March 1, 2010

Run for the Roses

Filed under: Client/Agency Relations,New Business — Joe Grant @ 12:34 pm


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Suppose you were in the nursery business. You’d want to produce flat after flat of pretty, healthy plants all about the same size and color. You’d water them the same, fertilize them evenly, and make sure they got consistent sunlight. Your uniform approach would yield predictable and we’ll assume profitable results.

Now let’s imagine you’re in the race horse business. You’d buy and breed only a few horses with outstanding potential, hoping to find that exceptional one that would be a big winner. If you were lucky enough to develop an extraordinary animal you’d pour your resources into it. You’d hire top notch trainers, sign up a world-class jockey, provide the very best veterinary care and so on. You’d invest and re-invest in your highly talented find so it would yield outstanding returns.

We try to make clients fit into systems and procedures convenient for us. We make them adjust to our estimating and invoicing systems and balk when they request more information or want it in a different form. We expect clients to meet our scheduling priorities…and our creative idiosyncrasies.

Leo (of the agency bearing that name) understood the racehorse idea. There was a time when Burnett strategically chose to house no more than 11 great accounts, each handled befitting the unique bloodline they represented.

During those years they never tried to put the same saddle on different steeds.

We can learn from this, even in small agencies. Critical to your success is engaging people ideally suited to sensing the nuances of individual client needs, functioning like an intuitive equine trainer. With the right kind of handling accounts will grow strong at your agency generating dependable and expanding profits year after year. Managing each like the one-of-a-kind entity it is will yield much better results than sprinkling handfuls of Rapid-Gro across your roster.

Are you willing to let your account folks run the business…and not allow operations-types to ride roughshod over them?

Accounting, traffic, and others with a proclivity for homogeneity need to understand that making a god of uniformity could well prevent the agency from making a run for the roses.

So are you like the gardener managing for normalcy, carefully applying identical amounts of water and fertilizer to each row of flowers for uniform results? Or like the horse whisperer – intuiting subtleties to seamlessly deliver both what your individual client wants and simultaneously giving them what they need.

You gotta decide what kind of business you’re in.


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  1. It’s all about getting the right people on the bus.

    Comment by Fred Driver — March 2, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

  2. Good post, Joe – nice reconnecting with you.
    Visit – let me know what you think.

    Comment by Rob Rosenberg — March 3, 2010 @ 6:42 pm

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