Two Recent Trends in Landing New Clients

I recently keynoted a conference on UX and before and after taking the stage I made a point of asking as many of your clients the same very specific questions about how they hire agencies. Two newer trends quickly became apparent, and it would be good to keep these in mind.

  1. Great clients are going to hire you for a quick, small, less than optimal project first. This has always happened, of course, but in the past you could refuse to walk in that back door, waiting for a more glorious entrance through the front door. You could politely hold out for a seat at the table from the outset rather than getting a foot in the door, so to speak, and hope to get invited to the table later. What’s changed is that now good clients expect good agencies to bend their own rules. Both sides know that it’s not the best way to do things, but that it’s a feature of modern life. It may not be good news, but it is the news, and you can’t be as rigid on this point because great relationships will often start as small relationships.
  2. Great clients will find you through nearly accidental relationships between their employees and your employees. And this will carry far more weight than your overt or inbound marketing efforts. The client-side manager will depend on referrals to former employers or to agencies where an employee’s friend works.

Here’s what that last point might imply:

  • When employees move from your agency to the client side, it’s not a bad thing automatically. That’s a big part of your new business program.
  • Your culture is more important than ever. If that employee didn’t thrive working for you, they aren’t likely to speak well of you. Career development has always been the right thing to do, but now there are additional tangible benefits to you.
  • Stay in touch with former employees. Show an interest in their careers. Have them come back and speak, teach, and learn. Ask them to write an orientation piece. Do exit interviews. Look for hiring referrals. Ask their advice when appropriate.
  • Just like your marketing plan is fueled by a positioning, so too is your employee recruitment program fueled by a great culture. It’s what attracks great candidates and keeps them there. And it’s what they talk about after they leave, which is increasingly more frequent as employees depend on job changes to advance up the pay scale more than ever before.

The life of an advisor is developing theories to explain the data and then testing them in the marketplace. I speak 25x/year and work with 50 new agencies a year, and I am constantly learning things that sometimes surprise me. The loftiest theories–in this case about new business–sometimes need to meet the common sense realities of the marketplace.

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