Remember. It’s A Marathon Not A Sprint

Simon Quarendon | July 22, 2020

Many agencies are in a febrile state right now. Holding onto existing clients – at all costs – has probably replaced trying to find net new clients. What is a net new client anyway and why can’t it just be a new client? Familiarity, if it doesn’t breed contempt, can certainly induce boredom. And that can be terminal for any relationship. marathon not sprint

Agency leaders, then, need to keep reminding staff of the benefits of doing an excellent job for their existing clients, day-in day-out, month-in month-out and yes, ideally, year-in and, you guessed it, year-out.

(For those agencies lucky enough to be working with Procter & Gamble, Unilever or General Motors, stamina pays off; these brand owners have had relationships with agencies going back to 1922 or earlier.)

So what does it take to keep the team focused on the existing as opposed to the shiny new?

You could give them the facts. Acquiring a new customer can cost upwards of five times more than retaining an existing customer. Increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits from 25-95%. The success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is 5-20%.

Or you could try something new. Here’s my three top tips.

Debriefs are a good thing

Many of us will have seen the RAF’s Red Arrows display team roaring overhead at some event or function. All the pilots are highly experienced RAF officers with hundreds of flying hours logged on aircraft such as Tornadoes, Typhoons or Hawker Hunters.

Enough experience, you might think, to not bother attending a debrief after every display. Not a bit of it. The teams go straight from the aircraft to attend a debrief on their performance. Their objective? To put on a display of even better quality next time.

(Click here to watch a video shot by a former Red Arrow who gives a useful insight into why they value these debriefs).

Of course, the Red Arrows are not the only high performance team to insist of debriefs. But few agencies do, which is a shame, because they create trusting environments, improve performance and empower the staff to strive harder. With the biggest winner in all this being the client.

Small changes have big impacts

0.08 of a second divided Usain Bolt from Justin Gatlin in the 2016 Olympics 100m. Such an infinitesimal difference between Gold and Silver. But as Sir David Brailsford found with the British Cycling team, making multiple 1% improvements can lead to multiple medals (and knighthoods).

Agency heads can’t dispense either of those, but they can create an environment of continuous performance improvement, constantly asking their teams; how can we do what we do cheaper, faster, harder, better?

Role play being an OFSTED Inspection team

Those readers with children attending schools which have undergone an Ofsted inspection will know the sleepless nights it gives the staff. And the joy it creates when a favourable report is published. But these inspections serve a purpose; to make sure the children receive a suitable standard of education.

Ok. So you don’t have to cause sleeplessness amongst staff. But one team could ‘inspect’ another and make sure all the agency’s processes are being followed. These internal audits, if handled correctly, can identify and rectify quality lapses before they become apparent to the client.

(And we all know what happens when that happens).

Better still, they can identify examples of best practice that could be adopted by other teams. These, sometimes small, changes to working practices can make huge differences and help acknowledge and reward the teams who devised and implemented them.

Many agency leaders will see these ideas as further tests of their leadership. Some may baulk at the amount of change these ideas could introduce into their agency. Others may see them as ways to keep their staff focused on the big prize; long term client retention.