By agency lingo, I’ve lived most of my professional life on the ‘client side’ of the equation. I was always the one evaluating, hiring and managing agencies and never really thought much about what happens day to day on the agency side. Having just jumped over to the agency world, I now see projects through a new lens.
Now, I rely on some key strategies in my arsenal of experiences that help me empathize with clients and ultimately serve them better. I’ve certainly walked many miles in client-side shoes, and despite blisters, bunions and uneven tread wear, I lean on three lessons learned to help CMOs maximize their agency investments.
Master the game of chess
As a CMO you live in an always-on game of chess. Plotting strategy to include stakeholders, meet peer and customer expectations, internalize feedback and figure out how to bring an organization together around defining who they are relative to the market. Most agencies don’t understand that their number one job is helping you play the game well. They often think of the CMO or head of marketing as the one stakeholder who owns final approvals. And they rarely ask, “How can I help you get this through?” or, “What blockers are you facing?” as they try to land on the right messages, colors and even font style. Your agency should be your chess partner thinking 10 steps ahead with you. And that’s really only possible if they know how the game works. #TheQueen’sGambit
Most agencies don’t understand that their number one job is helping you play the game well.
Look in the mirror, ideally without makeup
At my age, the annual dermatologist visit is the most terrifying day of the year. Even worse than tax day. Shining a super bright light on my makeup-free face exposes everything and reveals your wrinkles, blemishes and moles.
On the client side, we always have our make-up on. We talk to ourselves about ourselves and serve as cheerleaders and champions of our products and services. We have to drink our own champagne for sure. What we think about ourselves is interesting, but more often than not, it’s not aligned with what our customers, prospects and influencers think about us or what they are looking for in a solution. A good agency partner will hold up a mirror to your bare face and reflect what is there. But don’t freak out! Their job is to help cover the blemishes, smooth the wrinkles, and highlight your best features so you can shine. If your agency parrots everything you say, fire them and go find a good dermatologist.
Be a Babel Fish
Any Douglas Adams fan remembers the Babel Fish that helped poor Arthur Dent decipher Vogon. (For non-fans, a Babel Fish, when placed in your ear, enables one to instantly understand anything spoken in a different form of language. Read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for more. It’s a great book.) A really good agency will quickly learn and speak your language. Call products by their code names. Reference people and customers and business challenges as if they were inside the walls of the organization with you. If they don’t, they haven’t been inside, making it hard to empathize with your journey and partner with you effectively.
Every single employee at Park & Battery has lived on the inside. They’ve been the client. They know how to play chess, hold up a mirror and they are all Douglas Adams fans – or at least they act as Babel Fish. This is why I joined. And this is why you should give us a call to discuss your marketing needs. Literally, we’ve been there, done that from the outside in.