Patience Is Key in Agency Business Development

long game

Here is a tale all too familiar to anyone who has worked in agency business development for any length of time and one that still shocks me to the bones even today.

At the back end of last summer we arranged for one of our clients to have a meeting with a major UK entertainment business. The prospect from the client company wanted to visit our client at their offices; he would not give any more information other than “I’m visiting London based PR agencies that week and having heard what you have told me I’d like to include you in those I meet with.”

We were very excited as we know what this most likely means.

Our PR agency client, however, was less than thrilled.

“Why do they want to come to see us?”

“Are they reviewing?”

“They don’t use PR agencies in the UK I’ve heard so what’s going on?”

“This smells like they’re just fishing for ideas, not sure we should agree to meet them.”

We pushed back, told them they should make the effort and they did. Reluctantly.

After the meeting the PR agency’s MD called us up to give us feedback …

“As suspected, a complete waste of time. They don’t have a brief and were very reticent to even answer any of our questions as to why they wanted to meet. We asked them if they were looking for an agency and they were very off with us. They asked us to provide them with a couple of short thoughts on their business and what we believed we might be able to offer them but to be honest, we can’t be bothered. We told them to get back in touch if they had a brief; I doubt they ever will as they haven’t used a PR agency in the UK for quite a while.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but you get the idea.

Three month’s later and it is announced in PR Week that they have just appointed a London based PR agency and given them a six figure annual retainer.

LESSON

The agency / client relationship game is like that of someone looking for a partner for a loving relationship. Some clients are very open about what they want, some are so brazen as even go to a matchmaker, speed dater or the agency equivalent of Tinder! Others are more circumspect and shy. You need to be able to judge the type of person and act accordingly; in THEIR timeframe; not YOURS.