UTTL What Clients Think 2014


Published on

Published in: Marketing, Business
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

UTTL What Clients Think 2014

  1. 1. WHAT CLIENTS WHAT CLIENTS THINK 2014 THINK 2014 WHAT CLIENTS THINK 2014 A report based on 400 client interviews conducted on behalf of design agencies. I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H © UP TO THE LIGHT
  2. 2. 1. INTRODUCTION This report is based on 400 interviews that Up to the Light conducted with clients during the course of 2013. All the interviews were commissioned by design agencies. Names of the individual agencies and clients involved are confidential. However, we are able to share some interesting statistics when looking across all 400 interviews. They reveal a fascinating snapshot of the client viewpoint and provide some important pointers for how agencies can strengthen their client relationships. 2 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  3. 3. INTRODUCTION 1.1 About the agencies All the agencies commissioned Up to the Light to conduct a Client Survey with their key clients. The purpose was to monitor the health of their most important client/ agency relationships. Specifically: - Understand current perceptions of their agency’s strengths and weaknesses. - Understand which boxes clients are putting them in, whether fairly or unfairly. - Provide a better understanding of client needs and concerns. - Identify client development opportunities. - Highlight client service measures that can improve the relationship. - Spot any problems early so that they can be dealt with proactively. The disciplines of the different agencies included: - Retail design - Packaging design - Digital design - Corporate identity - Corporate communications - Corporate reporting - Print design - Integrated or multi-disciplinary design The design agencies range in size from under 5 employees to over 100. - Understand how they are compared to competitor agencies. - Provide an assessment of client perceptions across areas such as creativity, value for money, ability to add value, proactivity, effective listening and commercial awareness. - Understand how clients see the market more generally – trends and concerns. 3 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  4. 4. INTRODUCTION 1.2 About the clients The 400 interviews are across a very broad range of clients – different industries, UK and international, business to business, business to consumer, not for profit. Different areas represented include: - Food and drink manufacturers - Fashion retailers - Other high street retailers - Supermarkets - Department stores - Government - Financial services Job titles of people interviewed range from Chairman, Chief Executive and Board Directors of major organisations to Brand Managers. However, they all have responsibility for buying design and have a relationship with a design agency. Most interviewees are responsible for day to day dealings with the design agency, whilst some interviewees have a more senior overseeing role. - Pharmaceuticals - Health care - Charities - Arts/cultural venues - Automotive - Education - Professional services firms - Industry bodies - Hi tech/software - Chemicals 4 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  5. 5. 2. THE INTERVIEWS All the interviewees were first asked by their design agency for permission to be interviewed by Up to the Light. Many clients are now used to taking part in such an exercise and are impressed that their agency is taking the trouble to conduct an independent Client Survey. Consequently, they take time to give considered answers and most interviews last 30-45 minutes. Some are considerably longer. All 400 interviews were conducted on the telephone. The statistics in this report are based on a core question set that was used across all 400 interviews. The answers to bespoke questions used to probe issues specific to a particular client/ agency relationship are not included. 5| W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  6. 6. THE INTERVIEWS 2.1 The value of design 94% 66% of clients consider good design to be an ‘extremely important’ factor in the success of their business of clients considered their agency to be ‘good value for money’ There is widespread client acknowledgement of the contribution that good design can bring to business success. A lot of agencies are seen to be delivering good value for money and there is general acceptance of the fact that successful, commercially effective design always represents a superb return on investment. However, there is also a general downward pressure on fees (See 2.4 Agency Costs). 6 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  7. 7. THE INTERVIEWS 2.2 Client service 74% 78% of clients ‘look forward to meetings’ with their design agency of clients WITH a weak or more vulnerable relationship with their agency cited client service issues as the main reason It is easy for agencies to forget that their area of business is very different from how clients spend most of their time. Creativity and all things visual can and should be the little bit of magic in a client’s week. The biggest reason for client/agency fall outs are not the quality of creativity or thinking, but nuts and bolts client service issues. These often start as relatively minor, irritating niggles and end up as fatal evidence that the agency is ‘not listening.’ Typical examples include: Budget management (failing to flag things up early) • Sloppiness (late for meetings, not prepared) • Haphazard (no contact reports, client has to chase, ‘last minute’ feeling, poor communications) • Hiding problems • Too passive (not driving things, supplier not partner mentality) • Making it hard work (choosing the wrong battles, overly defensive, taking it personally, stubborn). 7| W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  8. 8. THE INTERVIEWS 2.2 Client service (continued) 37% 61% of clients referred to an agency ‘mistake’ that happened over a year ago of clients believed that their agency understood the market and commercial realities only ‘in part’ Clients have long memories for the bad stuff. Once a mistake has been made or a concern about the agency becomes a client talking point, it can become very difficult to shift. For some clients ‘in part’ is not a problem. They are saying that the agency knows as much as they need to know and cannot be expected have the same level of understanding as a client who is immersed on a day to day basis. However, other clients believe their agency falls short. The most common problem cited is the lack of a robust rationale to support design recommendations. 8 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  9. 9. THE INTERVIEWS 2.3 Agency communications 44% 93% of clients rarely or never read the agency newsletter or claim not to receive it of clients could not remember visiting their agency’s website The message here is that agencies should not over rely on their agency newsletter as a means of agency/client communication. Agency newsletters are becoming akin to wallpaper. Clients receive too many of them and are too busy to look at them or read them in any depth. Typical comments are, ‘I looked at it when we first selected them’ or ‘I’ve never had a reason to look at it.’ And that’s the point. Clients are not being given reasons to visit their agency’s website. Therefore, a major agency/client communication channel is being missed. 9 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  10. 10. THE INTERVIEWS 2.4 Agency costs 81% 69% of clients stated that they are looking to reduce agency costs of clients believe their agency to be ‘a little expensive’ versus other agencies Most clients felt under some pressure to contain and reduce costs. Many clients talk about benchmarking exercises or an intention to carry one out. These clients believed their agency to be ‘a little expensive’ regardless of whether they had done any recent cost comparisons. The judgement was often based on no more than a feeling. Perhaps this reflects an underlying nervousness about buying creative services, a less tangible area than other purchases. 10 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  11. 11. THE INTERVIEWS 2.5 Added value 68% 76% of clients believe that their design agency could be more proactive in adding value and sharing knowledge of clients believe that their design agency could be better at communicating in the gaps between projects One of the most frequent client comments about their agency is, ‘Show us what’s new out there’ or ‘Be our eyes and ears.’ Clients spend their time in the fairly narrow field of their brand and market. They appreciate analogies with other markets and examples of other brands with similar challenges. As consultants, agencies are ideally placed to do this but are not always taking advantage of the opportunities to add value. Most clients believe that their particular organisations and areas of business are changing fast. In clients’ eyes, a 2 month gap between projects can leave their agency out of touch with developments. In a largely project based business, many agencies do not seem to have effective ‘keep in touch’ programmes in place. 1 1| W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  12. 12. THE INTERVIEWS 2.5 Added value (continued) 92% 8% of clients expect more from their agency after the first year of clients believe that their design agency ‘exceeds’ their expectations No matter how successful the first year of a client/agency relationship, most clients expect more in year 2. They point to an increased knowledge of the brand/organisation and a higher level of trust. This should naturally lead to more proactive ideas and a more effective partnership. The message is, never rest on your laurels because client expectations evolve. If it was all down to quality of creative work, then this figure would be significantly higher. However, clients were asked to take the whole client/agency relationship into account. 1 2 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  13. 13. THE INTERVIEWS 2.6 Client development 63% 73% of clients are not aware of their agency’s full skill set of clients would recommend their agency to a colleague/friend not ‘unreservedly’ but ‘with caveats’ Is there anything more annoying than being overlooked for a project that is entirely within the agency’s skill set? Clients are naturally prone to put their agencies in particular boxes. Once established these boxes can be extremely difficult to break out of. Continued client education about the agency’s capabilities is a must. In other words, they are saying, ‘Yes, they are good but watch out for…’ Gaining real client commitment, over and above mere client satisfaction, is hard won. Never take client loyalty and commitment for granted. 