Building a “Healthy” Relationship
I take my first step to Notch agency on a rainy day. Unlike other agencies, which are held in some big buildings, Notch is located in a quite humble place, at level one of JSC building – a small building in district one. When I arrived to the office, my friend firstly took me a tour around the company.
Notch is a digital marketing agency, which provides full-service for building digital marketing campaigns, designing high-class webs and prodviding solution for digital problem. Notch’s clients are also very variety, which come from different fields from advertising to gaming industry, such as JWT, Vietnamwork, Indochina Capital, Vinagame, Yobanbe.com, Zing, Wrigley, Honda Vietnam and Sotheby’s Realty Vietnam.
She then leads me to Mrs. Quang’s office. Here I witness an all-black middle-aged lady walked out of the office, with fast movement and experience expression through her eyes. Giving order with strict voice “Lead him to the meeting room, I will be there after 5 minutes”. That’s Mrs. Quang, my interviewee, with 6 years experienced in the communication industry, former Y&R Account Director.
And here is the first thing comes to my mind…”I’m screwed.”
“Client is the passenger, Account is the bridge, and Agency is the destination”
Fortunately, she is quite friendly. She shares, “I took my first step in this industry in 2006 after I graduated from Bach Khoa University”. Quang believes that being an account is being the representative of the company, everything you do will directly affect on your agency. “Being an Account Executive has never been easy.” She says.
Haytko (2005) states that an account executive has to manage many brands and maintain the relationship with the clients. Quang states, “Being a good account is to be able to lead the client to the agency. It is like the client is the passenger, account is the bridge and the agency is the destination. This bridge has to be stable, trustworthy so that the passenger can put their trust and move to the right destination.”
A “Healthy” Relationship
McTague (2013) believes good client-agency relationship is when two experts repeatedly challenge each other by fixing each other mistakes and giving compliments on each other good works. Quang believes the difference “I would say that healthy client-agency relationship is mutual comprehension”. “It is an understanding in business strategies because it is business relationship and partnership, not personal relationship,” Quang strictly stated.
Boden (2009) asserts that trust is always the root to start client-agency relationship and it is essential that both parties keep building and maintaining trust. “Trust always comes first when it comes to building a Client-Agency relationship” Quang shares her view. She shares that the development of a good client-agency requires several steps, which reminds me of the Relationship Marketing Ladder.
““Love” at first sight”
“Don’t get me wrong when I said this,” with a laugh on her face. “It is not about letting personal feeling affect on the work.” To her, the first impression to the clients is always important as the first step to build trust. “You have to pitch with your passion and show the “love” to your client work, even though you are not (with a grin on her face). So that they can trust you when they give you that project. This is a first step to get your client attention”.
She then takes our meeting as an example for the first impression to the client. Quang illustrates, as this is the first time we meet, we both start getting to know each other and building our personal image is important. “It is essential to learn one’s personalities through the way they speak, the way they deliver and the gestures they show. Based on the client personalities and preferences, it will be more flexible for you to behave to them.” Quang further stated.
“Moving to the happy ending”
When it comes to the question from Quang “What do you think is the different between a customer and a client?” it is a shame that I fail to answer the question. “Don’t be upset”. She comforts me with a gentle voice. “You will know better when you step into this industry”.
She believes that customers are those who give the agency some amount of the business but it is client who will give the agency not only full business and more future potential clients but also a more meaningful relationship.
After showing that we are professional, knowledgeable, our work has to be deliverable and follow the commitment with the company, She asserted. “If your work fails to reach the clients objectives, not only your credibility will be reduced, but also lost your personal and agency’s image.”
Quang shares that moving from a customer to a client is not easy as it takes time and efforts. “It maybe, just maybe possible you can move your customer to the next ladder, being a client after 2 or 3 campaigns. Your work has to be great, or at least reach their expectation, that you gain more trust from them and they will be more interested in working with you.”
Quang then states another concept of client, which she refers as Retainer Client. The difference between a client and a retainer client is the amount of time that a client works with the agency. “It takes years to change a client to a retainer client”, Quang continues. “If people said an effective client-agency relationship is like a marriage, then retainer client is the stage when the agency “proposes” to its bride (client).” In this stage, after working together for years, both agency and client will match to each other’s ideas of strategies. “Both parties will work as one”. At that time, we should take our client into more consideration and attention.” Quang shared. Added value or special offers are the most effective “wedding ring” to promise them a potential client-agency partnership in order to move to the “happy ending” –Trusted Partners. Then I ask a question “Does it mean that Retainer client replace Supporter and Advocate?” “Probably” she answers “As I said, when your client becomes retainer client, both agency and client will work as one, not really distinguish between client and agency anymore”.
Even though it is just a short interview. Talking with Mrs. Quang is really inspiring. “Being part of this industry is not easy, it requires passion, enthusiasm to be able to survive in this fields. You will not only earn experience but also many social skills”.
“Her phone rings” …”I think I have to go, I have a meeting waiting for me”.
Thach Phu Thanh – S3342288
Word count: 1095
Boden, K 2009, ‘Optimizing the client-agency relationships’, Inholland, viewed 10th May 2013, <http://www.inholland.nl/NR/rdonlyres/D7689529-8C1E-4F51-B31C-EEE3E8FA9E63/0/KatharinaBoden.pdf>
Haytko, D.L 2005, ‘Firm to Firm and International Relationships: Perspectives from Advertising Agency Account Managers’, Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 32, no.3, pp. 312-328.
McTague, B 2013, ‘Client-Agency Relationships’, Brucemctargue, viewed 10th May 2013, <http://brucemctague.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Client-Agency-Relationships-McTague-White-Paper.pdf>
Casul, M 2013, ‘The Relationship Marketing Ladder’, course notes for COMM2384 Client Management, RMIT Universiry Saigon, Vietnam, viewed 10th May 2013, Blackboard@RMIT
Quang, Nguyen Nguyet 2013, interview, 7th May 2013