As you move between agency side and client side you start to notice certain behaviours and characteristics about the way agencies present themselves and behave.

Why is this important? It can be a great benefit to agencies to have a reflective lens held up to them to recognise the positive, and sometimes less favourable, aspects of how they might be perceived by their clients, offering the opportunity to gauge and course correct where needed.

The first article in this series centred upon the observation that some agencies talk a lot. In doing so they spend inordinate amounts of time and effort projecting when in fact they should be listening to the client, identifying needs, and working towards solving critical client problems. Because that’s where the true value of an agency and its solution lies and this is what you want your client to see.

This article will delve deeper into the concept of value recognition and appreciation further.

Agencies make it difficult for clients to understand the value that they bring

Clients don’t want to understand what you do and how you do it, they want to know what it means for them.

Yet, so often agencies position themselves as commodity service providers, talking about features and processes instead of how their solutions and services create a valuable outcome. This leaves the client working out the connection between your services and their objectives.

Agencies that primarily position features (what we do) and advantages (why our way of doing it is better than our competitors) rather than benefits (what value it brings) are imposing limiting factors on themselves in winning and developing client business.

Clients need to understand the outcomes so that they can connect them with their objectives – almost always commercial and / or strategic – so they can ascribe a value to you, the agency, and the solutions you provide.

Clients don’t buy services, they buy outcomes

The more directly an agency can connect their solutions to their client goals and present their solutions in this way, the clearer it is to understand their contribution towards value.

Let’s take SEO as an arbitrary example.

Buyers don’t buy SEO. Sure, they mostly know that they need SEO. But to do what? Do clients care about backlink profiles or keyword presence? Not really. These are features. What clients care about is how SEO can drive a more meaningful commercial or strategic goal. They buy SEO because they need to:

  • Grow sales and revenue
  • Acquire new customers at a low cost
  • Improve marketing ROI

So by talking about features such as backlink profiles, instead of benefits such as contribution to sales and revenue targets, agencies make it difficult for clients to understand that value that they bring.

The same can be said of every agency service across the marketing mix, from brand strategy through to conversion rate optimisation. As such, agencies present limiting factors on themselves:

  • They present no differentiation between themselves and competitors
  • Leaving the client to make the equation between agency features and the benefits to them
  • Ultimately limiting success in new business processes, retention (proving and demonstrating value against client goals) and client growth

Changing behaviours

When you’re sitting on the client side you identify challenges in the behaviours of agencies and how they present themselves.

A key realisation, particularly in sales processes, is the recurring question of ‘sure, I get it but what’s in it for me?’

Acute and direct understanding of what value an agency can bring to a client business should be demonstrated by the agency.

In doing so, agencies will get more participative input from the client to help develop the mutual understanding of value to be delivered – both a route to more successful new business performance and a better starting point for the client relationship.