KEEPING RELATIONSHIPS WITH EXISTING CLIENTS
Article by Nguyen Vu Ha Yen Nhi – S3408772
You’ve been working with the same client for a long time. If you’re not careful, the quality of a long-term relationship can quickly become vices, and over time you may lose your clients (Sobel 2009). How do you prevent it and keep your client relationships?
I had a chance to talk with Mr. Matthew Collier about the topic of keeping relationships with existing clients. With more than 21 years of experience working in advertising industry gained both in Asia-Pacific, Middle East and North Africa, Mr. Matthew Collier is now known as CEO of Y&R Vietnam, a full-service communications agency. He leads a team of young and talented people who are almost Vietnamese to do the best possible work. As one of the leading global advertising agencies with 186 offices in 90 countries around the world, Y&R is working at being Vietnam’s strongest offering in integrated marketing communications with a mission to be clients’ most important partner. Y&R’s clients include Colgate-Palmolive, Ovaltine, Coca-Cola and Burger King.
Mr. Collier described client relationships are exactly like marriages. They are often long term and can become stale with time. And just like marriages there are always temptations of other potential partners around every corner. A different challenge to marriages however is that there is often change at either a client or agency side which can affect a long standing and successful relationship. It could be a new marketing director or product manager on the client side or new creative team or account director on the agency side. He continued the talk by giving tips to prevent that problem: “I think balancing the needs of individuals over the greater corporate objectives is the focus that senior level management can play. That involves coaching, team building, training and imparting the understanding that the company’s objectives are more important than any individuals,” said Mr. Collier.
Mr. Collier was very open to talk about a difficult question I asked “Sometimes some relationships are not going well and you do not want to keep on, how do you break those relationships and still be professional?” He told me a story about one of his past clients who had two divisions. One division which he and his client had a fantastic relationship, and another division which they had an unhealthy relationship. The reason is from client side. His client had a different manager at the second division and that manager is terrible. That manager seemed to have no intention to cooperate; and he even did not want to pay adequate fee to cover the difficulties that the client was facing. Mr.Collier and his team came to the client and said to them: “On this piece of businesses, we can keep that fee but on that piece of businesses, you’re not effective for us, we need to increase the fee or we can have to say we cannot keep the contract.” He described it as a very difficult situation. “A very short answer is you should be honest about why it is not working and try to be fair. We need to hand over the work or cancel that relationship in this case,” said Mr. Collier. I agreed with Mr. Collier’s resolution. With the amount of work that the agency has been producing, a low price is never enough to create the best quality product (Jenner 2009).
After the talk with Mr. Collier, I have learnt that in order to maintaining long-term relationships with existing clients, a client manager should know how to balance the needs of individuals in an agency; and if the relationship is not going well, you should treat very respectfully and be honest with them about why it does not work out.
Campaign Brief 2011, ‘Matthew Collier takes top job at Y&R Vietnam’, image, Campaign Brief, 25 August, viewed 8 January 2014, <http://www.campaignbrief.com/asia/2011/08/matthew-collier-takes-top-job.html>.
Calexis 2009, ‘Why Client Agency Relationship Breaks Down, image, Calexis, 2 October, viewed 8 January 2013, <http://calexis.com/blog/2010/10/02/why-client-agency-relationships-break-down/>.
Jenner, JA 2009, ‘The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Art of Relationship -Building with the Direct Clients’, The ATA Chronide, pp.1-15.
Sobel, A 2009, ‘All for one: 10 strategies for building trusted client partnerships’, John Willey & Son, U.S.