Agencies sell the talents of creative, strategic, and analytic specialists. They make the magic. Yet protecting and managing these “assets” is no easy feat. Clients want as much of their time and attention as they can get, often without paying for them. Specialists are generally not conformists or “suits.” They bring their own insights, personalities, and idiosyncrasies to work.
Encouraging, motivating, and shielding specialists from the daily pushing and shoving of client relationships is a task that falls to account services and senior management. Ideally, specialists need to be focused and invested in client businesses, yet their role and their time are frequently limited by scopes of work and the demands of multiple client assignments. So finding the right balance between enthusiasm and exploitation is a constant challenge.
To make the job easier, consider these three tactics.
Cast Carefully. Map the specialists on your team to the personalities and needs of your clients. Think about psycho-demographic, personality, gender, and stylistic factors. Recognize the individual strengths of your specialists and apply them directly to client issues and needs. Keep in mind that chemistry and a client’s general outlook or posture often determine whether a specialist’s ideas, insights, or recommendations get genuinely heard and considered or not.
Define the Deliverables. Specialists tend to be charismatic. Clients want them in every meeting, on every call and in every presentation. And while flattering, it’s not a productive use of talent. Map out what the specialist needs to deliver and then give them sufficient time to do it. More often than not, specialists need time to let ideas percolate, to dig for data or examples, to do competitive assessments, to crunch numbers, to back up or to debate or edit options in search of the right approach, phrase, image, datapoint, or concept.
Facilitate Feedback. Frequently there is a mismatch between the intellectual capabilities, risk appetites, and the imaginations of specialists and clients. Both have egos that can be easily bruised. Focus on understanding and unpacking both points of view.
Channel feedback, especially critical feedback, into constructive ways to move forward. Diffuse harsh language, personality differences, or intense emotions where possible. Specialists are frequently invested in their ideas and approaches, which, when criticized, can stifle forward momentum. Nobody wants to be sent back to the drawing board, so in these instances, account people have to soften and shape the blow.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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