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June 1, 2012
How Hair Stylists Are Like Ad Agencies
During a recent visit to a new hair salon and stylist, the thought occurred to me that my relationship with my hair stylist is not unlike client relationships with ad agencies. This was the third stylist I’ve been to in seven years, and after some thought I realized that I “broke up” with the first two stylists for very similar reasons.
I don’t consider myself an overly vain or picky person but my appearance is important to me and I hope that my hairdresser realizes this. In my business of professional services/marketing consulting, I think it’s important to look good — polished and modern, if you will. I imagine that brand managers feel the same way about their brands. And these brand managers expect that their ad agencies treat their brands with similar respect.
What was it that made me look for a new stylist? Surprisingly (or maybe not), the same things that led me to look for someone new are probably the exact same reasons that client companies often change agencies:
1. Quality of work over time
— is the current effort great and as great, if not better, as the inaugural effort?
2. Timeliness — do they respect my time and complete the work on time?
3. Communication skills — are we able to understand one another clearly? Do we speak the same language, so to speak?
4. Understanding of my needs — do they know what I want and if they’re not sure, do they take the time to check with me?
5. Willingness to share recommendations — will they give me sound advice whether I ask for it or not?
6. Honesty — are they telling me the truth? Always?
7. Creativity — is their work exceptional and suitable for me?
8. Keeping up with the times — are they aware of the current trends and how they relate to me?
9. Appreciation for my business — do they say thank you and seem genuinely grateful for the work?
So the next time you have to ask, “How do I find the right ad agency?” please keep these nine traits in mind. The search for an agency isn’t easy, but the one you choose better live up to the expectations outlined above or your brand and business could suffer the consequences.

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Emily K. Howarda marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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