Relationship matters

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Agency life

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]Yesterday was Valentines Day and I did nothing. In fact, I felt somewhat liberated for ignoring it! I even played football instead and sympathised for some poor shmuck I saw standing at the bus stop with flowers and chocolates in hand (especially because I saw the price at the special ‘valentines day’ stall he got them from just minutes ago).

Anyhow (!) and contrary to what you must be thinking, this post is not about my personal relationship (I wouldn’t suggest you follow my advice on that anyway), it’s about a far more professional one – the client / agency relationship.

So, whether you’re a client side bigwig or funky agency stereotype, how familiar is this scenario…

1. Project scope is defined, cost is formulated.

2. Idea gets approved, cost needs to be reduced, ‘s(h)avings’ begin (see corners!).

3. Shavings are applied, project delivered (perhaps unsurprisingly) with a gaping hole in it.

Notice: the size of the hole is generally proportionate to a) the hit the client / agency relationship takes and b) the overspend required to manage the hole!

I’m sure that some part, if not all of the above, sounds familiar.

The solution? Simple!

4. Instead of focussing on shaving off corners, focus on changing the project approach.

5. So, in fact it’s not about delivering the same for less, it’s about finding a suitable project approach (yes, even if totally different to the original) that works within the budget.

It’s not easy, because it often means abandoning perfectly good ideas, which whilst seemed so good, were only really achievable at the originally proposed cost. Whether it means going back to the drawing board for the agency; or a client having to tell their boss “we had to scrap that idea”, it’s not always easy to do the right thing, but in the interest of the relationship, the only thing to do is rethink the approach.

After all, it’s easy (perhaps easier?) for a client to say “I want the same for the lower cost” or for an account director to say “we’ve got to deliver the original idea at the lower cost“, but, in my humble experience, over a long enough timeline these will both result in problematic relationships.

It seems simple, but it requires foresight, a (shared) understanding that you cannot deliver the same for less; and most importantly, it requires a desire from both sides for the (longer term) relationship to be preserved. And in this climate, with good (stable) agencies on one hand and good clients on the other, becoming harder to find, it is something that everybody should be bearing in mind – because this one can’t be fixed with bunch of flowers!

  1. קירשי says:

    The Agile Manifesto is 10 years old this month. Why is this relevant?
    “Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation” – always prefer to discuss the customer’s needs, rather than binding to a strict contract
    And “Responding to Change over Following a Plan” – welcome changes from the customer, rather than adhering to an outdated plan.

    Not sure about Valentine’s – the buquet of Tulips made the missus happy. But I like your post nontheless – a cool way to look at the business problem 🙂

  2. jasross says:

    Imagine going into a dealer to buy a new car and being asked what spec you want. Colour, seats, trimmings, transmission, wheels etc. Now imagine the dealer offers you to come down to the factory and give you a fully interactive tour – you can see all the different colours, test drive the different engine types, sit in all the different seat types the manufacturer makes etc etc. Live the spec, before you order.

    Now to me, that sounds amazing – I would jump at the opportunity. The problem is that some clients prefer to walk into the dealership, place the order, and walk out.

    Cars and web solutions, futile comparison I know, but human psychology plays a big part in getting a client to accept the Agile approach.

    But you are 100% right that Agile is a completely other approach which can avoid even being in the scenario in the first place. Where we have used it, it’s been a complete success.

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