at which you present relevant capabilities, expertise, and experience. OK. Prospect then asks you for a full-length, comprehensive year-long PR plan with a specific timeline. OK again, but uh, didn't we just do your job for you? Then, prospect says, “We've selected three finalists to engage in answering three specific PR challenges to our business at this time.” Uh, not OK.
Except that in recessionary times, I guess some prospects think it is OK. I don't. It's bad manners.
There comes a point at which agencies must put a stake in the ground and stand for their own intellectual property. I think that stake is when clients ask for specific solutions to their problems for free. Sorry, but even with a bad economy, those aren't the kind of clients we, or any PR professional, should want.
On the other side of the coin are prospects that recognize the professionalism, time, and dedication it takes an agency to put a proper proposal together. They even offer to pay for your proposal ideas. Those are the clients we all should pursue.
I predict 2010 will bring us clients with class.
David Landis, president/CEO, Landis Communications