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To build new or to keep old – agency’s perspective on client acquisition & retention

Many have been said about the critical relationship between agencies and their clients. In the era of communications and media outburst nowadays, finding prospect clients to work with is indeed a tough task for any agency, let alone to maintain a stable commitment with them for future cooperation. With thousands of companies operating on various fields of communications such as consultancy, all-package services, media buying or market research, it now takes clients a very careful consideration time to put total trust in any advertising or PR agency. The issue being raised here is that standing on the agency’s perspective, between finding new clients to experience a “changing taste” in work and staying with existing clients to serve them as loyal customers, which approach is the better one that can make the best use of agency’s resources while also earn the most profit for them.

To help answer this question, I had a short conversation with Mr. Tran Nguyen Khanh Chau. He is the junior operations manager at Brandidas, a below-the-line agency specialized in media planning, event planning, marketing consultancy and offering brand-building strategies. Prior to working for Brandidas, Chau joined the crew of two local agencies: Maya Advertising and MC Advertising. The experience he obtained during the time working as an event supervisor was very useful in term of getting to know what clients want from agencies, as well as understanding the advantages and challenges of building and maintaining long-term business relationship with diverse customers. The 26-year-old junior manager seemed to be a man of great enthusiasm as he gave insightful opinions and valuable tips on how to win new clients whilst keep the old ones happy.

To begin the conversation, Mr. Chau claimed that although new clients may bring for agency significant opportunities to work on different projects for alternative products/services, which might enlarge agency’s scope of expertise and market knowledge; current clients are indeed the ones that the company has to take good care of. It is because of a mutual relationship that two parties have been establishing, which is the crucial factor that determines the possibility of future collaborations. “When you approach a brand-new client, it may leave you lots of questions in mind. But if it is a familiar name in your contact list, at least, you already know what the most appropriate strategy to start the talk with them is. It is a remarkable advantage”, said Chau.

Client retention is becoming a popular trend, not only in communication industry but also in other business fields. Bikram (2010) asserts that many companies have been doing very good job searching and winning new customers, but they are not capable enough to foresee the hidden prospect of retaining clients. By keeping old clients satisfied, the acquisition cost can be reduced, which means that the agency has more money to spend on other expenses. Additionally, retaining existing clients allows the agency to save time and save resources to focus on doing the best work for customers (Lake n.d.). Mr. Chau added to this point by claiming that every relationship takes time to understand each other. Hence, the advantage of client retention is “you have already worked with them; you know their interests, desires, working style, fears or weaknesses. If you are able to make them satisfied in the first time, the good impression would follow clients the next time they call you. By now, the most important matter is to make proper adjustments to fit with new requirements coming from new projects”.

“You do not need to build a new house; you just need to add more concrete to make it more stable”, Chau gave a metaphorical comment on the role of client retention.

When asked about the tips he frequently used when dealing with clients to keep a healthy relationship with them, the junior manager said there is no incredible secret but to treat clients with sincerity and respect.

I often paid them a visit or made a phone call just to let them know about the progress of our project. I also invited some of my close customers out for coffee, dinner or invited them to social network parties. And do not forget to express gratitude to clients. A sincere wish or a thank-you letter always works well”.  

However, he also admitted that client acquisition cannot be underestimated. There will be nothing to do with client retention if at first, the agency cannot be able to find, attract and secure potential clients. Customer acquisition, therefore, plays the role of a compass that orients the customer relationship management process. The key point in finding prospect clients is to understand their perceptions towards the agency and the services offered (‘What is customer acqusition’ n.d.). An excellent client relations manager is the person who deeply understands the vision, mission and values of the agency. He has to be able to identify the needs and demands of clients, thereby, persuade and explain to clients the benefits they may obtain. Moreover, as the agency’s representative, he must be eager to demonstrate great sense of commitment and professionalism, which are the factors that determine the level of loyalty clients want to achieve in the relationship with agency (Meyer n.d.).

Regarding to client acquisition and retention, Mr. Chau emphasized on the heavy duty of account department, particularly the position of account director. “Clients, whether they are loyal customers or brand-new ones, often try to create difficulties for agency. They might not mean to do so, yet sometimes, it can be implied as a test for agency. Hence, the responsibility of the account director is very important. A skillful and experienced director will flexibly and wisely deal with any situation; he is capable of turning difficulties into opportunities. Such person is the big asset for any company lucky enough to have him”, claimed Chau. 

On his rush to the office for a meeting, Mr. Chau recapped the interview with an explicit statement. “Sometimes, we, as agency, should not simply see clients as part of a “You pay – I serve” relationship circle. In order for a strong business bond to thrive, agency should treat clients as their friends – working together for the ultimate goal: to accomplish the project, achieve business objectives and earn profit”.

Acquiring new clients and keeping existing clients, two issues – one common concern for every company. There is no such a superlative comparison between them; both issues have their own pros and cons. It depends on the specific situation of each company such as finance, reputation, corporate culture or business goals to determine the best approach. Yet no matter which option it is, good relationships shall never die.     

 

Ho Chi Minh City, 5 May 2012

Posted by Vo Minh Thong

 

References:

Bikram 2010, ‘Why Customer Retention is More Important than Customer Acquisition’, VA4Business, viewed 2 May 2012, <http://www.va4business.com/business/472/why-customer-retention-is-more-important-than-customer-acquisition/>.

Lake, L n.d., ‘Explore the Value of Customer Retention’, About.com, viewed 2 May 2012, <http://marketing.about.com/cs/customerservice/a/crmstrategy.htm>.

Meyer, E n.d., ‘What is a Client Relations Manager?’, eHow.com, viewed 2 May 2012, <http://www.ehow.com/about_5626786_client-relations-manager_.html>.

‘What Is Customer Acquisition?’ n.d., WiseGeek, viewed 1 May 2012, <http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-customer-acquisition.htm>.

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