They probably should have been a little more specific.
Quick. Can you name your company’s number one guiding principal? Can your employees? Is there one mantra that everyone in the firm can recite without a second thought?
Let me tell you why ours is “What’s good for the client is good for us” and why we plastered it on our office wall.
In an industry where conflicts of interest are as rampant and prolific as Bigfoot “reality” shows on cable TV, it can take a lot of time for trust to develop. It is very common for us to hear “I was burned by my last three marketing companies” or “We paid so-and-so $15,000 for a new website, and 8 months later, we STILL don’t have anything to show for it.” Unfortunately, to paraphrase the Bible, the sins of the old marketing company are visited upon the new one, and it takes some time for new clients to realize that we’re not like the other guys.
We have noticed a distinct correlation regarding client tenure and success: the longer they have been with us, the stronger and more successful their marketing gets. Why? The most important reason is trust. We have had enough time to demonstrate – show, not tell – that we have their best interests at heart. They get a transparent glimpse into our decision making, and see that we often reject ideas that could have made us a lot of money, but are not right for them. Care for a peek behind the curtain, too?
Here are three reasons why “what’s good for the client is good for us.”
- We’re not an ad agency. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people ask what we do and then conclude that we’re an ad agency (“Mad Men” be damned!). The tired, old ad agency model is one of the biggest culprits in the institutionalized skepticism about marketing companies. For good reason.
Ad agencies are paid a percentage of the client’s marketing spend. The more you get the client to spend, the more money that 15% commission will yield. THAT IS A TERRIBLE MODEL FOR THE CLIENT! And it is the epitome of a conflict of interest. Firms that use that model are simply not marketing companies; they are sales organizations.
A similar circumstance occurs with large purchases that typically pass through the agency and receive a 15% or 20% markup. We will occasionally do that – when the client prefers to get one bill – but we generally have the client contract directly with the outside vendor. That makes a difference on large purchases, such as a vehicle wrap or large channel letters for a building marquee. Rather than have the client pay us that markup, we’d much rather have them spend that money on digital marketing tactics that will actually yield a return on their investment.
The modern rendition of this terrible ad-agency model is in Google AdWords and other pay-per-click advertising. Most companies are simply not equipped to handle their own AdWords accounts, so they have to outsource it. There are very complicated nuances that require an analytical approach and excellent attention to detail that most businesses either don’t have or can’t afford to apply to this use – they have higher and better uses for that time and talent.
It’s amazing that many businesses pay their AdWords consultant based on a percentage of their AdWords budget. Hmmm, I wonder if those consultants will be recommending a reduction in that budget anytime soon?! Don’t think so… We tell our clients that they should constantly strive to reduce their ad spend while still yielding the same results. That, my friends, is how you increase ROI.
- Sometimes clients are better off without us. Lest you think this is yet another self-serving blog post of a company talking about how wonderful it is, note that sometimes what’s good for the client is to either not work with us any longer or to change the scope of the relationship. Sometimes we have major concerns about the business model, and don’t think it is worth investing the client’s hard-earned resources in marketing a business bound to fail (when this happens, it’s almost always a startup, not an established business), so we tell them “no thanks.” This occurs frequently.
Other times, having operated as the outsourced marketing department for our clients, we have successfully modeled the position to the extent that it makes sense for the client to hire someone in-house to replace us. When this happens, we gladly help in the search and training of that new hire, and usually stick around for some time to help in the transition. This is a very infrequent occurrence, however. Most of our clients already have one or two in-house marketing people with whom we share some duties and supplement their internal resources.
Finally, there are times when we’re just not a fit; rarely, there is a personality difference. More often, it’s a case of a client’s needs not being a good fit with our capabilities and structure. For example, we almost never work with real estate agents, and we rarely work with restaurants, but other marketing companies make the bulk of their revenue on these sectors. Instead, we’re very well-suited to market professional services firms (e.g., medical, legal, financial), government contractors, consumer packaged goods, nonprofits, B2B services, and B2C companies, particularly those with eCommerce functions.
- Our mantra makes our jobs easier! Remember that old adage about how if you tell the truth you don’t have to have a good memory? Well, there’s a strong corollary here. This one mantra makes our decision making much easier. There is clarity. The decisions are not complicated. Each time we find ourselves at a crossroads between alternative choices, the question almost undoubtedly answers itself when we test it with our mantra.
What’s Worthy of Your Wall?
It doesn’t matter if you actually put it on your wall. Or your website. Or Facebook. But it is very important that you find that singular guiding principal that defines your corporate ethos and permeates everything you do. Make sure all of your employees, vendors, clients, customers, and outside consultants all know it.
Come to think of it, I guess you really do need to plaster it everywhere.