There is not a single agency meeting that AAR Partners finishes without hearing this question: “What are the most important criteria in winning a review?” After being involved in a myriad of agency pitches as the search consultant, there is a simple answer to a not so simple question. Chemistry! The review begins and ends on chemistry and all the demanding work in between is extremely vital!
But chemistry is not simply about ‘love at first sight!’ It is a step-by-step process. It is a process of building trust and effective communication. Yes, ‘effective’ communication. There is a difference between speaking the minutia of daily activities and having in depth discussions with the client as a true partner about the ‘big picture’ regarding their business needs. But I digress. As I said, chemistry is much more than skin deep. Is your agency truly interested in their product offering? What about your agency’s interest level in their marketing issues or opportunities? Would you want to buy or use their product as a consumer? Is the agency willing to go as far as risking compensation based on its performance?
We often hear from an agency, “We’re open in ‘x’ category, “so don’t forget about us when you do a review for a company in ‘x’ category.” Sure, we keep all those requests in mind, but we also find ourselves asking the same question. “Do you want just any ‘x’ account in that category on your agency roster or would your agency team like to work on a specific ‘x’ account?” It’s definite that a client sees right through the agency that is pitching a ‘category’ rather than a specific ‘brand.’ For instance, when AAR managed the Ben & Jerry’s review, we had a chemistry meeting with an agency that made the statement, “We need you on our roster.” At that moment, the meeting was over. You could literally read the client’s mind. “Do you need our business for your self-serving purposes or do you want to work with us on our business needs!”
There is one thing for sure: the client wants sincere interest, enthusiasm, as well as talent and smarts….and chemistry should encompass all of these. But chemistry is also about going the extra mile and is certainly in the details. AAR recently visited a number of agencies with our client for chemistry meetings. Selecting the finalists was a grueling process and extremely difficult 2-hour decision. It was not only those agencies that exemplified some smarts about their business, but also showed enthusiasm throughout the entire presentation that were selected to move forward in the review process. These agencies demonstrated that they had the entire agency behind the meeting and not just those people in the conference room. Those were the agencies that were selected to move forward as finalists. For example, at one meeting the entire agency applauded when the client entered the building to welcome them. No, we’re not suggesting a ‘stunt show’ but there are certain simple chemistry building techniques that run deep. If you’re pitching a fast food chain…yes, we think you should go flip burgers for a day. “Taste-test” the product! But exemplifying enthusiasm and chemistry can be as simple as writing a thank you note. Last year a hair splitting decision on agency finalists came down to a thank you note! The note exemplified true interest in the client’s business and an appreciation for their time. To put it simply, our belief is that after an agency meeting the client should feel that, “The agency will think about my business as if it were their own!”
All of us know that there is no cookie-cutter approach to winning new business. But there are a number of questions an agency should ask itself if it is considering prospecting a new piece of business: Does our agency really want to work with this company or on this particular brand? Why? Is our agency ready to be flexible to the needs of this brand’s specific business problems in order to resolve them? Does this opportunity of working on this business leverage what we are as an agency, what we know as an agency and more importantly, can we use that knowledge for the client in order to have a meaningful impact on their business?
Bottom line is this: Do your homework but also be true to yourself. If more agencies prospected clients’ businesses that they were truly interested in, knew they could make a difference and did not pretend to be something they’re not…the tenure of client-agency relationships would dramatically increase. And remember, Chemistry is key!