As I surf marketing industry blogs, I see much discussion about the new economy and new agency business models. I’m shocked that I haven’t heard the topic of client collaboration discussed at all. It has been a critical part of the STIR business model and our success.
What is client collaboration?
It entails the fusion of agency and client resources to produce efficiencies. It often takes the form of coordinating the creative, digital, PR and promotional staffs of both entities on the same campaigns.
The upside of client collaboration
The primary benefit is to reduce the cost of execution by sharing tasks among client staff and our “out-of-pocket” labor. It allows us to execute bigger ideas than our budget would otherwise allow. We’ve found, however, that the benefits go much farther. Campaigns have better efficacy because there are deeper links and superior integration with in-house programs. Our clients provide better insight on the front-end and more thorough follow-through on the back-end. Client staff has more skin in the game, seeing the agency as teammates rather than rivals. The agency is learning more about the inner workings of the client’s business. These relationships are built and fortified throughout the staff, not just “top to top” at the director level. This stabilizes our accounts. And guess what? In almost every instance, it improves agency morale.
One client asked that a talented internal creative serve as co-creative director on the account. We found a lot of talent there and a strong ally. We are routinely training in-house creative on how to extend our campaign. On the digital side, we are choosing CMS, designing websites and social marketing campaigns around the skillset of the client, so that the program can be easily transitioned and managed internally. This saves them a bundle and wins us the assignments. With promotions and event marketing, we are collaborating with field marketing personnel to help to design and execute events, greatly extending the campaign’s reach where it was previously unaffordable. With public relations programs, we have designed conceptually driven concepts and trained client personnel to reach out to trusted contacts, execute trade show events, assist with reporting and provide technical support. Because the campaign is so much more extensive and successful, our involvement is an asset, not an annoyance to in-house staff.
I want to say that talent is first, but truthfully most agencies have the talent. Collaboration, trust and confidence are absolute essential ingredients and perhaps harder assets to develop and harness. Our team is recruited and managed with this in mind. In the end, we’ve found that we must focus on the best interests of the client’s business, not our own. We find that by doing so, we have transformed our corporate culture and done precisely what is in the best interests of STIR. We’ve built better, more effective campaigns and stronger client relationships.