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Relationships: The True Agency Differentiator


When you take a bunch of top agencies who all bring their best strategists and experts into a client pitch process, and when those people all have an abundance of capabilities, areas of expertise, functional abilities, creative case studies and so on, it all blends together in the mind of a prospect. Nobody can really stand out without scorecards, point systems and heavy debates centered around arbitrary measurements. And these measurements are arbitrary because those ideas and strategies don’t have functional specs. You can’t measure them before trying them. So what happens is that underneath that process, clients and decision makers fall back on feelings of trust.

Trust has multiple levels. There’s the trust that you have the expertise to do the work and achieve the desired results. There is also the trust that the person is not fabricating their expertise, trust that they will live up to their end of the contract. And nuanced in between all of that, there is also that very human feeling of “I get a good vibe from that team.” This is because, at the end of the day, people want to work with people they like.

That’s not to say that expertise, creative strategy, industry focus and other elements are unimportant. But a lot of teams have fantastic strategies, killer ideas and the seasoned, respected talent to pull it off. That’s the ante needed just to be included nowadays. And that’s the first part of building trust — showing past performance and validating your credentials.

The next part is to convince a client that you meet their ultimate goal. You need to be a team that gets them, gets their brand and understands how to work together to achieve their goals. That is future planning, and since there is no way to predict the future, they rely on relationships and the level of comfort with the team.

And that is the differentiating factor. Agencies that have killer relationships will win the day. Agencies that can connect with people (clients, new business prospects, partners and employees) better and more consistently will have the competitive advantage and be the overall healthiest agencies. That is assuming that they have the prerequisite experience, strategy, ideas and team needed to pull off the work.

Understanding, forming and nurturing real relationships touches all aspects of an agency’s business. Take Elasticity for example. Pulling off top-level, national public relations efforts like we do requires strong relationships with the media we are going after. Our social media team knows that success requires you to not only have great relationships with bloggers but to also be able to cultivate and nurture relationships with a community of advocates around your brand. Our influencer network requires us to maintain genuine relationships with top online influencers. And our media buying team knows the importance of having great relationships with media vendors. This list goes on and on.

And that doesn’t even touch the heart of any agency: the clients. Whether retaining and growing existing clients or adding new clients to your roster, the key here is that your strongest relationships will ultimately be the most profitable. Great relationships require more effort in the finer skills of human interaction, but they also result in better communication and understanding between client and agency, which lowers the chances of error and lowers stress and frustration, ultimately leading to growth in the account and less staff turnover. This all adds up to a more profitable, more productive and, ultimately, more genuinely rewarding client relationship on both sides.

Some agencies differentiate by placing the creative ahead at all costs. Other agencies differentiate by showcasing the perks they have for their employees — presumably attracting the very best talent. Most just look for any way to squeeze a dollar out of a job — mostly to hit the goals set by their holding company. But by the very nature of what we do at Elasticity, we’ve always placed a high value on our relationship skills. We feel that client relationships that are strong, meaningful and respectful create opportunities for creativity (because our clients trust us) and foster an environment that is far more rewarding, leading to a fantastic work environment that can’t help but contain true top talent.

We see your ante of great strategy, killer ideas and top talent, and we raise you a culture of true client understanding and fantastic working relationships with all of the stakeholders that make our work world-class. After all,the better the relationships, the better the work.

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