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“If the creative work fails, the account fails, If the account fails, the creative fails.”

Interview by Elaine Calibara – s3461778 – Group 1

Within an advertising communications agency, one would know that there is a strong difference between the creative team and the accounts team. On one hand there are the creative thinkers, the innovators, the artistic brain behind the work, and on the other hand there are the analytical, result-oriented, logical thinkers. In such a parallel atmosphere, does the “us vs. them” concept exist?

“It shouldn’t be considered like that, why does one have to be either of the two?” Ramon Calibara, Executive Creative Director of Chuo Senko Vietnam responds to my question in asking whether he thought his company is account driven or creative driven. From the outset I was taken back hearing this after only the third question of the interview as expectations led me to think there were two opposing sides within an agency.

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Proof of Life photo: Ramon Calibara, ECD, Chuo Senko

Upon hearing that a key member of the creative team could view the relationship between his own team and the accounts team as not a notion of differences, there is now a desire to learn how Chuo Senko Vietnam demonstrates effective teamwork. When discussing his team, there is a drive and passion in his voice, “There is an existing team spirit that everyone has, motivating each team member to commit to every job that is received by the agency. Every job is a common task. Each member is responsible for the job ensuring that we are doing the best work at its highest potential”. This is a clear depiction of a strong corporate culture.

Following the discussion of effective teamwork, Mr.Calibara offered to share insight to when the accounts team and his own team illustrated, in his opinion, one of the better successes of the agency. This success is at the root of his creative team, the accounts team and the client’s leap to help the agency. In 2013, Century pacific group hired Chuo Senko to create a campaign for them, “the client gave us a reasonable amount of time to work the campaign out and so the client service team came to the creative with a brief form the client that was so clear and well understood simply because the client side brought Vietnamese counterparts. The brief was written in Vietnamese and was only translated back to English for me to understand it.” After hearing how language barriers were no longer an obstacle he further added, “this translated in perfect harmony with the client service team and of course us, the creative team. It was very successful, the creative images were created a year ago and are still being used as we speak.”

This display of harmony between the accounts team and the creative team solidify Darryl Ohrt’s view that “there is a clear difference between the two cultures. And it’s not that creative-driven agencies don’t care about their clients, or that account-driven agencies can’t conceptualize. They do, and they can.” (Ohrt 2010)

After learning more about the internal environment of Chuo Senko Vietnam, I wanted to know how the practice of effective teamwork contributes to the external environment – their clients. In building their relationships with their clients “The quality of service needs to be taken into account and giving the client the best quality possible at the lowest price.” What Chuo Senko offers is the most ideal for their clients and displays the concept of the quality-price-time triumvirate model:

 

qualitytriumvirate

(Morelos, 2012)

Although Mr.Calibara does not mention time as a factor to provide the best for their clients, he does point out in his example that client’s give them an honest timeline of when the work is needed.

Mr.Calibara shared valuable opinions and knowledge on how the creative team and the accounts team work harmoniously to achieve the best work for their agency. His last remark as the interview ended he said, “There will always be disputes between the creative team and account team. It is all a process. It is a metamorphosis of the work. We are one voice, one name, and one team. If the creative work fails, the account fails, If the account fails, the creative fails.”

Word count: 688

References:

Darryl Ohrt, (Oct 12 2010) Advertising Age, http://adage.com/article/small-agency-diary/advertising-agency-account-driven-creative-driven/146361/, 02/05/2014

Monica Morelos, (22 March 2012 ) ClientManagementvn, https://clientmanagementvn.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/quality-vs-price-triumvirate-model/, 01/05/2014

 

How hard it takes to say NO to your clients?

Among 12 weeks of lectures, I found that CRM – Customer Relationship Management was the most interesting topic to me. Honestly, at first I thought “Dealing with customers is a boring job to do, because customers change their mind constantly, they obviously know nothing about the field that you’re sort of an expert in and they still keep on acting like they are full with skills and you’re a dork”. However, I found that building and maintaining customer relationship is an art which I have potential and also desire in. There are certain steps to build a strong customer relationship which are acquisition, profiling and segmentation, personal offers and tracking. Besides that, certain essences which contribute in maintaining customer relationship are attracting the right customers by market segmentation, retaining the customers through satisfaction with service delivery experiences and enhancing customer value through relationships by value-adding. Furthermore, getting in the mind of the customers is the key to win. Therefore, I had an interview with Mr. Ho Hoan Vu – current senior social media specialist at EdgeAsia. According to EdgeAsia (2013), EdgeAsia is the first South East Asian Digital Advertising Network with an Asian soul, a full-service digital marketing solutions provider, specializing in planning, creating, measuring and analyzing online marketing programs with more than 200 offices in 90 countries. Furthermore, the amount of workload and experiences working in the firm is just enough for what I desire to find out for my topic. On the other hand, he has 4 years of experiences in building and maintaining relationship with customers since he has found his longingness in the customer field no matter which position he’s in, his first job was a senior account executive at MiR Activation in 2009.

In his work life, Mr. Ho Hoan Vu has been cooperating with various types of clients, whether they are a small company or a big corporation. Therefore, I asked him what was it like when dealing with customers? Not surprisingly, he answered “Well, sometimes kissing up your customers will get you everything. Other times, it gets you nothing. Therefore, you must have different ways to deal with different customers. It gets harder when you work for the Account department and you are in a situation where you have to stand between your client and the other department in the company.” Then he gave me an example to illustrate, he once worked with Bel Viet Nam as an agency, Bel VN requested a design for their up-coming project and they kept on denying and saying bad things about the design came from the Creative department. Then, he just couldn’t come back to his company and say exactly the same thing with what the client has told him, he had to translate it to another phrase, making it easier to listen and receive feedback for the Creative department so they wouldn’t be demotivated and could moving on creating another artwork. “There is no No in client’s vocabulary” (Solomon 2008, p. 105), I asked him about this and he confirmed me with a biggest YES I’ve ever seen.

Figure 1. You can't just simply say no to your clients. Photo by author

Figure 1. You can’t just simply say NO to your clients. Photo by author

However, he states that we just can’t always say yes yes yes to our client, there’s always a safe-zone for our agency. We should always know our limitations because if we don’t, client will ask for too much, they will go beyond our capability. To support for this argument, V. Kumar and Reinartz W. (2011) clearly indicates that there are other ways rather than saying No to your client. Additionally to that, Mr. Ho Hoan Vu states that your client is always “fragile”; therefore, they cannot accept a “No”. Moreover, we must come up with how to deny a client in a more “gentle” way if we think that we cannot help them this time but make sure that if they have other needs or difficulties, they will think of us first, that’s what matters the most, according to Mr. Ho Hoan Vu. As Benjamin Franklin once said “Honesty is the best policy”, don’t wait around until your client asks you about the task, deny them gently if you cannot finish the task in order to keep them coming back to your agency and otherwise you would not want to burn the bridges because in the PR/Advertising industry, nobody cares about how great you have worked so far, but if you make one mistake, just one mistake, the whole world will aware and your reputation will go down the tube, so you might want to be more careful on every move you make.

