New-client process

Quick Answers
I’ve been burned by agencies before – how can I prevent that in the future?

Know – and clearly communicate upfront – three things to any agency and you’ll almost never have a problem. Those things are:

Precisely what you want to have happen...
Exactly when you need to have that happen...
How much it’s worth to you.
Give them as many details as you can about all of the above. Don’t expect them to be mind readers; if you have a very specific idea or approach in mind, tell them.

Then if they still fail, they aren’t the right folks for you.

I’m thinking of having a variety of agencies compete for my business by doing an identical project. Would you be interested?

No. A better idea is to go spend a few hours at each agency you’re considering. Don’t let them show you any work, or ideas they have for you. Instead, take the time to get to know the people who you’ll be working with – not the “new business“ team – but the folks you’ll be dealing with on a daily basis.

Imagine spending long hours with them. Tossing ideas around with them. Arguing at times with them. Depending on them. Trusting them to spend your time and money wisely.

Then make your decision.

How do you work with clients outside Philadelphia?

All but one of our clients are outside Philadelphia. One of our first clients, who stayed with us for 12 uninterrupted years, in fact, was located in Colorado. Our largest current client – who has now been with us for over 20 uninterrupted years – is over 100 miles away.

The way we deal with these remote clients is no different than the way we deal with closer-in clients – we maintain a lot of contact, largely by phone and e-mail, supplemented by Fedex®, with fewer “in-person” visits than you might imagine. We only visit in person when it’s absolutely necessary – usually for planning or strategy, and always at their invitation – and are not big on wasting their time with live “show & tell” sessions. The vast majority of them prefer to see our work electronically; it saves us and them valuable time.

Do I have to buy everything – like media and printing – through you?

No. A few of our clients place their own media, or have other media-buying groups do it for them, for example. Many handle their own printing. We can handle both services for our clients, too, and we do for most of them, but it’s certainly not a requirement.

There is a well-defined five-step process (see below) that new clients should be prepared to follow.

In brief, new clients typically spend at least a day with us – in our office – going through a process we call The Meeting. Sometimes it takes two days.

During that time we will follow a defined, highly-structured protocol we developed over 10 years ago to learn much more about that client, their objectives, their products and services, the competitive landscape, strengths and weaknesses of the client and their competitors, and other issues.

We will issue a report from The Meeting for them to review. Once they've reviewed and approved that report, we'll create a marketing plan for them to address their objectives. This plan will include objectives, strategies and tactics. When they've reviewed and approved that plan, we'll assign budgets to everything for their final approval.

And then we're ready to start talking about specific projects within that plan.

The five stop process for new clients

1. The Meeting.

The first step in solving any problem is to get all the facts and assumptions on the table – objectively and honestly – before we do anything else. We also believe that to have a long-term relationship there should be no surprises.

Therefore, it is an agency requirement that at the beginning of every new full-service relationship – regardless of the size of the client – you must set aside at least one full day at our offices for an in-depth briefing. Depending on the scope of your situation, we may require, in some cases, two full days.

More than 90% of that time will be spent in a very structured group meeting with various members of our staff – from account management, media, creative and whoever else we think is appropriate – for us to get a full view of your history, successes and failures, your market, your competitors, your objectives, and how you operate and think. The other 10% will be spent discussing how we operate, what our accounting and billing procedures are, and getting to know the people who will actually be doing the work on your account.

Some clients ask to repeat this step – in a modified form – every year. They find it invaluable in focusing their key management on objectives and strategies as part of their annual planning and budgeting process.

It's an exhausting experience. When it's over, we'll know more about your company and what you expect, and you will know us.

2. The conference report.

Within days, you will receive a written "conference report" that covers what we discussed at the meeting. This is your opportunity to make changes or corrections as necessary so we're all clear on what was actually said, or more importantly, what was meant.

3. The marketing plan.

Based on that meeting (and corrections or changes to the report), additional conversations with you and discussions at the agency, we create a first draft of a "Marketing/Objectives/Strategy/Tactics" plan. This is the road map of what we need to accomplish, what the budgets are, what strategies we will employ, and what tactics we will use to make it work. We work together with you on this plan until both sides are satisfied.

4. Time schedules, priorities, and defining the creative.

We have agreed on the plan and you have signed off on it. Now we set the time schedules and priorities. Once these are approved, we will move into execution.

In the case of creative work we will first develop a "Creative Strategy" for each project. This is to clearly define what you and we expect the work to accomplish, against what target, and the key thought to be communicated.

5. Providing estimates for all work.

Before creative or any other project starts accumulating billable time, you will receive a written estimate for that work, for your approval. You must approve the estimate before we begin work. This protects you and us.

In the case of creative, each project is routinely broken into three components, estimated separately: concepts, execution, and production. This way, you and we have checkpoints for approval. It also means you can explore possibilities (concepts) for a set amount and limit your risk before you commit to execution, or final production.

We will live and die by the approved estimate for a given phase. The only exception is if you change the direction of the project after it has begun or otherwise make serious modifications to the assignment. In either of those situations we will send you an addendum to the original estimate for you to approve – so you know what the financial consequences of your changes will be – before additional billable work is started.