58% of clients plan to review agencies in next 12 months.

WSJ-Opp

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal references a new study based on surveys of more than 300 marketers, representing 90% of Ad Age’s 100 Top Spenders, citing 58% of respondents as saying they plan to review their agencies in the next 12 months. (The full report on the Advertisers Perception study will be released September 2016.)

This presents Worldwide Partners agencies with an opportunity to both attract new clients and to re-evaluate current client relationships and outcomes. Agencies in different parts of the world responded to our request for their views on the article and how their agencies are responding.

In a recent communication with partners, Worldwide Partners President CEO, John Harris asks, “Are we viewed by our clients as partners or suppliers? Are we challenging our clients to think bigger and broader? Are we leveraging the capabilities and reach of our agency partners to maximize the value we can bring to our clients through network collaboration? Are we doing enough to ensure that our clients fall into the 42% of marketers who are not reviewing their agencies in the next 12 months?”

From Worldwide Partners agency, TVLowCost in France comes news of how the big agencies in the French market are having to merge to survive, according to the official post-2014 Balance Sheet Report. Losses from those shops are ranging from a one million to more than 18 million euros and they are attempting to reduce costs and replace senior staff with less experienced personnel. The result is a fabulous opportunity for independent agencies says Jean-Paul Treguer.

TvLowCost has won 21 new clients since the start of 2016, almost completely without pitching. Says Jean-Paul, “We always refuse to pitch and we explain to the prospects why pitching is the worst thing a client can do to chose its partners. We have developed a very convincing list of reasons.” In order to get potential clients aligned with the agency’s philosophy and methods, the shop provides a 200-page book entitled, ‘Low Cost Attitude’ that gets everyone on the same page.

In addition, the shop gives serious prospects a large list of phone numbers of current clients and recommends that they call and ask questions about TvLowCost. “This is a very convincing argument,” Jean-Paul explains. “It shows that we are confident in the opinion of our clients about us.”

“Historically, we have viewed client-led reviews with good old-fashioned agency paranoia,” says Russ Green of Worldwide Partners agency, Godfrey. “By definition, client-initiated reviews put us in a reactive if not defensive mode. Since they were few and far between, we didn’t do much about them. But over time it became clear that clients reflect the very human behavior of not always sharing issues and concerns. Nothing against the account leaders; it’s just natural. So we looked for ways to know what’s going on in the minds of our clients and to give them more outlets for sharing it”

Green continues, ”We have instituted regular surveys (every other year, anonymously unless they care to share their names). And now we are exploring annual ‘formal’ reviews (formal in that it would be a dedicated meeting around this purpose). We see this as not only a way to get at hidden issues but also to improve the relationship. And by initiating them, we can be proactive and have a stronger posture for sharing our input in addition to listening to our clients.”

According to Green, Godfrey doesn’t have anything like the 58% review rate predicted in the article. “But since we have evolved our client base to fewer, larger clients, it’s really important to do everything we can to keep the relationships strong,” Green explains. “Really, all agencies should consider doing this for most accounts. We all know the adage that it’s easier to keep a customer than to win a new one, so this is a minor additional investment of time in keeping hard-won clients.”

When questioned about the ways in which being a part of the Worldwide Partners network impacts this situation, Green responds, “First, we are reaching out to other agencies for advice on how they do client reviews, along with any documents or meeting aids they use. Second, every review meeting is another opportunity to ‘remind’ the client of our value and differential, and that includes being part of this global network of independent agencies. Our clients don’t remember everything about us if they don’t use it every day, and several of our clients are just now growing to the point of needing more help (regionally or in specialty areas). We want them to think of Godfrey and WPI as the solution.”