Generally, I’m known as a decisive person. So, it may come as a surprise to some that, for a long time now, I’ve been straddling the fence.
I got my start in marketing over ten years ago on the agency side of the equation, managing client strategies, accounts, and relationships, before making a transition over to the client side to lead content/demand generation efforts for a series of tech startups and enterprise organizations.
But, I never really left my agency work behind, and after years of sitting right on top of that fence doing consulting work, I’ve taken on a new role as VP of Marketing at PMG. Here, I’m in charge of managing a team of strategists, managers, and creators, and developing best-in-class content and digital solutions for tech clients across the ecosystem.
Having sat in both seats, I’ve learned a few things about what companies are looking for in an agency. Read on to learn how you can transition from being merely a provider to being a long-term strategic partner.
Treat each meeting like the kickoff.
Never forget that every interaction you have with your client is a brand impression and a part of their customer experience. Do your homework before every single meeting and come prepared with a list of objectives, outstanding questions, and suggested next steps. Know who’s going to be on the call, and what they need to get out of it in advance so that there are no surprises.
If you’re introducing concepts, make sure your presentation contains all the necessary information for the client to route it internally without losing context and that it conveys a professional image. Assign someone to take notes, so that whoever is leading the discussion can focus on the conversation. And don’t forget to succinctly recap everything in a well-organized (and enthusiastic) post-meeting email. Following these steps is key to letting your customers know that both they, and their business, are important to you.
Do your best work, every time, on time.
Clients can tell when you’ve thrown something together in a rush, in the same way you can feel when a shirt’s been cheaply made. Set expectations up front that provide you the time you need to produce great work. If you’re balancing workloads, give yourself a little wiggle room in your timeline, and pleasantly surprise them when you deliver something stellar ahead of schedule. Turn “by end of week” into Weds. or Thurs.
If and when you need to, bring in reinforcements. Keep a list of trusted resources at the ready, so that if you ever bump up against a timeline, you can scale as needed with the right contract help. And finally, never put anything in front of the client that feels half-baked or like a bad idea just to look productive or make a deadline--lest you run the risk of them hating it, or (perhaps even worse) loving it.
Be prepared to sell your (great) ideas.
I was a speech and debate nerd in high school, and it’s paid off in these later years. I follow the practice of "tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them" both in developing content and in presenting ideas. When creating an infographic, for example, I usually start with a teaser that sets up the business trend or need, follow with the meat of the story, and then wrap with the “reasons to believe,” along with a call-to-action for the reader.
I treat clients presentations the same way. When revealing creative concepts, I set the stage with an objectives slide, then bring each idea to life with targeted messaging and visuals, before tying it all together with a slide explaining the “benefits” of the approach to bring it full-circle. Don’t make your clients have to intuit what your thought process was. Explain it to them; then explain why it’s great.
Don’t be an order taker, be a strategic advisor.
One of the downsides of being a marketer, is that everyone is a marketer, right? All jokes aside--companies hire agencies to supplement and expand upon their internal expertise. Go into each interaction and decision point knowing what the optimal outcome is to meet your customer’s end goals, and then be prepared to support your position.
Sure you can make the logo bigger, but should you? OK, maybe logo size isn’t that big of a deal--but what about when they ask you to make a change that goes against best practices, with the potential to damage their results? My .02 is that trust is built on honesty, and that means advocating for the best possible solutions, even if it means having to push back every now and then. Anyone can take an order, but it takes skill to be a strategic contributor. Bring your expertise to the table, and be a real partner.
Always look for opportunities to add value.
My final piece of advice is to treat your relationship like...well, a relationship, not like a sales opportunity. You’re both in this to drive revenue for your business--but how can you do so in a way that produces the best results for both parties? Don’t try to sell clients things they don’t need. Not only does doing so damage trust but if they don’t need it (or aren’t ready for it), they won’t use it. And that means they’ll have spent a lot of money on something that they won’t recognize value from.
Instead, look for organic opportunities to help them improve the way they market to their customers. Help them achieve quick wins where you can, while also keeping your eye on the long play. Seed ideas for what your next project might be, and assist them in building their internal roadmap. When your clients succeed, you succeed.
I apply these principles to my interactions with every customer, big and small, and they’ve never failed me. Interested in talking further about trends in B2B, content marketing, or tech? Connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author:
VP of Marketing at PMG, Jessica Legg has spent the last 12 years helping tech companies across the ecosystem distill and communicate the value of life-changing technologies with best-in-class marketing solutions that drive demand and fuel conversion. In roles on the agency side, as well as the enterprise side, she's led strategy, content marketing, and demand generation initiatives for industry behemoths like Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung, as well as SaaS disruptors like Rackspace, GoodData, Digimarc, Grand Rounds, and more.