As an expert on putting together successful agency-client partnerships, Victoire & Co. president and founder Rachel Huff says that "team turnover" is one of the biggest potential pitfall those partnerships face.
Whether it's from layoffs or "folks just going out on their own," Huff says that "clients are losing their go-to people. People that they bought on for at the beginning of the pitch process. And they're frustrated by that."
"Lack of results" is another key hurdle. Huff puts a lot of the blame for that on an "evolution of PR agencies" that has taken them away from a focus on earned media. "But when a client is hiring a PR agency," Huff says, "they're largely looking for earned media results. And if PR agencies can't deliver on that, then the clients decide that it's time to make a change."
An essential part of making those changes entails going through the pitch process, and Huff goes into some of the key elements of making a pitch pay off.
"I think that one of the big mistakes that agencies make is they go into pitch mode and they're trying to sell to clients, and they forget that it's really a relationship. It's about building relationships." That means paying less time emphasizing your agency credentials and more time on letting a potential client "get to know you as a team."
Once the agency-client match is made, how do the partners build a solid relationship? Huff stresses the importance of starting off by having "very clear direction. That largely comes down to the brief—really being clear on what success looks like and making sure that the agency partner understands your expectations."
She also emphasizes "open communication in general and just establishing that back and forth and not being afraid to address issues when they arise."
Huff also touts the virtues of "not saying yes to everything that the client asks you to do or expects of you. You know, really showing them that you're not a vendor, you're a partner, you're an advisor to them."
When a new CMO comes on board at a client company, how can agencies keep the relationship going? "First of all, it's just about really introducing yourselves to the new leader on the client side. If you've been working with the organization for a long time, show them that you have that historical knowledge and deep understanding of the business."
But "if you're working with a client and a new leader comes in and decides to put it up for review, recognize that you're going to be spending a lot of time to try to retain the business. So, you want to feel really confident that you have a really good shot of winning the business." But if too many red flags go up, "give some real thought to whether or not you want to participate in that review."
Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at [email protected]