411196422_343c0965a8_mI came upon a fantastic blog post last week by Marc Brownstein, CEO of the Brownstein Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Brownstein wrote a post for Ad Age titled, “Your Whole Agency Needs to Understand Your Clients’ Business.” As soon as I saw the headline, it resonated. “Heck yes,” I thought, even before I began reading the article.

In the past we have talked about the fact that within your company, everyone from the CEO to the maintenance staff should be aware of and on board with your company’s branding statement and mission. Everyone at your company now represents your company. While it is essential that everyone at your company understand what they are working towards, it is just as important that your marketing department or your agency is equally on board.

The traditional agency/client model

In the past, clients have traditionally worked with one point person at an agency. That would be the account executive. The AE is responsible for presenting to the client everything that is requested and conveying what the client needs to the entire staff. For decades, that model worked just fine. Explaining that a client wants to get this message out in this year’s ad campaign is relatively simple.

Of course, times have changed. Now, clients don’t just need an ad that will carry them through the year. Clients need consultation regarding the ever-changing world of social media marketing. Clients need images that can be used not just for ads but for websites, Facebook posts, blog headers, white papers, and more. Clients need help developing all of that “content” you’ve been hearing about. Moreover, the world of the client has become more complex. The global economy has evolved to the point where a company must be just as concerned about what is going on in China as what is going on in the company’s back yard. There are work shortages in some industries that must be dealt with as soon as possible. There is increasing federal monitoring in other industries.

For an account executive, there is a firehose coming in from the client and there is a need to send a firehose of information out to everyone in the agency or marketing department. Brownstein notes that an agency must understand all of the facets of a client’s business. Is it possible for just one person to be the conduit for all of that information?

Stay Practical

Of course, trying to get everyone in the marketing department or the agency into every meeting with the client is certainly not practical (nor really desirable). In order to be effective, however, an agency must be integrated just like we preach that companies must be integrated amongst all of their separate departments. We used to have a sign in our office that said, “The golden rule of communication: communicate with others as you want to be communicated with.” That means that there should be a structure within an agency so that information can flow as freely and easily as possible. The AE should funnel information to the appropriate people as soon as possible after a client meeting. The creative staff should communicate as much as possible with the AE during the course of a project to make sure the work is progressing as the client requested. If it’s deemed helpful, invite some of the creative staff to sit in on a meeting or a teleconference in order to get feedback from the client directly. AEs need not be territorial about the relationship with the client, especially in this day and age.

We say repeatedly that the marketing business, especially as an agency, is a service business. The better communication flows within an agency, the better communication will flow between the agency and the client. Communication in the marketing world is essential. Indeed, one could argue it is the foundation on which everything else is built. If you are an in-house marketing department or an agency, evaluate your internal communication flow. Does everyone know what the client wants at any given time? Does the client feel they are getting the service they deserve? Don’t be the plumber whose own drain is clogged. If you are preaching integration and communication effectiveness to your clients, make sure your own agency is walking the talk.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pshanks/411196422/ via Creative Commons