working towards great client service

CRM in Short-term Projects: Speed-dating with Potential Clients

Reported by Khanh Tran, 7 September 2013.

Let’s imagine that you meet a person whom you think he or she is your perfect fit but both of you cannot stay long together because one of you does not want a long-term relationship. What would you do now? Will you choose to leave them or will you try your best hopefully to change their mind? In communication industry, this situation is mostly similar to what happen with short-term projects. However, it is not a negative sign in the relationship due to the agency service or clients’ requirements that leads to the decision. Conversely, it is a positive sign for a hard working process regardless time and commitment.

I met Mr. Vu Minh Khoa, Senior Account Executive of DDB Group Vietnam, hopefully to know more about realistic experiences about the implementation of CRM in working on long-term projects. However, he mostly works on short-term projects and he realized that he loves it. He totally surprised me when giving some thoughts about long-term projects. “Trust me, it is much more boring than working on a short-term project. I’d feel terrible if I have to work on a one-year project again”, he said. I was amazed plus a little curious by his thought and asked him several questions about his job, then I discovered that CRM in short-term project is executed in a very different manner regardless the theories that I have learn. Therefore, I decided to drive my intention to the implementation of CRM in short-term projects to see how it works.

1148802_418449204928109_1223119450_nFigure 1. Taken by the author (2013)

DDB is a creative-based agency established in 1949 and the pioneer to introduce a new approach to marketing industry (DDB Worldwide n. d.). According to DDB Worldwide, one of their concept to develop is ‘creativity is the most powerful force in their business’ (DDB Worldwide). During the interview, I have known that his agency usually works on the production of TVCs and print ads on fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). Thus, DDB rarely have long-term client, but they do have steady clients who often come back to the agency with a new project.

Buttle (2003) has pointed out the five common misunderstandings about CRM and one of them is that CRM refers to loyalty schemes. When you hear the term ‘CRM’, I am pretty sure that the first idea pops out in your mind will refer to long-term relationship with client and I am not an exception. In fact, CRM is just simply a method to build relationship. Roberts-Phelps (2001, p. 2) stated that CRM is ‘a way of creating and evolving your organization in the marketplace and at the same time in the mind of each individual customer’. As can be seen in his definition does not refer particularly to long-term or short-term process because it depends on the interpretation of the agency about their relationship with clients. In relation to short-term projects, CRM is perceived through the business strategy perspective, not relationship life cycle perspective or client acquisition and retention perspective.

“Theory is unchangeable, but practice need to be flexible”

Each agency has different CRM policy and it depends on which client they are working for, so one theory cannot be applied for all cases. Particularly with DDB and short-term projects, the CRM steps (acquisition, profiling, personal offers, tracking) are not applicable at all because clients come and go. “They never sign a contract for more than 6 months”, said Mr. Khoa. In this case, the success of CRM is not presented by a long-term contract from client but the return of them. DDB does not actively find their clients, most of the time clients come to them. He used to actively contact several clients to offer the service but they don’t care, or they will reply politely but never intend to contact the agency. That is the reason why acquisition step fail in this situation. They have a database to manage clients but it’s not served for maintaining long-term relationship. Regarding personal offers, Mr. Khoa strongly confirm that this is absolutely prohibited in his agency, as he said that this is not a way to make client come back. Tracking becomes unnecessary, client come back only when they have a project, they do not care about your upgrade service.

“CRM in short-term project is like speed dating with potential clients”

I would like to liken the implementation of CRM in short-term project as a speed dating with clients, those who are potential to return. When you are in a speed dating, you do not have much time to get to know each other, so you will need to focus one hundred percent and have a well-prepared speech to show your outstanding personalities. Similarly, Mr. Khoa said that his team mainly focuses on the quality of their project rather than worries about losing client, thus they always work with two-hundred percent of their energy. The commitment between them is not rely much on the longevity of relationship but the quality of project. This point highlights the two components of a successful CRM which are process and people. According to Khoa, the account team has to focus on the clients’ needs and wants, meanwhile showing empathy with the creative team to ensure that they are going smoothly on the right track. In short, quality and people play the key role to bring the client back in the future.

speed-datingFigure 2. Reproduced from Naij (2013)

At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have, it’s how you do. He joking seriously that CRM in short-term projects actually brings out the best quality. I slightly doubt that, but it may be true to some extents. Those agencies like DDB are very respectable because they do not work hard for a long-term relationship, they work hard for the quality and even harder for the reputation of their agency. Everything has its offer, steady clients who came back to DDB due to the quality of previous projects that have brought about positive outcomes for their clients’ revenue.


Word count: 992



Buttle, F 2004, Customer relationship management concepts and tools, viewed 6 September 2013, EBSCOhost Database.

DDB Worldwide n. d., Roots, DDB, viewed 6 September 2013, <>.

Naij 2013, image, Naij, viewed 6 September 2013, <>.

Roberts-Phelps, G 2001, ‘Customer relationship management demystified’, viewed 6 September 2013, Business Source Complete Database.

Villanueva, J, Bhardwaj, P, Balasubramanian, S, Chen, Y 2007, ‘Customer relationship management in competitive environments: The positive implications of a short-term focus’, Quantitative Marketing & Economics, vol. 5, no.2, pp. 99-129.

Single Post Navigation

One thought on “CRM in Short-term Projects: Speed-dating with Potential Clients

  1. -What a fresh perspective on CRM! Creative hook fits the unique view taken by this article. You have managed to write a good balance of interview insights from Khoa along with additional references. More importantly, you have put your opinions in the article even if they are not seen as the populist theoretical view. One point to improve is to have more specific examples from the DDB Portfolio. Good work.

Join the discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: