Why does your agency need fans? You're not a rockstar, a blockbuster actor or a footy player – you create ads and marketing and PR and content and this helps your clients, but it's not quite the same thing as selling out a stadium performance or scoring the winning try, now is it?
If you create a campaign that propels a client's sales to new heights, if your product packaging wins your clients a bunch of industry awards, or if your online content gets picked up by the biggest blog in their niche, then your client is going to be stoked. And, much like Star Trek fans dressing in costumes and swarming their favourite stars at conventions, your client will go out and tell everyone they know how amazing their results were.
And a client singing your praises to all their associates is going to result in more clients. And that's definitely the best result you could achieve for your agency, yes?
You want your clients to become trekkies, except instead of costumes and acne and noisy laser weapons, you want them to spread the word about your good work. So how do you do this?
1. Do Amazing Work
Of course, this should be a given. But for many agencies this isn't the case. It's a common problem that agencies often perform at less than their best. This is usually due to one of three reasons:
a) Insufficient or no creative brief. A creative brief is essential to avoid wasting the client's time and money – and yours. A creative brief outlines what is expected of the project and the parameters it has to meet. Take the time to get the brief right in the initial stages, and you'll get the client the result they want. Learn more about how to write an effective creative brief here.
b) Not innovative enough. If an agency is focused more on meeting monthly targets than producing work that's challenging and unique, then you're never going to rise above your competition. It's time to stop saying no to those "crazy" ideas and start encouraging your team to think about new ways of approaching briefs.
c) Striving for ad awards rather than what's right for the client. Remember that ad awards don't matter outside the ad industry. Your client doesn't care how many awards you win – they just want you to get them good results. A good agency would be happier to hear that a campaign had generated a 110% ROI than another award nomination.
2. Fix Mistakes Fast
Mistakes happen, even in the most well managed agencies. It's not the mistake that reflects badly on us – it's how we manage it. If you or your team make as mistake, own up to it as soon as it's discovered, make a humble and sincere apology, and propose a solution to fix it.
Clients won't remember the mistake – they'll remember the tenacious, honest and hard-working company that fixed the mistake like pros. This is exactly the kind of behaviour that turns clients into fans.
3. Educate Your Clients
You may think that educating clients about your business is a bad idea – after all, if the client knows enough, they could simply do the job themselves, right?
No. A client doesn’t want to do what you do – but what they want is to understand what you do, so they can feel confident that they've made the right decisions. The more you educate your client on the methodology, tools and issues in your industry, the more confidence they place in you. They see you as a fountain of knowledge, and as such, a real asset to their company.
Recently, I was talking to a mortgage broker. She listened as I described the situation with my property, crunched some numbers for me right there on the spot, and explained to me in detail the ins and outs of the particular type of lending I was interested in. I walked away from the conversation feeling like I had some solid information with which to make a decision, and I felt confident in choosing her. I've since recommended her to two other colleagues. This is the power of educating your clients.
4. Cultivate a Wide Network
What does you having a huge network of contacts and associates have to do with your client loving what you do? Simple – a network helps you to be a font of knowledge not just on your industry, but also on any aspect of business. If your client is having an issue with their staff, you can introduce them to the HR advisor you know. If they happen to mention they think their accountant is useless, you could give them the details of your brilliant accountant.
Being able to give referrals to others and introduce businesses that have synergies is a vital part of being a successful networker – and therefore, a successful business owner. Your clients see you not only as a great source for all their graphic design/content/marketing needs, but also as a person who can connect them to other useful and wonderful people.
5. Be Dedicated
Chris Goldschmidt, Creative Director at Forté Marketing Group and a veteran of the industry, recently gave some excellent advice in a LinkedIn group I'm part of: He said that a client will get better work out of a boutique agency. Why? Because every client is getting the agency's A-level talent. At a larger shop, accounts get lost in the shuffle and most of the work is done by what Chris terms "C-team" players.
"When I advise agencies, I always tell the president to never have more than 12-15 clients. Too few, then the loss of any one is painful. But if you have more than that, you cannot afford to give any given client the gift of your top people's attention. In fact, if the president of an agency cannot manage to have lunch or a one-hour meeting with each of his clients once a month, then he has too many clients."
The flip side of this is that smaller boutique firms are at the risk of being driven by the same charismatic writer or art director – and using the same one or two tricks or styles over and over again. The key to success in a small firm is to nurture a strong team in multiple competencies, and to always dedicate yourself to doing what is right for the client.
6. Invite them To Share
Now, after you've done all this fantastic work and your client has gushed about it, this is the perfect time to ask them to join your business fanclub.
You can say something like, "I'm so glad you're pleased. This is exactly the kind of result we hope to achieve for our clients. Don't forget that if you know of anyone else who could benefit from our services, to let them know we exist and we'd be happy to chat with them for an hour/give them a free quote/contact them. If they say they came through you we'll probably give them a bit of a discount."
Short, simple, and absolutely not annoying or spammy. You'd be surprised at how this one simple request can improve your bottom line. People are more than happy to share their good experiences, but they often need a little nudge.
Also, if you're doing any form of content marketing or social media, invite your client to join your profiles and pages. Make sure they know that you have a blog or a Facebook page or a LinkedIn group, because if they're enthusiastic enough and they like that kind of thing, they'll probably become participants and start sharing your stuff with their online contacts.
Having clients who are fans of your agency is a great way to thrive as a business. Fans not only appreciate your hard work, they will shout your name from the rooftops. They will convince others to give your agency a try. They may even wear spacesuits and follow you around at conferences … wait, that's the other type of fan …
Live long, and prosper!