Figure 2. There are various ways of saying NO gently. Reproduced from FreshDesk Blog (2013)

In conclusion, the interview I have conducted with Mr. Ho Hoan Vu seems to bring me a little more experiences in the keeping relationship with clients. However, some information is what he said based on his working experiences; it might not be suitable for all cases. But look on the bright side, you can still take it into consideration when dealing with clients because there are various types of clients out there. Some are nice, others are evils, they always want to get more for less price and they will push your agency to the edge to satisfy their needs and wants. Therefore, learning how to deny your clients is the most significant experience to have. Furthermore, building and maintaining relationship with clients is not easy as taking candy from a child, it’s an art of communication to satisfy them or to deny them with the guarantee that they will come back for more and you must always balance between your clients and your firm/agency.

Word Count: 921

Figure 3. PROOF OF LIFE. Photo by author

References
EdgeAsia (2013), Who We Are, http://www.edge-asia.com/who-we-are.html , viewed 27th August 2013.
Solomon R. (2008), ‘The Art of Client Service’, published by Kaplan, New York, pp.105, viewed 2nd September 2013.
Solomon R. (2008), ‘The Art of Client Service’, published by Kaplan, New York, pp.108, viewed 2nd September 2013.
V. Kumar & Reinartz W. (2011), ‘Customer Relationship Management – Concept, Strategy and Tools’, 2nd edition, published by Springer, viewed 30th August 2013.

ALIEN BABIES AND ALLIES: FOSTERING UNDERSTANDING AND NEGOTIATING CONFLICT WITHIN AN AGENCY

When I was around 5 years old I got into the profession of playground dealing. My goods: Alien Babies. As with nearly every childhood obsession, Alien Babies were useless parental pocket emptiers, consisting of a rubber alien submerged in gelatinous goo and encased in a plastic egg. My partner in crime did the dealing, I spread the word, and trading began.

Clients stretched from the seesaw to the swings and soon enough the playground had a roaring black-market of sci-fi spawn. However, just as we had begun, we fell short in our inability to communicate effectively and yes, my business partner traded my prized egg. There were tears, and there was trouble (despite showing promise, childhood dealing isn’t quite encouraged). But, I came out of primary school realising that internal communication is key, and that alien babies were no longer cool.

Aforementioned Alien Babies, Reproduced from CraftyCrocodiles 2013

An advertising agency today isn’t far from a children’s playground. Managers oversee general behavior, media buyers sit reading and researching in the corners, and well, sometimes those account kids go and kick up a mess in the creative department’s sand pit. Advertising exists in its own retrospective microcosm.

“The one thing I can say about advertising is you don’t just do it as a job, you do it because you have a sense of passion. By it’s very nature there is always conflict.” said Joshua Lee, an account director at TBWA Vietnam.

Reproduced by Thaine 2013

Proof of life, Reproduced by Thaine 2013

Having moved to Vietnam this year as an Australian expat, Josh has experienced the initial stages of entering an establishment. Being the new kid to the playground can be tough, and the need to prove oneself is an evolutionary trait. Whereas some may feel the need to quickly woo clients, for Josh forging internal relationships is what always comes first when entering and working within an agency.

The advertising industry is service based, and therefore needs clients. Without clients there is no money, and it’s not rocket science to realise that without money, there is no agency. It’s this financial need that has driven much of the discourse surrounding client-agency relationships to become more client centric. “The client always comes first” and “the client is always right” are phrases that practically come as second nature to anyone in the industry.  But, what of the internal relationships within an agency? Should an agency prioritize its need for a relationship with its client, or its colleagues?

 Trust

“Trust within the company is a huge thing. Even more important than trust with clients” replied Josh.  “In Australia the biggest issue I’ve always faced is building trust, and once you have that, your job becomes a thousand times easier”.

In their article, The Enemies of Trust, Robert Galford and Anne Drapeau support this idea, suggesting that internal relationships are far more “complicated and fragile” as a result of the nature of trust within an organisation. When dealing with a client there should be few communicative channels, aiming to create a sense of communication synergy and in turn, trust (Galford & Drapeau 2003). However, within an agency, messages are being passed around rapidly, from accounts to secretaries, to creative and managers. Messages can get lost in the mix, particularly when conflicting goals come into play (Galford & Drapeau 2003).

Accounts vs. Creative

This notion of conflicting goals is one that theoretically should not occur within an agency, but without relationships or a sense of trust, do occur. Most notably it’s where creative and accounts teams collide.

When asked of this stereotypical clash between creative and accounts, Josh simply conceded in an agreeable nod and shrug of the shoulders, “as a member of the accounts team, I just want to find an idea that the client will buy, but the creatives don’t want that. They want to do the first this and that, and to push ideas”. Both creative and accounts ultimately aim to please the client and prove the agency among the industry, but as Josh discussed, both parties can have potentially conflicting forces, pulling them away, or ideally together.

Accounts vs. Creative, Reproduced from BrinnyArt 2011

To have a more account or creative driven agency does not denote conflict and negative performance, however. Darryl Ohrt of Humongo sees agencies as being one or the other, and outlines that its not about substituting and neglecting each team, but about the “over-arching philosophy that’s typically driven from the top of the organization chart” (Ohrt 2010). Whether that be idea, or client goal driven.

Unless you’re the American government, conflict is generally thought of as a detrimental and unnecessary thing. In advertising, however, it can be argued that a touch of tension here and there can lead to more productive work. When asking Josh about pressure and creativity, he responded by informing me that the creatives “absolutely need pressure”, even though this can come with a little conflict.

Donna Ambriano from Ogilvy’s creative department, agrees with this, and encourages an “open dialogue (and sometimes yelling), and the knowledge that we’re more than employed at the same company. We’re on the same team.” (Ambriano 2013) It’s through creating mutual understanding, and outlining common ground that trust can develop (Tovey 2013).

It’s an idea that Josh supports, stating that “It’s not uncommon to have fights…Often creative will be like ‘whatever’, who is this guy, but when they trust that you’re in it with them, great work gets done.”

Leadership

Resolving conflicts and balancing a company’s emotional quotient is easier said than done. Often it comes down to the way in which parties lead each other and use tactfully use criticism. The notion of transformational leadership, whereby the interaction between leader and follower is based on establishing goals and improving moral, is something I raised with Josh (McDowelle 2009).

Responding, Josh stated that when it comes to criticism, “everything has to be based on a really doable action”, and that any sort of berating can dissolve any sense of trust established, and without trust, how can a relationship prosper?

Working in advertising doesn’t mean that you have to be friends with everyone in your agency. Personality clashes are intrinsic to advertising’s nature, but that shouldn’t compromise trust and understanding. Working within an agency is about creating allies, not messing around with alien babies.

