Know thy client’s industry

24 Jun

One of the most frequent client complaints is that agencies don’t know the clients’ industries as well as they should. This comment generates a series of reactions in me:

#1: Not possible. Each agency person has a portfolio of several clients to keep up with, not to mention their own sprawling, ever-changing industry (advertising, digital, social media…) How can we compete with a client marketer immersed in their one industry 24/7?

#2: Sure, but will you pay for it? An agency could hire someone to exclusively research each client’s industry – trends, competition, secret shops, pricing, product innovation, regulation changes, economic factors….but is the client prepared to pay for this person’s salary? (Or should this level of industry research be a cost of business for agencies?)

#3: Aren’t we supposed to be objective? Part of the value agencies bring is the objective view that comes with being an outsider. From not being entrenched in the environment of industry convention that can lead to stale, unremarkable advertising. From bringing a new perspective. (But when does “objective” become “uninformed”?)

#4: Agencies should focus on what they do best. I do think agencies need to know their clients’ business, as it regards customers and communications. Within the category, we should know the brand personalities, product points of difference, customer profiles and category needs, advertising conventions, and understanding of competitors’ campaigns when they’re in-market. Clients can provide a briefing on anything else. Otherwise, we’re duplicating work.

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One Response to “Know thy client’s industry”

  1. Doug Brown June 24, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Which is why we often ask our clients to join us during the strategy and concept sessions: because they know their businesses better than we do and they can bring real insights to the sessions. What we bring is knowledge of their customer and what their behaviour and opinions are likely to be. Great post Shane.

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