Make Your Team Client Smart
Employee development is an important task for any agency. We all want our people to grow: to be better writers, to be adept at the latest software, to manage projects more efficiently, to pitch more convincingly, etc. Effective employee development leads to greater job satisfaction and loyalty, while also giving the agency better talent to put in front of their clients.
One development area that doesn’t get much attention is making your team “client smart”. Usually, this is an area of focus for the account team, but the entire agency can differentiate itself by helping the staff better understand their clients’ worlds.
Client smart means: understanding how your clients sell, who they sell to, and what their competitive pressures are; understanding the client’s overall business strategy and goals for the year; being aware of the personal goals of direct clients – what’s important to their success.
Creating “good” work and being easy to work with is the price of admission. Delivering excellent work with a great process starts to help you pull away from the pack. But if you really want to stand out, you need to deliver excellent work through a great process that’s fueled by client knowledge and insights. And helping your staff understand and implement this is easier than you might think.
First off, a learning mindset is important. Your client teams have to be curious about their clients: what they do, why they do it, and what the business drivers are. In your discussions, they should be able to knowledgeably talk about the client’s business needs, hopes and challenges.
They should be sharing articles and information within the team, seeking answers for how the work of the agency can help the client achieve greater success. This is how the team can elevate themselves from merely be “doers” to being “partners” – by helping their clients (and the agency) through offering proactive solutions perfectly tailored to meet client needs.
There are a host of other tactics and tools you can use. Here are several we’ve had great success with:
Google alerts: it’s so easy it’s almost criminal if your staff doesn’t have client alerts already set up. In under 15 minutes each team member can set up alerts for all the accounts they’re assigned to;
Strategy: Having the account leader present the overall account strategy to the agency team ensures the team understands the business context of their work;
Earnings calls: listening to quarterly earnings calls in progress, or at least reading the follow-up report, will keep you current on priorities and how the client is tracking towards their goals;
Trade publications: subscribe to the publications your clients read. This often creates great opportunities for wider discussions with your clients (“did you see the article….”);
Research: Have the team obtain a Forrester or another analyst report on their client and/or the trends in their industry;
Shadowing: we would ask to have team members – specifically account leadership and creative - shadow client sales staff during their day, and there was always great learning that helped develop more effective programs;
Training: sending key team members to the same training clients attend can provide a lot of insight. One client allowed us to send a writer through a manager training workshop before they wrote word one;
Interviews and focus groups: speaking with consumer and/or audience members will provide insight and help you understand how your work is received. We ask different questions than our clients do, and often, we provide unique insight as a result;
Meet the team: Have your clients address the agency about their business and how the agency’s work supports them. This has the added bonus of deepening the agency’s relationship, and allows your clients to meet the people who are behind the scenes. It could also help those who are never in a client meeting understand how their work creates value. It’s a win/win/win/win for all!
All of these are pretty simple and can help to elevate and add value to your client/agency relationship. Of course, it all starts with curiosity and as long as the proper leadership and tools are available, it then leads to the development of a stronger, more knowledgeable, skilled, and loyal staff. Your staff then become excellent brand ambassadors, wowing their clients, and attracting other like-minded potential employees. All of which will help you stand out from the herd.
Tonic Consulting Group works with live event agencies, marketing agencies and related companies providing the insights, expertise and direction necessary to create enduring competitive advantage. We work with leaders to build new pathways to growth, create
high-performing operations and develop companies people love working for.