Words: 1019

Marcus Thaine is a final year Professional Communication student at RMIT University. Next year he hopes to begin work as a copywriter and welcomes any conflict with the accounts team.

References

Galford, R. and Seibold Drapeau, A. 2003. The Enemies of Trust. Harvard Business Review, Iss. Feburary 2003.

Mcdowelle, J. 2009. A Contemporary Consideration of Transformative Leadership. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, 3 (2).

Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide Blog. 2013. Working With Us: A Semi-Serious Take on the Account/Creative Relationship (From the Creative Perspective). [online] Available at: http://blog.ogilvychww.com/2013/03/01/working-with-semi-serious-take-accountcreative-relationship-creative-perspective/ [Accessed: 5 Sep 2013].

Ohrt, D. 2013. Is Your Agency Account-Driven or Creative-Driven?. AdAge, [online] 12 October. Available at: http://adage.com/article/small-agency-diary/advertising-agency-account-driven-creative-driven/146361/ [Accessed: 5 Sep 2013].

Principledselling.org. 2013. Building trust through understanding. [online] Available at: http://www.principledselling.org/2013/04/13/building-trust-through-understanding/ [Accessed: 5 Sep 2013].

Take risk and enjoy the journey!

– by Nguyen Le Thao My, s3373013

Needless to say, ‘Innovation’ is the key word for the era we are living in. People are so worn out with traditional standards and conservative concepts that what they seek from the business owners and services providers are creativity. In order to survive within this harsh marketplace, every leader should question themselves: how to be creative and motivate their employers to ride the company with no old tracks.

Reproduced from Creative Thinking 2012

Reproduced from Creative Thinking 2012

I still remember the first time I met her was in a beautiful Sunday morning, she came with her brightest smile and impressive stories which completely change my perception about leadership. That talented woman is Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh, founder and soul-captain of the restaurant series: ‘Wrap and Roll’. I was really surprised to know that she used to be Miss Sport Vietnam in 1993. Previously in my mind, a woman with a beauty crown on her head couldn’t do such things like running a business and managing over 300 employees. But just in very early minutes of the interview, I feel so shamed on that thought. Ms. Kim Oanh is undoubtedly an independent and intelligent woman. Without her, the culinary brand ‘Wrap and Roll’ with 12 stores in Vietnam, Singapore and Sydney could not build such a distinctive image to stand out from the crowd of this competing cuisine industry. 30 minute of the conversation about her precious leadership tips and real working experiences are more than what I expect to investigate my favorite topic: Leadership in Creativity Work.

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Ms. Oanh was having a photo shoot with Doanh Nhan Magazine when I came.
Photo by the author, 2012

  • HONEST and SENSITIVE

“First of all is the honesty between you and your partners”, Ms. Oanh said. In every relationship, the most important thing is the honesty. She believes the best way to respect and become well-cooperated with the employees is trying to be as concise as possible when talking about company’s missions and vision. “I don’t hide anything, my partners are deserved to know everything about the company they are working in – even its threats and challenges”, she confirmed. For example, if the brand’s mission are completely introduced and understood by every worker, they will feel more engaged to the company and eventually contribute their best effort to what they call – ‘their second home’.  And when there are any issues which threaten their ‘second home’, company’s problems will become their own problems and they will do anything to save it.

“Being a woman is an advantage for me to run Wrap & Roll because a woman is always sensitive.’’, she continued. “I always keep both my eyes and my heart open for every little details and signs.” Being sensitive helps her to carefully observe and realize the true abilities and weakness of each employee so that she can assign them with the most appropriate working vacancies, even it’s not the same with what they wrote in their CV or their previous jobs. As long as it helps my worker to make the best of their ability, I’m ready to change.” This flexible working manner is what makes her a transformational leader, who can bring out the best in individuals and encourage them to maximize their creativity. (Redmond, Mumford, & Teach, 1993)

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Wrap & Roll Designing Details
Photo by the author, 2013

  • DYNAMIC vs CONSISTENT

The creativity work could not be done based on shallow understanding about the marketplace. “Never stop researching and updating information about the public you target to.” she emphasized. “If you think that you know your audience so well, then it’s time for you to go out and refresh your data about them.” As long as the world’s trends and the consumer’s habit is changing every second of the day, a good leader will never just sit and wait but try their best to motivate the employee to be as much as dynamic as they can so that they will go out to observe, investigate and come back with the knowledge about what the consumers truly expect from the company. This working style will not only helping the leader to form an appropriate vision but also encouraging his/her workers, who now have deep understanding about the target public, to come up with their own creative ideas and solutions.

Besides, it would be wrong to think that a good leader doesn’t need a certain level of consistence. A leader her/himself should be the first one who has complete understanding and confidence toward the company’s mission and vision. By which, he/she will be able to communicate the message successfully to his/her partners and employees. “If your workers can see the certainty in your eyes when you talking about the company goals, they will fell more inspired and empowered to make it extraordinary.” Ms Oanh asserted.

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Magazine articles about the restaurant and certificates
Photo by the author, 2013

  • TAKE RISK and ENJOY THE RIDE

However, the creative ideas are not always easy to be practiced in real life and it is the leader’s responsibility to choose which one is deserved to give a try and take risk. Unlike other culinary brands, in 2009, Wrap and Roll was the pioneering restaurant series which was operated in foreign countries through the franchise process before the opening of its first store in Ha Noi. Such a risky decision, indeed, but Ms. Oanh conducted it with no hesitation. “The success of this risky move will prove with the market the preeminent quality of Wrap & Roll since the foreign customers are not familiar with Vietnamese traditional food and more selective than domestic client” she explained. “In business, sometimes you should get out of save zone and try walking on venturous path to enrich your creativity.” According to Jaussi & Dionne 2003, the leader’s risky action could empower the co-workers to act beyond the box and prevent from conservative thinking. Indeed, Ms. Oanh has become an unconventional leader and a role model for her partner to follow and stimulate emulation among them.

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Proof of life photo taken by Phong, 2013

After all, a comfortable working environment is the last thing that encourages people to work in innovative way. “It’s not final destination that matters, it’s the joyful moments we share with each other that bring success to Wrap & Roll, so enjoy the ride!

It’s obviously true that not everyone is born with creativity. Creativity is a skill that needs to be practiced, day by day. In order to inspire and motivate people to work innovatively and survive within the marketplace which always seek for renovation, a good leader should combine the values of both transformational and unconventional leader, who may be honest, sensitive, flexible and consistent at the same time but always share one mutual motto: ready to change and take risk. I truly admire Ms Oanh’s practical advice but I believe that in my future career, besides practicing the tip learnt from her experience, I will learn and develop my own leading styles. And maybe someday, I will talk to her again in conference room, like partner to partner.

