To Have and Have-Not – When Smaller agencies work with Huge Clients

 We all want to win that prize assignment from the huge marketer. That new client that will change the entire dynamic of our agency.

I am not writing here to say that you should avoid shooting for those big wins. What I want to mention is that you must understand all the how’s and why’s of managing significant accounts from the perspective of the marketer’s needs and from your entire agency’s assets. Before you decide to take on the pitch, and also when you win one. Know exactly what you are expected to accomplish and how you will work day-to-day within the marketers organization. Its not just about the work, know the people and their plans going forward. Make plans of your own for what will be happening within your agency as you build out to handle the work. Also, consider what will possibly happen when the marketer decides that its time to move on. According to today’s Adweek, they most likely will move on.

Here is a link to a short article by Andrew McMains at Adweek that was published yesterday:

Shop-Hopping Clients Threaten Small Agencies Moves to bigger, diversified ad firms leave boutiques in the dust – By Andrew McMains

He writes about the vulnerable position smaller agencies are in when working for the mega-marketing giant. It is worth your few minutes to read and consider.

We all believe that winning that prize business will be the single step to everlasting happiness. It can happen. But sometimes, it does not. For all your claims to be different, better than the other guys, have a solution that will lock you in until retirement, the reality is that permanence is a rarity in business. So, be prepared.

You may have a big win when pitching against the behemoth agencies. These days, small agencies are increasingly getting the opportunity to play and win. That is fantastic. I support you all, and believe your can win within the right circumstances. Go for it. Go for it within your parameters, without sucking the life out of your shop. Go for it when you truly (realistically) have a high-percentage chance of winning. AND have a plan as to how you will manage the account over time.

Multinational conglomerate agencies often are very good at what they do. It isn’t just because they run around the world gobbling up agencies like cookie-monster to remove their competition. Many have depth of experience and sheer numbers of talented people who can deal with certain client’s needs. I respect their business (well, some of them), but it doesn’t make them always perfect for the work necessary to grow every client’s business.

Those monolithic agencies aren’t always what a client may require. If they were, why are there multiple agency holding companies? There are differences even amongst them. And there are distinct attributes within your agency that separates you from the pack. Know how to best use yours. When the right ones matches up with the right client — great for all.

So, Mr. McMains article is not a doomsday message to boutique agencies. It is a wake up call. Be smart about who you work with, how you run your agency, and plan for both growth and significant hiccups that can create potential disaster those who ignore planning for the possibilities.

Oh, and know that your fellow members of TAAN are here to support you. When you are part of a globally connected network of communications expert, you have exponential strength. Through cooperative resources, cultural insights, access to capabilities around the world, and knowledge that will make you stronger for the years ahead. Independent thinkers that openly share intelligence and expertise make each member capable of effectively managing communications far beyond any single agency. Even one of those giant shops.

Just my opinion. – Peter