While agencies certainly have their grievances with nightmare clients, they’re not innocent of terrible behaviour themselves.
But while tension is inevitable in any relationship, clients tell Marketing what the deal-breakers are. Are you guilty?
1. Poor understanding of clients’ business
Due to time shortage, agencies may jump into marketing planning without a thorough understanding of clients’ business and what they actually need. From clients’ industry, business model, target customers, business goals down to main competitors, agencies need to give proper attention to research before giving suggestions. While most clients say have no interest in constantly changing agencies as they realise the importance of a long-term partner that understands their brand journey, however, a constant lack of diligence about their business will kill the relationship.
One marketing lead said: “There were cases when we found out agencies actually put up content that contained factual errors about our company.”
2. Diva behaviour
There are “prima donna” clients, and then there are “prima donna” agencies as well.
It seems some agency executives make it their point to challenge the “customer is always right” principle. For example, some marketers have come across PR outfits that even refuse to suggest interview angles. For creatives, on top of consistently shirking deadlines, marketers also report arrogant behaviour. Often this happens to smaller brands with smaller marketing budgets, say several clients.
“I’ve tried to approach some big 4As agencies but they turned a cold shoulder on us. Perhaps it’s because we don’t have a big marketing budget,” said a CEO from a skincare brand as they first tap into Hong Kong.
Another marketer for a sports brand told Marketing that several larger agencies had been extremely rude in a recent pitch held, and the brand eventually decided to go with a smaller agency.
3. Outsourced work
Marketers complained that agencies, especially big scale ones, tend to outsource jobs- mostly digital-to third parties such as specialised digital firms outside the partnership deal. While this is common and in many cases, smoothens the production process, clients still have their trust issues over this.
“What we trust is the expertise and professionalism of the agencies we hired. Agencies to outsource jobs is not quite professional from the way we see it,” said the marketing lead.
Additionally, brands have shown concern that agencies may not have the capability to manage and to control outsourcing parties to ensure a guaranteed outcome. If you’re outsourcing work, take heed.
4. Presenting poorly to the client’s management
Failing to make a professional first impression in front of top management is the kiss of death for the client-agency relationship. “This could be due to average presentation, poor understanding of the client’s business, or not being able to be straight to the point in solving the company’s problems,” another marketer told Marketing.
“Usually the culprit is the senior agency people who come in client events, and speak to the bosses without a clear understanding of the business,” he added.
“Once a less than positive impression is made in top management’s mind, it is an uphill battle for clients to change that perception internally,” said a senior communication manager who declined to be named.