Word count: 1126

Reference List

Creative Thinking 2012, Workshop Call for Participation, image, viewed 6 September 2013, <http://designthinkingworkshop2011.wordpress.com/>

Jaussi, K & Dionne, S 2003, ‘Leading for creativity: the role of unconventional leader behaviour’,The leadership quarterly, no. 14, pp.475-498

Redmond, R, Mumford, M & Teach J (1993), ‘Putting creativity to work: Leader influences on subordinate creativity, Organizational behavior and Human Decision Process, vol.55, pp.120-151

What clients seek

“I understand most agencies have their own guidelines for dealing with clients. They tell their client managers how to speak, what gestures to make and what to say, etc. This is all perfectly reasonable because at the end of the day, they need to have their services approved by their clients. How else are they going to make ends meet? Unfortunately, from my point of view, things start to get quite repetitive after a while and it turns out most pitches are similar to a certain extent. This makes them predictable and, I don’t mean to be rude, also rather boring. Thus, the ideas and pitches that stand out is the winner. Naturally, they have to be of, at the very least, decent quality, but as a rule of thumb, I’d say if you can dazzle, you will most likely win.”

Figure 1. Ms. Chi Tran (right). Photo taken by author.

Figure 1. Ms. Chi Tran (left). Photo taken by author.

Figure 2. Colgate-Palmolive Logo. Reproduced from Career Builder Vietnam.

Ms. Chi Tran is a Human Resources (HR) Director at Colgate-Palmolive Vietnam (Colgate). The paragraph above is a small portion of her answer when I asked her  how she would recommend communication agencies to approach the pitching phrase and also how to deal with their client afterwards. As an HR Manager, Ms. Chi and her team has held many internal events for the company’s staff and employees. These events are usually not very large and although I initially assumed Colgate can plan and execute them by themselves, it turned out the company actually has been recruiting the services of many domestic communication agencies to assist them in making these events as special as possible for the staff and employees.

Figure 3. Made to Stick. Reproduced from Amazon.

Surprisingly, Ms. Chi mentioned the book Made to Stick (Heath & Heath 2007) as soon as I asked her for advice on how to communicate effectively with my future clients. As part of my studies in Client Management at RMIT, Made to Stick was used as a reference point on many aspects of the task of managing a client, or many clients for that matter. Although she recommended the book because it contains many valuable lessons, she disapproves of how many people seem to think of it as the go-to guide for professional communication behavior and etiquette. To a certain extent, the book can even be considered the definition of effective communication, but in no way is it universally applicable.

“Made to Stick isn’t actually unique. There was Tipping Point in 2000 and just recently there was Contagious. These books are reference points, not guidelines. It is a given that you would want to be, most ideally, in the service of large multinational companies and giant conglomerates when you graduate. Keep in mind, however, that your clients, the ones you will be interacting with for most of the time, are individuals. Yes, you can read all about how to deal with people and how to persuade or appeal to them, but at the end of the day, there is no sure-fire way to anticipate human reasoning and behavior, at least not that I’m aware of.”

Figure 4. The Tipping Point. Reproduced from Wikipedia.

Figure 5. Contagious. Reproduced from New York Times.

It would appear, then, that the success of these books has become the downfall of whoever sticks to them too closely. They are so widely read and their instructions so commonly applied that clients have become “immune” to them. So if not even the critically applauded and best-selling Made to Stick, its spiritual predecessor The Tipping Point (Gladwell 2000) as well as its spiritual successor Contagious (Berger 2013) can reliably provide a to-do list that can guarantee a high level of success, what can agencies in general and, more specifically, client managers do to be in sync with their clients?

“Just leave out all the rest and focus on the now and next.”

Ms. Chi’s biggest gripe with most agencies is that sometimes they tend to focus too much on brandishing their past accomplishments and do not pay enough attention to the details that will get them the contract. Past accomplishments, achievements and awards are great to look back upon at the end of a tiring work day, but they play no part in guaranteeing a high quality project in the present and future. A vivid example for this line of reasoning can be observed in professional sports in which a team winning the title the previous year does not necessarily mean they will repeat as champions the coming year. Ms. Chi humorously called agencies who focused too much on what they have achieved in the past “shiners” because they tend to “shine” their trophies instead of looking forward to acquiring new trophies. In other words, they spend their time presenting to her and her colleagues why they are qualified for the job but not why the project will be a success in their hands. And no company is willing to commit a budget to a project without a clear picture of what it will actually be like.

“Try to do the presentation at our pace, not yours and keep it steady. Drive slow.”

In psychology, there is a theoretical basis for several cognitive biases called naive realism (Ross & Ward 1995). The social cognitive bias that Ms. Chi is most concerned of is the Curse of Knowledge coined by Robin Hogarth (Camerer, Loewenstein & Weber 1989), according to which better-informed individuals have difficulty thinking about certain matters from the perspective of lesser-informed people. When giving presentations, it is important to determine how much the client know about the subject matter being discussed and walk them through all the details step by step. This might sound simple enough but in reality, it is anything but. Over the course of her career, Ms. Chi has not had much problems with this but she said some of her colleagues (she did not reveal their names and positions) can easily be put off by phrases such as “obviously” or “as everyone knows”. Beware of the Curse of Knowledge, she said, because while we communication abstract terms and jargons for granted, the uninitiated will only be hearing opaque phrases (Heath & Heath 2006).

“Be presentable. It’s not good if your presentation looks better than yourself.”

I’ve observed that the communication industry requires less stringent dress codes. However, as Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man” (Atkins 2012). True, what we wear affects how we perceive ourselves, and how others perceive us as well. As future client managers, we will one day be representing our entire agency as we should make ourselves look as appealing to the client’s eyes as possible. Many people mistake being well-dressed for being dressed in expensive clothes. Nothing can be further from the truth. A dress from NEM will look just as good as one from Margiela if the wearer knows how to adorn it.

Although our interview was brief, it contained much useful information. Ms. Chi did not gave me many suggestions to take into the workplace, she only gave me the most relevant ones. I will end this blog with another of her gems.

“You should dazzle your client by working with purpose. Don’t be fancy. Simply and truthfully show your client who you really are and what you can really do because if they cannot be convinced by the real you, all the fancy extras in the world will not help you succeed.”

References:

Atkins, A 2012, “Clothes Make the Man”, Atkin’s Bookshelf, posted March 2012, viewed 5 September 2013, http://atkinsbookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/clothes-make-the-man/.

Camerer, C, Loewenstein, G & Weber, M 1989, “The Curse of Knowledge in Economic Settings: An Experimental Analysis”, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 97, No. 5, pp. 1232-1254.

Heath, C & Heath, D 2006, “The Curse of Knowledge”, Harvard Business Review, posted December 2006, viewed 5 September 2013, http://hbr.org/2006/12/the-curse-of-knowledge/ar/1.

Kakutani, M 2013, “Mapping Out the Path to Viral Fame”, New York Times, posted February 2013, viewed 5 September 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/books/contagious-why-things-catch-on-by-jonah-berger.html.

Ross, L & Ward, A 1996, “Naive Realism in everyday life: Implications for social conflict and misunderstanding”, in T Brown, ES Reed & E Turiel (eds), Values and knowledge, Taylor & Francis, New Jersey, USA, pp. 103-105.