1 3 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  14. 14. THE INTERVIEWS 2.6 Client development (continued) 55% 96% of clients were unable to name a direct competitor of their incumbent design agency of clients believe that a pitch is good business practice for high value projects Generally speaking, clients’ knowledge of the design industry is poor, reflecting the ‘cottage industry’ nature of the market with so many small agencies, largely undifferentiated in clients’ eyes. Don’t forget that even the biggest design agencies are still small businesses next to most client organisations. Clients’ understanding of different players, their areas of specialisation, strengths and differences or who’s up and coming is often hazy or incorrect. No wonder, then, the rather incongruous choice of agencies on many pitch lists. It looks as if pitching is here to stay. For high value pitches, the vast majority of clients considered a pitch to be ‘best practice’ and simply a matter of carrying out ‘due diligence.’ It would almost be a professional embarrassment not to. 14 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 N.B. Clients were questioned about pitches generally. No distinction was made between paid pitches and free pitches. © UP TO THE LIGHT
  15. 15. THE INTERVIEWS 2.7 Client expectations Other important expectations are: • Understand the brand – its positioning, personality, target audience and competitors. 82% • Issues around delivery – on time, on budget, smooth process, good communication. • Good chemistry – respect, trust and like the agency’s people, enthusiasm, energy. • Value for money – competitive costs, proportionate to the task and not ‘one size fits all’. • Good partners – proactive, pragmatic, commercially aware, committed. of clients listed ‘Creativity’ as their top agency expectation Clients were asked to list 3-4 top expectations of their agency. About 80% of these clients talked about creativity that answers the brief and used words such as ‘appropriate’, ‘effective’ and ‘relevant.’ Only about 20% of these clients talked about creativity that pushes boundaries, using words and phrase such as ‘pushing parameters’, ‘the wow factor’, ‘game changing’ and ‘inspirational’. 1 5| W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT
  16. 16. THE INTERVIEWS 2.8 AND FINALLY, THE TOP 5 CLIENT COMPLAINTS ‘They’ve become a bit comfortable’ ‘They could be more proactive’ ‘I don’t really know enough about them’ ‘They don’t challenge me enough’ ‘They need to be stronger with us’ It’s difficult to show enthusiasm, proactivity and commitment over a long period of time. Where long standing client/agency relationships are concerned, it’s all too easy to be seen as a little complacent versus hungry agencies knocking on the client’s door. Clients tend to view the subject differently depending on their seniority. For instance, junior and middle management clients usually see proactivity as being within the project. Flagging up budget issues ahead of time, spotting potential problems early or challenging the brief all fall into this category. However, more senior clients tend to view agency proactivity as being about the wider business. Typical examples include monitoring competitors, providing analogies with other brands and markets or coming up with ideas that have a direct bearing on sales and profitability. Clients are often rather hazy about their agency’s areas of expertise and relevant experience. Not many agencies are taking time to re-present their credentials and systematically inform clients about their full skill set. Clients are generally quick to pick up when an agency is being a bit passive in this respect. They like to see that their agency is a buzzy, dynamic and successful company. The message is, up the volume. The agency is a brief taker not a consultant. This can sometimes happen over a period of time as the workload becomes demanding and the focus is simply on delivering work against tight timescales. Many clients are looking for their agency to drive things more – scheduling of meetings, managing budgets, chasing harder, taking more responsibility. 16 | W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 ‘I have to chase and remind them. It should be the other way around’ is a typical comment. © UP TO THE LIGHT
  17. 17. 3. ABOUT UP TO THE LIGHT Up to the Light is a specialist consultancy offering expert, objective and experienced advice for marketing services agencies and professional services firms. Our approach is to challenge ingrained assumptions and offer more effective, insight-led thinking. If you’d like to discuss an independent Client Survey for your agency, please contact Jonathan Kirk. Services include: Client Surveys Business development strategy Pitching advice Business differentiation Training & workshops Brand strategy I N A S S O C I AT I O N W I T H Up to the Light Ltd. Premier House 11 Marlborough Place Brighton BN1 1UB T +44 (0)1273 665475 E info@uptothelight.co.uk www.uptothelight.co.uk 1 7| W H AT C L I E N T S T H I N K 2 014 © UP TO THE LIGHT