I’ve been in a ton of meetings in the past few months with clients of all sizes, categories and organizations; it’s always great to really understand the business fundamentals from their point of view.
I love when we talk with clients and we’re planning for the year, or perhaps even a tactical initiative, by asking, “What would success look like?” I believe in today’s world of fast-paced, real-time data and the pressures of hourly, daily, weekly and monthly updates, and I’m sure the answer is growth (comp sales over the past year, share growth, dollar volume). This is measured success. These metrics are owned by the sales team, the marketing team, the regional or district managers, the product team, the channel team — a whole host of folks within an organization.
But I also know (as a marketing and advertising guy) that, as an organization, we need know what success looks like for our clients beyond the measured, hard numbers. Every client at every level has hopes and dreams. As individuals and people, they want to be valued and make great contributions to their organizations, and they want others within their company look to them for generating successful programs. We provide creative thinking that may help them with the intangible success measures within a company. We’re creative problem solvers, and our thinking and ideas should fuel both the measured success and the intangible success of each and every one of our clients. You could call these intangible success measures knowing “what makes clients tick” — perhaps it’s as simple as that. It’s really up to everyone within our agency to have a personal relationship with our clients, go beyond transitional selling, and get to the heart of what our clients both personally and professionally value. It takes time, and it requires being sharp and in tune to everything clients say (or don’t say). It’s giving clients real confidence in what the agency is doing.
For example, the CMO of a Fortune 500 company indicated that the first level of success was to “energize the system” behind the marketing and advertising efforts. If the system wasn’t behind the ideas, they wouldn’t sell to distributors and retailers. In essence, the “system” pushed the product, and this system had over 40 different products/brands to sell. This company is not a B2B firm; they have one of the most iconic consumer brands on planet! But with “the system” behind the effort, success would never be achieved. Another example is a privately held, fast-growing company still controlled by the founders. Here, success was “the balance of results and relationships.” And really, relationships tipped the balance for them. The agency needed to ensure that those they were working with directly and indirectly felt connected to the work and listened to and became part of the process. In other words, the relationships trumped the work.