Bibliography:

Berger, J 2013, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Simon & Schuster, New York, USA.

Gladwell, M 2000, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Little Brown, New York, USA.

Heath, C & Heath, D 2007, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Random House, New York, USA.

The power of Honesty

 

Words: Kim Thuy Vy (s3372963)

To many people, PR or advertising is a lie job, because they manipulate people’s behavior, and telling lie to others. As PR/Advertisers can promote, build reputation for many brands, so what is the core strategy to help them build their own reputation?

Jordan Nguyen, Account Director of Vero Public Relation shared with me his magical secret to brand yourselves, enhance reputation for agency, and to turn client, to loyal client.

His secret is simple: Be honest!

Trust is the foundation of every relationship, and without it, every business can easily be destroyed (Shapiro et al 1992). And to Jordan (2013), the foundation of trust is honesty.

“If agent wants to stand out in the crowed of many competitors, and become the trusted partners of clients, agents have to build the trust. To do that, be honest is the powerful way to build the trust relationship and gain credibility.” (Jordan 2013)

trust

Honesty is powerful than tons of trophies

Photo made by Bui Kim Thuy Vy 2012

A few years ago, on a campaign of U. Organization across 32 provinces, Jordan’s friend, who was in charge of following and keeping record of media broadcast of the U’s campaign in all 32 provinces. Unfortunately, she only kept 20 records of the end, and it was impossible to come back to all the other provinces to get the record back, despite the fact that they truly had the media covered the campaign.

She was too scared to tell the true to client U, so she faked the records, sent to client and pretended like nothing happened. The boss in U. Organization didn’t realize it, however, his subordinate found out. As a result, client was extremely angry and abandoned her from working or involving with any U. organization’s project. Of course, the agency received similar impacts with label “Dishonesty”, even they are the famous agency with many achievements in the past.

If she was brave, and told the truth to client, and ensure that the media had broadcasted but unfortunately they lost the records, and clients can call and ask these stations to check. Then, client may angry, but at least client understands that the account person was honest with them, instead of faking record and loses trust. And with trust, once you lose it, it’s gone forever (Jordan 2013).

Be honest: May lose client once, but will have them “forever”

Ok, forever is a little bit exaggeration, forever in here I mean “loyalty”.

I heard many questions about should we say “No” to client, or “Never say no to client”. However, when you are honest, “No” is “No”. When clients ask for something that you are not capable of, say “No”, not “Yes”, or “May be”.

Years ago, Susan, a long-time client of Jordan, who has worked with Jordan in 3 projects and very happy with his work, came and asked Jordan to do for her another project. However, at that time, Jordan was handling many projects and he could not have his original team at Golden to work for Susan. Thus, Jordan’s boss recommended him to work with outsources team. Jordan accepted Susan’s project with a new team, without informing Susan. What will come, will come, the project was terrible, the new team cannot understand client’s ideas well, and Jordan had difficult time in communication with his new team. Let’s think about what happens when Jordan was honest

  1. If Jordan told Susan about the problems, she may understand and try to solve the problem with Jordan, and the result may better, if not, she will accept it because she has go through with it.
  2. Or if Susan know and choose another team to work, surely she will work with Jordan in another project and Jordan still the number one option of Susan.

Unfortunately, Jordan chose to be dishonest, which broke the 5 years relationship with Susan, and this is the most regret things to Jordan, and it is nearly impossible to gain trust again. He advices us that if problems occurs during projects that account only can solve 50-60%, tell clients, they deserve to know and has responsible to solve problem together with agency. Thus, if the worst situation happens in the end, they cannot blame you for not telling them.

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Be honest with clients, they might go but surely they will come back

Photo by 123f.com 2012

Our case: Negotiation activities

I used to think that honesty is should not apply in negotiation, because you never know whether they will also be honest with you. And that cause lose – lose result for us in the negotiation activities of Client Management class, none of the team can achieve the compromise or collaborating deal.

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Photo made by Bui Kim Thuy Vy (2013)

The task was to buy enough amount targets of Daisy Flowers. Naturally, both of teams aim to win all, and get the best for their own. We lie and said the target higher than the real one, hided as much information as we could, and let the other team had to guess, and pray that other team will accept our proposal. At the end, both of the team lost, only till then, we saw the fact that both teams can achieve win-win situation. Then I realize, the reasons for our failure, is fail to be honest. If at the beginning, we were honest and exchange all information in the handout we got, we can gain the trust and solve problem together.

However, workplace is not the same within classroom.

honesty

Photo by fotos.com (2012)


Yes, honesty is the powerful magic that can apply in most cases to gain trust, build credibility, gain and enhance loyal relationship. However, Jordan provides some cases that we can be less honest with clients.

–          Minor problems during projects that already solved.

–          Your negative feeling about job position, subordinates, boss or company. Clients do not need to know.

–          Their appearances, past projects, past campaigns. If you intend to give negative comment, think twice, and rethink, provide rationale to support the comment is a must.

And remember, less honest doesn’t mean telling lie. You just don’t tell them what they don’t need to know.

Lie is the enemies of trust (Galford and Drapeau 2003). Especially in Viet Nam, and other Asian culture like China, we have a belief that: “When someone lies once, they will do it for thousand times”. Thus, re-build it will be thousand times harder than keep it.

Thus, in any situation, be honest or less honest, but don’t lie!

Proof of life photo taken by Amy Nguyen (2013)

Jordan Nguyen, Account Director of Vero Public Relation. Before working for Vero, Jordan has worked several years in Ha Noi. He had worked for Golden Communication Group for more than 5 years and has 8 years experiences in communication industry.

Word count: 1092

*Name of persons and organizations has been changed to ensure the ethical of this article.

References:
Galford, R & Drapeau, S 2003, ‘The Enemies of Trust’, Harvard Business Review, February, pp.88-95.

Shapiro, D.L. Sheppard, BH & Cheraskin, L 1992, ’Business on a handshake’, Negotiation Journal, October, pp. 365-377.

AVC Edelman: “We train our clients how to respect the agencies”

Listen to Ms. Tran Nga Vy, senior client executive of AVC Edelman, to understand the strategic ladder helping this local PR firm to climb to the top and stay at the high trust level with several multinational corporations.

 

In 2010, Tran Nga Vy started her academic education about communication within the one-year diploma degree of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry in major Marketing, PR and Advertising. However, her career experience in communication field has started since 2008 with three and a half years changing jobs frequently before stopping at AVC Edelman ever since June 2011. Within her varied experience working in the agency (VIVA Marketing) and the client (Coldwell Banker Vietnam) as well as the media (Crea-TV and Vietnam Supply Chain Insight Magazine), it is unsurprising for her deep knowledge about the relationship between all sides in communication industry, which assists her career as a client executive at AVC Edelman.

