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Top tips on retaining client business

Top tips on retaining client business

By Paul Edwards, European CEO, Hall & Partners

Someone wiser than me once said that business is won with creative thinking - but lost by sloppy account handling. With this in mind – and to ensure that every client is made to feel like the most important one - here is my list of top ten tips for attracting and retaining clients.

1.    Work with a team of people they respect

This applies to everyone from big corporation to one-man bands. A strong corporate name helps to lift individual respect, but clients are getting more and more specific about the individuals they want to work with. Talent breeds talent – so ensure your agency has the best possible people in the business.   

2.    Make sure all the inputs to insight are joined up

Remember that all insight is not just market research (no matter how much we would like to believe that it is). There are many sources of insight – including online reviews, social networks and blogs - and blending them together with the different strands of market research that most large clients’ commission is becoming increasingly important.  

3.    Ensure your client sees the meaning in the research

Obvious, perhaps, but still an important theme. Too many people are still just reporting on the findings and not putting it in either a consumer or a business context that will bring it to life. Most people can see what the research says but value arises when we tell them what it really means.

4.    Show them the future

The Holy Grail, then?  Yes but it is important for people to base their view of the future on what real people are doing and thinking rather than only the people within marketing departments. The entrepreneurial companies (who say they don’t use market research) just have a stronger trust in their own feeling for the future of a market.  For the rest of us mortals a little bit of grounding in market sentiment is quite useful.

5.    Ensure flawless execution of research

This is really important to clients. Very little undermines their internal reputation more than missed deadlines, mistakes in data and revisions to findings that have already been presented up the line. We cannot take this delivery for granted and must realise that it is a sine qua non for clients.

6.    Provide value for money

T’was ever thus and is even more true in the present economic situation. As we would say when presenting findings, this is not just about price but really is about the quality and usefulness of the delivery. Getting the price right is vital – no one will thank you for going too cheap and failing to deliver.

7.    Presentation

It is increasingly important that the budget spent manifests itself as a presentation that has credibility and impresses the, often cynical, audience. Presentations don’t always have to be delivered by senior management – but by someone who has the authority, presence and knowledge to knock their socks off.  

8.    Listen – and tap in

Don’t sell me what you’ve got left over this month, sell me what I need. Again surprising but we still hear that Procrustean solutions are being put forward - and clients don’t like it. They want to feel that their problems are particular and need the right solutions. Listening and understanding client needs also enables you to tap into client expectations for success.

9.    Come up with imaginative ideas

Of course accuracy in delivery is vital but they expect more in the execution. What has been learned from previous surveys, what do you know from work in other sectors or other territories?  Great ideas are at a premium and are welcome from all sources.

10.    Be enthused

The days of the objective researcher dispassionately dispensing some findings is behind us.  Clients want us to be engaged with their issues and to be as supportive of the brand as they are. This was what always impressed me most when I was on the client side – the feeling that the researcher is on your side.

11.    Construct stories that will resonate within their business

It’s how you tell ‘em.  The succinct sound bite, the concise summary and the key visual are vital to the research findings actually being used.  This is a really important area and one that we can invest in to make a significant improvement in our game.

Much of this is not new; many items have added significance in the current financial climate.  Overall clients feel they can be more demanding to ensure they get what their business needs. Our job, as ever, is to make them look good.  It seems to me there is nothing on this list that is at all unreasonable – we should be doing our best to tick every box.  

If you get that right with clients, it starts the word-of-mouth that can help you win back lapsed clients.

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