What Kind of Client Do You Want to Be?

March 4th, 2014 | ACA Team,

By Tom Hendrikson, Chief Breakthrough Officer, Sixsense Strategy Group Inc.

Tom Hendrickson
Tom Hendrickson

Here is a situation that may be familiar:

You begin to experience frustration in your dealings with your MarCom agency. That frustration leads you to terminate the relationship with that agency. But, later, you find yourself in a similar situation with a new agency. The pattern seems to repeat itself. It seems like a vicious circle.

Even though your agency is technically a vendor to your company, the relationship is more complex than what it seems to be: two parties working toward a common goal, each with an important role to play. As the marketer, your role is to provide adequate time, resources and information so that your agency can perform at its best. But too often the reality is different from the ideal. We all get busy with demands that vie for our attention. We may not give the agency the best chance to shine. Yet we still expect them to perform superbly well.

If this situation is familiar, read on.

I want to introduce you to the power of ‘fundamental choice’ which was introduced to me by Robert Fritz, who wrote about this in his book Elements: The Writings of Robert Fritz. Fundamental choice is a type of choice upon which all other choices rest. For example, smokers may try all manner of things to quit smoking, but if they haven’t made the fundamental choice to be a non-smoker with healthy lungs, most of their efforts will fail.

When marketers fail to adequately do their part, one reason is that they have never made the fundamental choice to support the outcomes they and their agencies want to accomplish. Instead, they may hold the expectation of success without having developed the building blocks to create that level of performance. They abdicated their critical role in the process.

Once a fundamental choice is consciously made, a host of secondary choices in service of that fundamental choice can come to life. Here’s an example: If the fundamental choice of marketers is to ensure the agency has its best chance for success, they might develop a list of what they understand contributes to great agency performance. From there, they could make a series of secondary choices in support of that fundamental choice. For example, they might choose to:

  • Give the agency adequate time to complete their work by ensuring projects start on time and adhere to work-back schedules. Note that the word ‘adequate’, used here, doesn’t mean longer or shorter but sufficient time for the work to be done at the agreed-to standard.
  • Make sure they provide briefs that are always clear, focused and inspiring by getting the best minds to craft and approve them.
  • Train their people to provide clear, actionable feedback on how the agency could improve their project management and creative work.
  • Ensure their marketers provide the relevant guidelines, artwork, and other assets to do the job right the first time.

As you can imagine, making these choices impact much of the marketer’s agency relationship system, including re-engineering of timelines and business cycles, recruiting specifications, training and development, performance criteria and perhaps organizational structure.

In the context of the fundamental choice of the kind of client they want to be, any of the possible secondary choices mentioned above are strategic. Without that context, they will be seen as using one-off tactics that are unlikely to sustain the desired performance from the relationship.

Tom Hendrikson
Tom Hendrikson is a Founding Partner and Chief Breakthrough Officer at Sixsense Strategy Group. One of their offerings includes helping advertising agencies and their clients get to better work faster and with more collaboration. In support of this offering, Tom teaches the one day course Secrets for Getting Your Agencies to Overdeliver through the Association of Canadian Advertisers. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or call at 416-703-6526.