 

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Figure 1: Proof of life, reproduced by Pham 2013

After researching some necessary information about Vy as well as AVC Edelman, I met Vy at a coffee shop in downtown district 1 for dinner. Unlike other senior mentors I have approached before, she looks really younger than her actual age within 5-year experience in communication sector. Honestly, I did not even surprise with the condensed time length of the interview – around 40 minutes – due to her intense schedule as a senior communicator, but the contents of her stories did surprise me. Although it is undeniable that Vy has a sweet tone of voice with fascinating story-telling style, the “drama stories” about her experience working with clients is simply the hook itself.

 

“Each client is unique”

 images-2 Figure 2: Unique Content, reproduced from Wallace n.d

AVC Edelman allocates team members based on different industries in order to maximize the working productivity by concentrating on specific clients with distinctive characteristics. “For instance, Unilever is really demanding within their high expectations. The FMCG team members are frequently required to work overtime to immediately fix the communication products according to the changing mind of this client before sending to the media. Working until 1 or 2AM is too common.”, she said. “Nokia’s representatives are nicer. But the key features of the technology industry itself also demand us to chase of the fast-paced and constantly launch of new products.”

With a calm and peaceful expression, Vy’s talking about all the stress and difficulties when dealing with different kinds of client was like the most common thing in this world. At AVC Edelman, Vy and her colleagues comprehend the prerequisite to acquire the deep understanding about clients as the key factor to maintain the high trust level. Galford and Drapeau (2003) state that it takes long time to build trust but just a moment to break it down. Also agreed on the fragileness of trust, Kramer and Tyler (1996) mention that the shortage of knowledge about each other is the initial factor to damage the mutual trust. Simply put, the understanding about our partners helps us anticipate their desires and behaviours so as to efficient the collaboration (Kramer & Tyler 1996). Hence, it could be said that AVC Edelman maintains the good relationship with a vast amount of clients because they understand and appreciate their clients’ need.

 

“The best way to deal with unexpected demands is to make clients respect us”

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Figure 3: Respect others and they will respect you, reproduced from Sebastian n.d

Sound strange but true! “Trust comes from both sides.”, said Vy. Hence, if our clients do not respect us as much as we appreciate them, how could trust be built? AVC Edelman is considered as the pioneering agency in training clients to respect their agencies in return. Unlike the traditional paying system based on the quantity and quality of products, clients of AVC Edelman are requested to pay for our team’s effort according to the time length spent for certain campaigns. “By this method, clients will have an opportunity to think twice before asking us to change any work according to their subjective viewpoints.”

Many would argue that this strategy against the common norm is service industry that “clients are the God”, meaning all the clients’ requests are needed to be satisfied. Solomon (2008) also suggests that we, as the agency, could not either say “no” directly to clients or to promise the things beyond our abilities. Hence, the “loving relationship” between client and agency requires the negotiation and mutual respect on the partners’ values to achieve the win-win situation, which both sides gain the agreed benefits, as well as maintain mutual trust.

However, the theories might not always be true. “We used to say “no” to a big client (hidden name) after wasting 6 months working on their campaign without attaining any agreements on any works. Fortunately, this case rarely occurs to AVC Edelman.”

 

“The fall of advertising and the rise of PR”

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Figure 4: The fall of advertising and the rise of PR, reproduced from Admin 2008

Our conversation touched some main points of this book, particularly in the case of AVC Edelman within Vietnam industry. Despite the never-ending controversy around this topic, Vy and I agree on two features of PR, leading to the advantages of PR firms compared to advertising agencies, including the low-cost and the utilization of social media. Initially, comparing the cost of TVC and print ads to the payments of media relations and press releases, we could see the clear distinction. Furthermore, the dramatic growth of social media has significantly changed the order of communication world (Ries & Ries 2002).

An illustration of this is Starbucks – the big brand with limited budget. There is a funny fact that even AVC Edelman’s PR executives could not expect the enormous explosion of Starbucks on Facebook since this campaign costs an extremely small budget. AVC Edelman simply invited the media, including the “hot bloggers” with the vast number of following users on social media, via private relationships to enjoy the coffee and write feedbacks without any costs. And suddenly Starbucks became a bomb on the Internet.

 Vy also mentioned the role of PR agencies as the first responder for clients, especially in developed countries. Concisely, in Western nations, clients frequently consult with PR executives to set up the strategic communication plan before the PR agencies contacts other advertising agencies as well as the media according to that plan. “AVC Edelman has been applying that model to assist our clients. We believe that the strategic consultation will help AVC Edelman to climb from temporary partners to the more committed and trusted forms of relationship.”

 

It is still too soon to conclude that the end of advertising is coming. AVC Edelman, as a Vietnamese innovative PR agency, has been applying the global models with aims of enhancing the advantages of PR strategies to benefit the clients. Unilever is a big brand. Starbucks is also a big brand. Hence, they would never choose AVC Edelman without reasons. And AVC Edelman has been constantly improving those reasons for more trusted partners.

Word count: 1088

 

References:

Admin 2008, ‘Book nook: The fall of advertising and the rise of PR’, image, Talkincblog, 4 August, viewed 06 September 09, <http://talkincblog.com/2008/08/book-nook-“the-fall-of-advertising-the-rise-of-pr”/>.

Galford, R & Drapeau, AS 2003, ‘The enemies of trust’, Harvard Business Review, February 2003, viewed 06 September 2013, <http://hbr.org/2003/02/the-enemies-of-trust/ar/1>.

Kramer, RM & Tyler, T 1996, ‘Trust in Organization: Frontiers of Theory and Research’, SAGE Publications, California, chapter 7, pp. 114 – 118.

Pham, MS 2013, ‘Proof of life’, image, Cine Cafe, HCMC.

Ries, A & Ries, L 2002, ‘The fall of advertising and the rise of PR’, Harper Collins Publishers, Canada.

Sebastian n.d, ‘Respect others and they will respect you’, image, Values, viewed 06 September 2013, <http://www.values.com/your-billboards/29159-Respect-Others-And-They-Will-Respect-You>.

Solomon, R 2008, ‘The art of client service, Kaplan, New York, chapter 41, pp. 105 – 106.

Wallace, R n.d, ‘Unique Content’, image, Strategy For SEO, viewed 06 September 2013, <http://www.strategy4seo.com/tag/unique-content/>.

 

 

 

The “once upon a time” story of trust from fairytales to modern life.

Words and interview by Nguyen Minh Phuc (s3394135)

I’m sure nearly everyone who went through their wonderful childhood has ever heard about the bedtime story of a mermaid falling in love with a prince and they live happily forever after. It is a Disney Channel movie named “The little mermaid”. In order to get into the surface and seek for her true love, Ariel the mermaid exchanges her beautiful voice for becoming a human for three days to Ursula, the evil mermaid witch with the belief that the witch would only use it for the harmless purposes. However, things turn out to be not very good when Ursula use this contract to trick Ariel’s father, who is the king of the ocean and plans to revenge and rules the sea.

