LONG-TERM CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS: The Key to Successful Agencies

In recent months I have gotten to know Josh Sommers, who runs Focus Media, a very successful Hudson Valley PR & advertising agency. Josh has an unusual background – he was a radio personality before founding his firm, so he looks at things a little differently than those of us that grew up in the agency business.

But Josh is also a great fount of common sense marketing communications knowledge, which he shares with readers of the Times Herald Record, the largest daily newspaper in this area. Last Friday he wrote about the importance of long-term relationships in building a business, pointing out the value in:

  1. A shared knowledge base.  As Josh put it: “With longtime customers, you don’t need to spend hours or days understanding their business … That gives you the ability to deal with the new issue, the challenge your customer faces right now.”
  2. Interdependence. Quoting Seth Godin, Josh noted that “All of our productivity, leverage and insight come from being part of a community, not apart from it.”

To these well-chosen words, I suggested that Josh also consider a caveat: in order to maintain long-term relationships, it is sometimes necessary to leave some money on the table. No matter how good the relationship is, disputes will occur. Wishes will be interpreted as commends or instructions will be mis-heard, often with monetary consequences. At those times, you often have to decide between having an “us or them” battle (not advised) or eating all or part of the costs. If our firm valued the relationship, we chose the latter route and that approach usually paid dividends.

There are two other reasons long-tern clients relationships are beneficial. One is that they offer you the opportunity to sell new services to the client or to sell existing services to new business units of the client because you are a known entity. Organic growth lowers marketing costs. Second, good client executives don’t always stay in your client organization. When they go elsewhere, they become potential clients at their new company. One of our largest clients now was our client in the mid-1990s, left that firm for corporate work, and rehired us in 2006 when he became director of marketing of a major consulting firm.

Do you feel the same way about the value of long-term client relationships? Are there additional benefits that you can tell us about?

To reach John:

Phone:  212.840.0444
Email: john@blisspr.com
LinkedIn:  John Bliss