What does your client actually do?

February 21, 2018

Clients are a mysterious breed. They show up for the occasional brief or WIP session, then they disappear for days on end. The question is: what do clients get up to when they are not directly involved with agency business?

Contrary to what folks in AgencyLand would like to believe, when not with your agency it is highly likely that your client is not working on your latest campaign or waiting anxiously to receive your next communication.

If your primary client contact is a Communications Manager, then your agency world and their world may be closely aligned. However, if your contact is a Marketing or Sales Manager, or the owner of a business, then your worlds are probably much further apart than you think.

Jonte Goldwater (Strategy Director at Material), helps to shed light on the life of a typical Marketing Manager client.

An agency is on one side of the fence and only sees a small part of what happens with a client.

Probably half of a client’s time is taken up with internal meetings and just managing stakeholders. They have to manage upwards as well as manage across their sales, finance, pricing, and logistics teams as well as managing their customers. A huge part of their job is communicating internally, reselling in, and getting people on board – and not just doing that but planning how they are going to do it.

Another part of their job is dealing with pricing and production, where they have to juggle short-term actions with the long-term life of the brand. They may also have to deal with massive lead times around the supply chain, where they know if they want to change one little thing that affects production, then they’ve got to build a financial business case and deal with implications that affect multiple parts of their business. They also have monthly reporting that they have to do.

A client’s focus has shifted from the more traditional advertising of 10 years ago to managing a whole brand experience - which is a big shift - so they can’t rely on a single ad-based campaign anymore. You’ve got social, you’ve got experiential, and product development comes into it. That requires a huge amount of time to plan and execute, but – even so – advertising and promotion will only consume around 5% or 10% of a client’s time.

You might be in your agency, and you won’t hear from your client for 2 or 3 weeks, and you’re thinking “what’s going on?”. You need to know that sometimes things will slide in and out on timings and your client will get to it when they can, and that’s just the way it is.

Understanding and appreciating not only your client’s business but the full remit of your client’s job will help you to:

  • Reduce frustration when your client goes quiet, or the process becomes complicated.
  • Understand why it can sometimes take a while to receive feedback.
  • Help you to plan your campaigns and proposals with your client’s broader business needs and parameters in mind.
  • Realise that your client’s job is complex and does not revolve solely around advertising and promotion.
  • See how your suggestions will affect various areas of your client’s business (other than just their marketing department).
  • Realise that your client’s decisions may be guided by pressure-points that you may never fully understand, and people that you may never meet.

Clients are under more pressure than ever to prove ROI on their marketing spend, so it’s crucial for you to ensure that your outputs fulfil your client’s business needs.

In AgencyLand, if you or your team makes a mistake, you will likely just apologise and move onto the next campaign, while your client is left to deal with the fallout from your error. You need to develop empathy for your client’s business and understand how your agency’s actions, reactions and results affect their world.

The process of getting to know clients is one of the best parts of an account manager’s job. Yes, clients can be complicated and frustrating, but they can also be colourful and challenging. If you approach your client relationships with enthusiasm, professionalism, and curiosity, you’ll make your job a lot easier in the long run. 



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