I never thought a LinkedIn post would remain engrained in my memory as much the famous Monique Drummond post of April 2018. Monique, Founder of Relish, posted about the lack of professional respect some client-side insight professionals give agencies and how this impacts on the relationship. At the time the post got a lot of attention by those in the industry with over 42,000 views – and quite rightfully so.
As a client-side insight professional myself, it got me thinking; was I also guilty of this type of poor behaviour? Am I ever inadvertently rude to my insight partners or cavalier with their time? If I asked them for honest feedback, would they feel able to give this? If I tapped into my own memory would I even tell myself the truth? Instead I thought about what steps are key to maintaining professional respect whenever I send out insight briefs.
- Do you need an insight partner to help you sell in the project to your stakeholders?
Great insight professionals have both reactive and proactive projects. I’ve nearly always had to sell in insight projects to stakeholders, and on occasion been asked to commission insights upon request. Sometimes I need my agency to work with me to sell a project in, but at other times, I already have a secured budget.
It is good practice to make it clear which one at the outset. When I’m selling in a project, I prefer to select just one of my agency partners to work with, taking an hour or two of their time to brainstorm a solution, and for them to give me a ballpark cost. This keeps my use of their valuable time to a minimum. From this, I draft the one pager sales pitch myself, asking my chosen insight partner to review before communicating to my stakeholder. You should do this with a single trusted partner or go it alone. Great insight partners will support you on this and welcome your honesty. If you manage to secure the budget, don’t be rude and pitch that project out to other suppliers or bring it in-house. If client siders do that to you, we as an industry need to do more to protect agencies from this behaviour – because we all know it happens.
- What is the budget?
When budget has been allocated to the insight project, share this with your insight partners. I hear many client-siders failing to do so and coming up with excuses like ‘TBC’ or ‘it depends on what you come back with’. Client-siders only write this into briefs when they still haven’t sold the job in or they don’t trust the insight partners to make the best use of their money. If it is the latter then you need to review your roster, as the trust is clearly not there. Client-siders always have a ceiling price they can share, and in return insight partners should give a tiered pricing option.
- Who & What decides?
There is always an official and unofficial list of who will influence the decision as to which insight partner to go with. Share that list of names with the agencies that are pitching. Some of the decision makers will have a preferred agency they wish to work with due to a pre-existing bias; previous experience or personal relationships. I appreciate this is difficult to communicate, but again, honesty always pays. I’m not saying that you need to include a table of decision makers and their preferred agency, but a quick informal call will the agency would be both forthright and fair.
It is also important to communicate the criteria on which the proposals will be judged, and ultimately awarded. Regardless of the size of the job, the criteria needs to be clearly stated in the brief, to ensure everyone has best opportunity to shine, and ultimately so the insight partner can recommend the best response.
If the insight partner pitches and doesn’t win the job, drop them a note or pick up the phone as soon as you’ve made the decision, let them know and tell them why. As a client-sider this should be in your job spec, so please, just do it. Don’t put this at the bottom of your to-do list, it really should be more than half-way up as it has two distinct benefits.
First, the next time you ask them to submit a proposal, you want this to be an even better solution, ultimately serving you and your stakeholder’s needs. Constructive, open feedback will achieve more than mutual respect and a better relationship with your agency partners. But let’s not forget the second reason – ‘what goes around, comes around’ – you never know when you may one day be agency side yourself.
So #MRX be kind, respect each other’s time and be open and honest throughout the entire pitching process (however big or small the project). My own experience is that your work, outputs and relationships with your agency partners will reap the rewards.