Everyone wants to be the quarterback — the agency that signs a client and is ushered right into the C-suite to serve as the backbone of the client’s marketing strategy.
Your agency loves clients like these because they value the same thing you do: the work. They expect you to be the workhorse of their marketing department that can do it all, which leads to a partner dynamic rather than a vendor relationship.
According to an Agency Management Institute report, these “looking for love” clients make up 29 percent of companies out there. And while you probably enjoy working for these companies, they might not be the best for your agency.
Demanding, Fickle Clients Are Actually More Profitable
The AMI report identified another subset of organizations looking for agencies: the clients who like to play the field. These clients see their agencies as a necessary evil, not a core part of the team.
They usually look for specialists, rather than generalists (such as PR or SEO), and often have a number of agencies on retainer at the same time. They tend to be fickle and apt to change agencies frequently — even if their current agency is doing a good job.
These clients won’t give you the warm fuzzies, but they can come with big benefits in terms of pricing, budgeting, and time commitment.
Because playing-the-field clients are specifically looking for tactical expertise, you don’t have to work hard to sell them on your agency. They already know what they need, and they wouldn’t be talking to you unless they’d recognized your ability to fulfill that need. These clients also tend to have bigger budgets and are willing to pay a premium for your brand of expertise, which means larger billings, more work, and increased margins.
Predictive ROI, for instance, has a patent-pending process of creating measurable lead-generation programs; this process enables the agency to predict the ROI of each program it sells. Predictive ROI rarely has to compete against other agencies, and its clients often ask to increase their budgets.
Because your agency will be laser-focused on its area of expertise when working with these types of clients, there’s a smaller risk of scope creep or those “small,” time-consuming requests that fall outside your core competency.
How to Land Fickle Specialist Seekers
So how do you land these demanding, fickle clients who like to play the field? Obviously, you need to be the best at what you do. These clients are on the lookout for award-winning agencies that have gained industry recognition within their specialty.
To attract attention, you need to develop your team’s expertise. Hire specialists, not marketing generalists, then invest in continual training to keep them on the cutting edge.
Once you’ve got the best team in place, you need to take the time to market your expertise. Make sure everything you put out there — your website, social media, bios, and case studies — showcases the specialty you want to sell. Create killer content through blogging, guest posting, infographics, and podcast appearances, and work to develop a reputation as a thought leader in your specialty.
Nancy Marshall of Nancy Marshall Communications does this brilliantly. Her agency focuses on PR, and Nancy has positioned herself as an expert through blogs, boot camps, guest posts, and speaking engagements.
If you decide to go after clients who play the field, charge them on a per-project basis instead of a retainer fee. Higher price points will help keep your agency in the black if a client decides to leave suddenly.
Finally, check your ego at the door. To please these clients, your agency is going to have to get comfortable playing the part of the well-paid vendor and working with other agencies on the client’s team.
Fickle clients can be tough to work for, but the freedom to focus on your specialty and charge more could make them the best clients you’ve ever had.
Images: Jasper van der Meij