Now, I guess you are wondering why I spend a lot of words to tell this story. Well, it is to show that in term of business, some bad agencies can take advantage of the vague contracts as well as clients’ trust for their own benefits. This could lead to the problem that “clients started to become more and more suspicious and hard to put faith on other agencies, especially when it comes to important deals” as Mr. Jerry Thach, my interviewee said. He is currently working as Vietnam project manager at Cloud 9 production, a company specializes in producing short films. With five years of experience in working with various clients, he will talk about many kinds of trust as well as the brief way to gain and regain it.

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Figure 1: Mr. Jerry Thach, Project Manager at Clould 9 Production (photo provided by interviewee)

Long term versus short term trust.

Trust obviously is very important since it is the foundation of every relationship. In term of business, the bond between employers and employees within a firm as well as business man with others is built and maintained by trust. In fact, without it, the whole economic system would collapse and never be able to develop itself (Shapiro, Sheppard & Charaskin 1992).

In the interview, Mr. Jerry mentioned that there consists short term and long term trust. Asides from knowing client to identify the right target audience, he noticed that: “Short term trust is similar to first impression while long term one appears after time of working and having faith with your counterparts”. Without short term trust, known as first impression, agency will never be able to establish further relationships (Hall 2009).

Mr. Jerry pointed out that the key to gain impression in this situation is to be able to control your agency’s information and images toward public as well as your clients. “Inexperienced agencies often let their negative information and rumor spread out freely in the Internet and media devices; therefore, from the beginning, due to the underestimation of media power, they have failed to keep and obtain clients’ trust “.

“And it’s even harder to maintain trust”, my interviewee shared, “Once you got the faith of client, it’s crucial to develop it in order to achieve long term trust”. In this state, what agencies do, commit, promise and agree with their clients will determine the relationships. An agency that put effort on their clients’ request and achieve elements such as: timeliness, efficiency, the ability to go through obstacles and get the committed result would have a higher chance to be long-term trusted by their customers. Significantly, being proactive, anticipating clients’ need and actively respond to it will help the agency have a better outcome (Beverland, Farrelly & Woodhatch 2007).

Image

Figure 2: Reproduced from Mick (2012)

Affective trust and cognitive trust.

As Mr. Jerry mentioned about affective and cognitive trust, I was very surprised. I didn’t expect to hear such a deep analysis comes from him, it was an exciting experience. My interviewee calls affective trust as the emotional trust which does not depend on consciousness of human mind. I found two authors which support his statement: Webber and Klinmoski (2004) where they claimed that it relies on emotional bond between people and people without further requirements. The second type is cognitive trust, in which characteristics, knowledge and other elements come from people personal lives and education background can affect their decision. It also called condition trust. Mr. Jerry explained that these two factors are similar to long term and short term trust; however, these kinds of trust is very difficult to identify and measure as they are in different level in each individual. He also said that affective trust and cognitive trust always come together in almost every relationship, even though sometimes one will take the priority toward other.

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Figure 3: Mr. Jerry with Mr.Hung Cuu Long, CEO – Owner of Cuu Long Jewelry (photo provided by interviewee)

Say “no” to clients:  the two-edged knife.

“An agency has its own ability and cannot always meet the clients’ demands;” my interviewee stated, “therefore, saying no to them is inevitable.” He also shared that in this case, what agency should do is being honest, admit that the company cannot fulfill it, explain about the strong aspects of the agency and provide possible solutions. Nevertheless, it is “two-edged knife”. When agency is honest to their clients, either they would feel a bit uncomfortable but still trust agency or might judge the ineffectiveness of this firm and decide to stop working with them.

Trust: hard to build, easy to destroy and extremely hard to rebuild.

“Trust always exists”, Mr. Jerry stated at the end of the interview, “it just constantly change the way it functions.” With seven years of working and five years as manager for many companies, through Mr. Jerry’s experiences, he provided me with three points that a client managers should know. They are prestige, personality and personal background. “Prestige and personal background allow client to know little about you when they decided to approach their counterpart. From these, you create credibility to make your client feel comfort and secure.” However, according to my interviewee, the manager’s personality turns out to be the most important element. “You cannot always talk about business. Going out, having fun, showing that you also want to be more than a business partner with client. Remember their birthday, sing some songs. Clients are human too, they will appreciate your effort and even though you might not have a contract with them, they will still have a good impression on you. And that is when trust started to emerge.”

One of the fastest ways to lose trust is to provide “inconsistent messages” (Galford & Drapeau 2003). As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, agencies must strive to complete clients’ requests as well as keeping their commitments. Mr. Jerry emphasized that in order to regain trust, “we should clearly identify the situation as well as understand the nature of problem.” From that, agency must provide a solution to solve the issue. “But first, whether how hard it is, agency must admit their failure and show the will to fix the problem to the client.” Clients only give only one change, it is the job for agencies to take advantage of it. Mr. Jerry suddenly stopped and after a while, he smiled and concluded that “And maybe, after showing the honesty to fix the problem, clients would put greater faith on you, but it is more fragile like a mirror that reflects yourself.”

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Figure 4: Poof of Life (taken by Hieu Tran)

Word count: 1147

 

References:

Beverland, M, Farrelly, F & Woodhatch, Z 2007, “Exploring the Dimensions of Proactivity within Advertising Agency-Client Relationships”, Journal of Advertising, vol. 36, no. 4, pp.49-60.

Galford R & Drapeau AS 2003,’The Enemies of Trust’, Harvard Business Review, Ferbruary, pp.88-95.

Galford R & Drapeau AS 2003,’The Enemies of Trust’, Harvard Business Review, Ferbruary, pp.88-95.

Hall, M 2009, Soft skills at work: First impression may be the last impression, if you aren’t careful, Annapolis, United States, Annapolis.

Mick, C 2012, ‘Trust Flow in SEO’, image, viewed 22 August 2013, <http://searchfactory.com.au/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/shutterstock_65871343.jpg>

Shapiro DL, Sheppard BH & Cheraskin L 1992, ’Business on a Handshake’, Negotiation Journal, October, pp. 365-377.

Webber SS & Klimoski RJ 2004, ‘Client–project manager engagements, trust, and loyalty’, Journal of Organizational Behavior, vol. 25, pp. 997-1013.

 

 

 

Client Planning verdict: Creative Localization versus Selling in Saturated Markets

Interviewed by Pham Hung Hau – s3360661

Illustrations by Nguyen Thi Thuy Linh – s3309990 

In early 2013, Starbucks stirred up Vietnam’s coffee retailing market with its grand entrance. The Seattle-based coffee giant brought with it a yet another massive challenge to the local oligopoly, whose saturation is already troubling the players, most notably Trung Nguyen. Much anticipation heaped up on whether the international agent would strive and if the locals could weave through the increasingly saturated market. While it would take time for the answer to unveil, I am intrigued to make an educated guess on who will struggle more: Starbucks in its localization or Trung Nguyen in their selling effort. This calls for a discursive study of client planning. I was lucky to have come into acquaintance with Ngo Minh Thuan, founder of DNA Digital, in this little quest of mine. Despite my seemingly tactless approach (it’s chronic, ugh) for an interview on this topic, fantastic Mr. Thuan promptly agreed to “inspire” me, personally and professionally.

