Like the smoke and mirrors pop stars use when lip syncing, some agencies don’t want to expose weak presenters on their staff when pitching for your business. As you conduct a marketing agency search, be cautious and think smart in order to select the right agency to develop strategic marketing solutions for your business.
One VP of marketing at a global financial company recently shared with us how her executive team sat through an impressive sixty-minute presentation delivered by senior agency leaders to only find out that the more junior person – who said nothing during the meeting – would be leading their account. “We connected with the strategic advice and industry knowledge of the agency leaders, so you can’t imagine our surprise when we were advised that only ten percent of senior management time would be dedicated to our account.”
The VP of Global Marketing and Communications at a technology firm shared a similar experiences with us. “It started out with a bang, but then the people changed, the work became uninspired and then it fell totally flat. We stopped getting senior attention.”
Beyond The Agency A-Team
It’s unwise and risky for marketing agencies to only introduce their A-Team, especially if the plan is to assign more juniors to the business after the deal is closed. This approach is doomed if the client experiences ‘love at first sight’ with the agency’s top guns at a pitch meeting. Whether they’re junior or senior, whoever will be active on the account should also be active in the presentation.
Be open-minded during an agency search. Don’t confuse age with wisdom. Account teams should have a mix of talent, but it’s a fair assumption that the account leader should be a seasoned professional.
An agency’s success won’t last long if its leaders are the only ones that pitch business. Agencies should develop greener account professionals and free up veterans to continue the hunt, but not spread themselves too thin on the accounts they help win. Agencies should also cast a wider net to equip all team members to play a role in client presentations so clients are given the opportunity to get face time with their actual agency account team.
How to Eliminate Bait-and-Switch
To eliminate surprises, request account team biographies which identify a percentage of time that person would be assigned to your account.
Advise agency leaders to only allow consultants that would be on your account to be at the credentials presentation. Be sure to clarify who would be your account manager, and why their experience is of value to your business.
Ask the senior team point blank: “How often will you see them again?” Don’t wait for contract negotiations to emphasize the importance of account team commitment.
Reardon Smith Whittaker’s 2009 survey of several hundred advertising clients reinforced the importance of quality people on an account team. For example, 20 per cent of client marketers said that they decided to conduct an agency search because of changes to key personnel at their agency. Interestingly, in the same survey, only two percent of client marketers decided to conduct an agency search because of a change of agency ownership.
Make no mistake: I believe that we have more honest, strategic and results-oriented shops than those guilty of bait-and-switch. I loved working at an agency, and as a former corporate marketer I partnered with many impressive marketing agency professionals that propelled my campaigns and exceeded my expectations.
With such an extraordinary pool of agency talent, be sure to uncover an account team with the right chemistry and skills to meet your business needs during and after the pitch.
Sheila Corriveau is Partner of Agency Link, a consultancy that conducts marketing and communications agency searches, consults on existing agency relationships and delivers workshops to improve client-agency performance.