How to Gain Buy-In with Client Decision-Makers

By | September 23, 2014
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Executive Buy-InYou’ve won the business, delivered awesome work, exceeded expectations, and built a great relationship with your main client contact. Next thing you know, a new president is announced, who decides to slash marketing budget, and your agency is kicked to the curb.

Sound familiar? Too many agencies find themselves in this position; pushed out when the going gets tough, run ragged reacting to ill-advised business strategies, or siloed delivering a particular service and unable to grow the account.

As Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer) explains, “Growth is the easy part. Retaining it, and making it profitable, is the real challenge for agencies.”

Part of the problem these agencies face is their marginalization within the client’s organization. They simply don’t have a seat at the table. Comparatively, other agencies are yoked with their clients, enjoying long-range strategies, acting as strategic marketing and business partners, and feeding off each others' success. How do they do it?

4 Ways to Solidify Your Place at the Table

Like any relationship, it’s easy to fall into patterns and roles. What you need to do—ideally, from day one, is to carve out a place for your agency at your client’s table.

1. Ensure Expectations are Aligned.

One of the best things you can do to position your agency for success is to make sure you can make a measurable impact on every client’s and prospect’s business. Agency leaders too easily say “yes” to new business without fully understanding the client’s goals and agency’s ability to deliver on them.

For example, we use Marketing Score, our free marketing assessment tool, to solicit feedback from key stakeholders throughout the organization. Aggregating the responses helps us better understand:  

  • Foundation: What is the strength of their existing website, brand, infrastructure, internal marketing capabilities and capacity?
  • Platform: How extensive is their reach and influence among target audiences, specifically as it relates to online marketing?
  • Expectations: What are their priority needs and goals, and how do they align with agency services?
  • Potential: What is the potential for a marketing agency to have an immediate and sustained impact on their brand?
  • Strategy: What strategies and tactics are you going to propose?

With the above information, you can develop a more fine-tuned strategy for the client, and have a more honest conversation about what your agency can deliver, and what you’ll need from them in order to get there.

2. Make Yourself Known.

Your recurring revenue should not be contingent on a single relationship. A new job, new executive or new organizational structure could quickly unravel what took months or years to build. Some ideas:

  • Solicit feedback. Avoid over-investing time and energy into developing a relationship with your main client contact. Look for opportunities to connect with other key decision-makers by conducting a cross-organization assessment (like discussed above). Or, ask if key executives can sit in on a six- or 12-month performance presentation.
  • Extend your value beyond marketing. Sales and marketing are becoming increasingly interdependent in order to achieve business goals. Make marketing and sales alignment a priority as both a marketing imperative and a reason to build relationships within sales.
  • Be proactive. Your client won’t tell you to be more proactive until it’s too late. Anticipate your client’s needs, and then deliver on them. Become an ingredient in your client success and you make yourself indispensible.

3. Balance Builders and Drivers.

Focusing on a single contact can give agencies tunnel vision, sending them running in a reactionary sprint from one request to the next. But when your agency’s contract is on the chopping block, what you did for the bottom line will be what matters.

Balance client services between builder campaigns, or foundational projects intended to pave the way for long-term success, and driver campaigns, or short, sprint-like projects aimed at near-term results. When prioritizing your day-to-day tasks, zero in on value. Figure out what the client most needs, then spend 80% of your time on the 20% that will drive the most value.

4. Think Like an Executive.

Your client contact likely has a boss. That person might have a boss. And at some point, someone reports to the c-suite. Don’t just give your client what they want; give them what their boss wants. What does every executive want? Clear, measurable, bottom-line results.

Ingrain measurement and performance in your agency. Figure out what KPIs your contact and/or your agency will be held accountable for. Help them put the systems in place to track, measure, analyze and draw insight from data.

Prove that you have a measurable impact on the bottom line, and you’ve won your seat at the table.

Here are more resources on the topic:  

Have you managed to “win a seat at the table” with your clients? What strategies have you tried?

Image Source: reynermedia via Flickr