The Friday interview series continues with George Bounacos from Silver Beacon Marketing who says that "few understand the intersection of art and science and why agency fees run at the level they do"...
Online professional since the mid 1980s, specializing in startups and small businesses. Past successes include early stage exec at Carfax.com, lead generation services and Silver Beacon Marketing.
Q5 Do you work on the agency side or client side?
Q6 What makes a good agency/client relationship?
There must be trust and a compensation structure that equally involves both parties in risk and reward.
Q7 What’s your best tip for building a good agency/client relationship?
The small business segment in which we specialize requires considerable relationship building which eventually builds trust to the necessary level for both to succeed. This isn't a tactic, but must be a way of life for your agency. We've found that hunters for new business and farmers for successful retention are absolute musts.
Q8 Have you ever been in a difficult agency/client relationship? If so, were you able to improve the situation? How?
While running a lead gen business, a client called to cancel because their site and campaigns had been neglected over time. The client quickly made multiple legal and financial threats, and the relationship was teetering on the brink of costing us both too much money. After almost daily calls and hours of working together, I took personal charge of the account and changed their business within two months. They eventually grew too big -- and asked us to slow down because they decided they had grown just big enough. The sweetest part was when they offered a written testimonial for our site and trade show booth as well as offering to be a referral to others in the same market or category.
Q9 What do you wish clients understood about agencies? What do you wish agencies understood about clients?
From the agency side, knowing that clients understood that the best agencies don't throw campaigns against the wall in the hopes something will stick would be wonderful. Any time any agency starts talking about creative, everyone else in the room becomes an expert, but few understand the intersection of art and science and why agency fees run at the level they do.
As for agencies, we are always conscious of our client's cash flow. Working with small businesses, we make a commitment to fund future growth from our efforts in generating profit, not clicks or calls or even revenue. But every client we work with has at least one story about an agency that burned them financially and almost took the business down. Agencies must understand that we are on the brink of being hailed as heroes or vilified as the sleaziest businesspeople ever -- and the choice is ours based on our actions.
Q10 How can agencies add value for clients?
Most clients in our small business space are great at doing one thing: offering a product or service. By helping them understand concepts like product development, segmentation and sometimes even finance, we can help them bridge the gap of living month-to-month to signing long-term retainers.
Q11 How can clients get the best out of their agencies?
Clients should be up-front with their expectations for agencies and then insist upon written metrics that are configured to the client's specifications and deal with profit. For either business, everything but profit is secondary.
Q12 Have you noticed any recent trends in agency/client relationships?
As search engines become more ubiquitous in every facet of a client's typical workday, the familiarity seems to lead clients to believe they understand more about the search world than they really do. The proliferation of free tools coupled with that knowledge is a very dangerous thing. More clients are also asking about metrics that are defined by the free tools or analytics packages, rather than the metrics that change their business.
Q13 Which past agency or client was the best to work with? (Past relationships only, please.)
StopPoliticalCalls.org was generating an amazing amount of media attention during the 2008 presidential primaries, but their potentials sometimes got lost when finding the site. We helped brand the site (developing the domain name) and ran geo-targeted campaigns throughout key primary states as robocalls invaded consumer homes. Working with the organization was great because they were active in social media and knew traditional marketing, but also laid out a budget and told us to jump into PPC. To work in such a dynamic environment where one candidate suddenly changes and targets a new city and getting that intelligence from the client was a fun challenge to solve. And since the client understood marketing, but wanted to focus on other efforts, we were able to quickly communicate results without having to educate or explain. That made both organizations more nimble and effective.
Adversarial Agency/Client Relationships
Partnership Agency/Client Relationships
Confused Agency/Client Relationships
Integrated Agency/Client Relationships
Imbalanced Agency/Client Relationships