“I started my career without knowing it would be my career”

Me and Thuan at DNA Digital Office. Proof of life taken by DNA's receptionist.

Me and Thuan at DNA Digital Office. Proof of life taken by DNA’s receptionist.

I and Thuan met in his “violet-ish” office. DNA is not very extensive; there are only twenty-something people. These digital natives, however, are devoted to bettering people’s experience in the spirit of passion and digital craftsmanship. It took us more than ten minutes to “warm up” with Thuan’s journey into the Communication industry. Entering college, young Mr. Thuan studied Web Design and Programming at Ho Chi Minh University of Polytechnic. His first experience with communication was in 2006 when he was involved in a digital campaign for Heineken. Soon after that, he got caught up into understanding what people think, triggering their excitement, and manipulating the ideas. “In a sense, I started my career without knowing that it would be my career.”

Although primarily a creative guy, he was also often involved in dealing with client, making him a well-rounded service provider – working creatively, logically (planning), and socially (client managing). It was therefore convenient for me to consult Thuan on the topic of client planning.

The client planning verdict

Agreeing that it’s hard to deny the importance of client planning, Thuan noted that the autonomy is not always with the agency. Often, the planning comes from the client and the agency’s job is to make additional comments based on acquired customer insights. “Often,” that is.

“I personally prefer working for international brands trying to localize to consulting local brands striving for sales in a saturated market; the ‘often’ is more frequent and in better quality,” said cheeky Thuan.

He later explained that the global clients have a better grip of what they want and keep clearer alignments of the job. Mr. Gary Woollacott (Casul 2012) of Opus Executive Search also shared a similar client service tip: “Do your own hard work.” This, in my opinion, has to go both ways. In order for client planning to effectively play out, the client must have an established self-awareness (vision, objectives, goals, etc.) and, at the same time, leave room for the agency to “play” with their own “hard work” (i.e. giving them problems, not the solutions) (Solomon 2008).

While, at the other end, not many local clients do a good job in this regard. Thuan described his working with a local telecom company as “painful” and “dull:” “They had their own agenda, which was heavily government-based, and left room for neither creativity nor strategic planning.” In other cases, the clients fail to understand their own business. Let’s talk Trung Nguyen.

Now let’s all agree Trung Nguyen is a coffee powerhouse and they don’t need to worry about making money. But as Starbucks has come in, their market share will surely shrink one way or another. When their cash cows can only be so big, they will need to turn to the question marks/problem children (Morrison & Wensley 1991). It, then, comes back to selling in a saturated market.

“The problem with Trung Nguyen is that they are focusing on the wrong lines of product (a ha, SBU!) and making wrong propositions,” said Thuan. He thinks that it’s ineffective to sell “creative coffee” and try to go global when the domestic sale is not yet optimized. “In essence, Trung Nguyen is not taking the right steps.”

For these reasons, Thuan concluded that selling in a saturated market is tougher than localizing a global brand. I second it. Starbucks 1 – 0 Trung Nguyen.

But what are these steps Thuan is talking about? Why is Trung Nguyen making it wrong?

Although a coffee giant, Trung Nguyen will have to turn to their problem children/question marks and "puppies" for sales when their stars start to age and their cows have no more room to grow. Illustration by author.

BCG Matrix: Although a local coffee powerhouse, Trung Nguyen will have to turn to their problem children/question marks and “puppies” for sales when their stars start to age and their cows have no more room to grow. Illustration by Linh Nguyen.

From a theoretical perspective

To answer the above questions, I consulted the Ansoff Matrix, a key point in the scope of client planning (Watts, Cope & Hulme 1998; Keane & Casul 2010). I believe Thuan was referring to this particular market expansion grid.

For Starbucks (and other global brands trying to enter a local market), the steps they take are more or less in a singular sequence: they take existing products to a new market (market development), develop their products to appeal to the local customers (product development), then work towards optimizing sales (market penetration).

Whilst, for local brands like Trung Nguyen, they have two route options to choose from. Starting with the existing market and products, they can either choose to develop their products or acquire a new market with what they already have.  It’s not always good to have options; you can either go with the wrong one, or cannot choose and go with both (what Trung Nguyen does). Even when you choose the right one, there’s doubt that prevents you from fully committing to your choice (Curry, Ringland & Young 2006). This predicament is popular in many markets and thus is highly possible for Trung Nguyen to be caught up into. The predicament also means a more challenging job for the agency when planning, for the client’s preferred route may not be the best one (Solomon 2008). To add, as Thuan noted, it’s hard to go against the client’s agenda, especially local ones.

Starbucks 2 – 0 Trung Nguyen.

Global brands (Batsy) have a singular path, while local players like Trung Nguyen (Spidey) have to choose from two route options.

Global brands (Batsy) have a singular path, while local players like Trung Nguyen (Spidey) have to choose from two route options in the Ansoff Matrix, which may complicate the planning task. Illustration by Linh Nguyen.

Concluding remarks

All that being said (and scores kept), it is not yet possible to definitively answer whether it is harder to localize global products or to sell in saturated markets. Based on Thuan’s sharing and contextualizing from theories, it is predictable that it is more of a challenge for the agencies to help local clients to strive in saturated markets. This is due to the local client’s lack of self-awareness, failure in prioritizing their SBUs, and dilemma in choosing the right step in their market expansion quest. As agencies, we can only help them with the last two problems, given their collaboration.

What would you suggest if you are to do a strategic planning for Trung Nguyen?

Word count: 1,109

References

Casul, M 2012, Work Prep for Client Service Managers, video recording, viewed 10 May 2013, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEtCRTnFh2c&feature=share&list=PLffF0z7scp3wothQixoO0p0tCnz_nJsad>.

Curry, A, Ringland, G & Young, L 2006, ‘Using scenarios to improve marketing’, Strategy & Leadership, vol. 34, issue 6, pp. 30-37.

Keane, A & Casul, M 2010, ‘Client Planning’, course notes for COMM2384 Client Management, RMIT University, Ho Chi Minh, viewed 9 May 2013, Blackboard@RMIT.

Morrison, A & Wensley, R 1991, ‘Boxing up or Boxed in?: A Short History of the Boston Consulting Group Share/Growth Matrix’, Journal of Marketing Management, vol. 7, issue 2, pp. 105-129.

Solomon, R 2008, The Art of Client Service, Kaplan Publishing, New York.

Watts, G, Cope, J & Hulme, M 1998, ‘Ansoff’s Matrix, pain and gain: Growth strategies and adaptive learning among small food producers’, International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, vol. 4, issue 2, pp. 101-111.

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