working towards great client service

“A bird in the hand…”

To kick-off the Client Management course seminars for semester 1, 2012, we were joined last March 16, by three guest lecturers from Dentsu Media Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam to speak about their industry experience in looking for, winning and maintaining clients.

Nguyen Quoc Hung, Media Director
Photo by Thong Vo Minh

Nguyen Quoc Hung (Media Director), Melissa Caranto (Communication Designing Director) and Nguyen Viet Ngan (Media Account Director), our roster of veterans in the field of advertising, media planning and activation shared their combined 20 years experience to answer the proverbial client management question: “Which is more important, client acquisition or retention?”

The seminar began with Hung giving a brief background first on the Dentsu Group, and then Dentsu Media its sister company which was established in Vietnam in January 2012 “we are a baby in the industry” he offered. But a baby with high-profile clients which include the Vietnam Football Federation, FIFA World Cup and Apple Macintosh.

But as Melissa continued with the talk, she revealed that it was not an easy road to gaining a foothold in the media industry in Vietnam despite their affiliation with the Dentsu Group as they faced a lot of competition from bigger and well established companies like Group M, Optimedia and VAC. Melissa admits “although client acquisition is exciting it is not a cheap way to run a business…” And so, to support their start-up they initially tapped into their strength by focusing on Japanese companies with a Vietnam base such as Honda, Sharp, Panasonic, Toshiba, Toyota, Fuji Xerox and Sapporo to name a few.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in a bush” was the integral proverb she shared that set the tone for the rest of the morning.

Melissa Caranto, Communication Designing Director
Photo by Thong Vo Minh

Admittedly, the proverb of sticking to something you already have does not always work, therefore Dentsu Media never stops looking for new clients. They take into consideration specific client profiles to customize their services, while keeping in check their commitments to existing clients (read: no conflicts of interest!).  They also maintain their vigilance to research and are pro-active in finding new ways to attract new businesses. As a newcomer they needed to go above and beyond the usual service menu, instead offering something more than the usual fare.

Dentsu’s sports marketing niche (including planning methods, analysis tools, digital business expertise, and sports and entertainment content resources) therefore became the key to their current success in Vietnam. Taking advantage of Dentsu’s global network, with over 100 offices across the world they were able to create exciting and ground breaking content for the FIFA World Cup in 2010. An example was the TV show My FIFA World Cup featuring non-celebrity/ ordinary Vietnamese teenagers going around the world partaking of the World Cup festivities; instead of simply broadcasting the event, they added value-laden original content for TV and online media. As such they were able to build-up their reputation and acquire new clients from this ground breaking action.

By using the 360 degree media contact point they continue to strive to put more in the market. As Melissa brought the point home, “we are believers in real value which are, ideas that work… to transform people’s behaviors, to move people.” And this is what keeps clients happy for a long time.

Nguyen Viet Ngan, Media Account Director
Photo by Thong Vo Minh

Ngan then shared her role in media planning, an all important behind-the-scenes job to make sure the ad campaigns are seen by the right target audience. She stressed again the importance of research, finding the right client design and how to effectively deliver the client’s message. She also shared the client servicing WHO (global vs. local clients), WHAT (services, cost, innovation) and HOW guidelines. Ngan shared an interesting insight on the HOW… “Buy our idea before selling to clients” which translates to knowing your proposal fully, presenting it with passion and believing in your own creative ideas first before convincing others to believe in it.

After the business side of client acquisition and retention tips, Hung gave a very practical and quite entertaining talk on how to keep clients happy the Saigon Mad Men way. Yes! There is a lot of socializing involved he admitted including beer, golf, birthday cakes and singing karaoke… However to become a true partner in the agency-client relationship ladder, you as a client manager need to actually “enjoy it!” with the client. Otherwise your mask is seen and it will not be an honest relationship.

Of the many suggestions Hung shared the two that stood out was: 1.) Talking about business in the last 5 minutes of the meeting; and 2.) Connecting clients to new people. Networking beyond your business objectives and actually making an effort to introduce your client to other people who either shared their interest (new golf buddies) or people who can help them achieve other business needs that you are not able to provide (meeting new investors, or even a birthday cake supplier!).

Hung on keeping clients happy
Photo by Thong Vo Minh

In what seemed to be the shortest hour in the semester, the client management students obviously could not get enough of our guest lecturers from Dentsu Media asking lots of questions that almost ran us overtime! To conclude, our guests offered this final advice that seemed contrary to our academic text on Developing an account-management life cycle for advertising agency-client relationships (Waller 2004)… That a relationship never truly ends.

For more information on Dentsu Media visit their website at:

~Mel C


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