by Tom Fels (@thomasfels) As an agency, attracting new clients is vital to both survival and success. And, for marketers, the prospect of selecting an agency is as exciting as it is daunting.

Tom FelsIn many cases, the process allows for only a handful of meetings between the two parties before a decision — and therefore a commitment — must be made.

If that journey were better structured and better informed, I have no doubt you would see longer-lasting client relationships, founded on solid compatibilities that extend beyond the chemistry meeting and creative pitch. And as for the work, well, that can only prosper.

Borrow from shopper strategy

Agencies have a lot to gain from a strategic approach to winning new clients. But where to start?

The answer may be to borrow from shopper marketing, which is built on the premise that, by deeply understanding shopper mentality, we can leverage key points in the path to purchase in order to effect a sale.

Applying the same strategy, agencies that consider client motivation and construct experiential journeys to provide the right information at the right times may convert better-suited clients, more often.

Practically, for an agency, your website, social media, advertising, PR, capabilities and culture should speak with one voice that aligns seamlessly at the first face-to-face meeting. Know that, in this age, this may well be the fourth or fifth interaction with your brand.

How you craft your information highway to surprise and delight prospective clients prior to that is your own magic in the making.

Marketers, communicate your intent

Brand owners on the lookout for a new ad shop may also do well to consciously think about how their approach may help or hinder the pursuit of a perfect fit. Establishing a clear intent is a key indicator to potential agencies that could mean the difference between an unhappy two-month fling or a blissful 20-year marriage of minds.

Responsibly do your part by identifying the kind of agency relationship you wish to engage, your preferred way of working and, indeed, your hunger to do well, together. Be honest about where previous relationships have gone wrong and offer as much information as the agency may need to gain a deep understanding of your requirements. Encourage openness and, above all, be true to your commitments.

Communication is much more than a service business; it’s a trust business.

Does the first mover win?

Appointing an agency or wooing a potential client is a high-stakes exercise for both parties and, just as in retail marketing, buyers’ remorse is just a wrong step away. Therefore, it’s not necessarily the first ‘mover’ for the win but those who choose to embrace a rigorous and strategically well-informed approach to engagement who will reap the long-term benefits.

The sad alternative is an inevitably fruitless expense of time, energy and money, all of which are in short supply right now.

With a decade of local and international experience in leading independent brand consulting, design, shopper marketing and integrated advertising roles, Tom Fels (@thomasfels) has gained a deeply relevant understanding of the dynamics of independent agencies. His skills are put to work daily as deputy managing director of MACHINE.

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