It's just business. Right?
I’m a practical person. I can separate business from emotion. When a long-standing client calls an end to the relationship after nearly a decade, I can understand the business decision. That’s if it makes sense.
From this client’s perspective, it’s about reducing complexity and minimising management. After all, there’s sense to having one agency rather than five separate companies.
But with that decision you lose something. This is what I struggle with – from a business perspective.
You lose market knowledge. That’s particularly important when the combined tenure of client staff can be counted in months rather than years.
You lose connections. I’ve been on the other side of the table and know in our world, you have to be brilliant at making connections. Contacts are replaceable but it does take time.
You lose strategy. When an agency has been with you for a while, they understand where you’ve been and where you’re going to. They can support you, from both a professional and a personal perspective.
You lose consistency. Nine years this client has been with us – the same team, in the same company. That’s saying something. When you look at the average employee tenure in PR agencies – it’s about 55% over 12 months[i]. That’s a lot of effort and time to rebuild relationships and invest in your agency’s people understanding your brand.
So what is it you gain exactly?
You gain fresh new ideas. That’s if the agency you worked with had ceased to be creative or innovative.
You gain one contact, not five. But will that contact be a strategist or a deliverer? Someone who gets where you need to be and then makes it happen. They might be, if you’re lucky, but otherwise you’ll still have five or more contacts – just at different levels in the same company.
It’s shocking to note that the average client / agency relationship has reduced from seven years to just three years, according to The Bedford Group[ii]. That’s more lost time companies invest in their agencies gaining requisite industry insight, market knowledge, business strategic understanding, planning and delivering.
If a relationship is broken, old or tired, I would be the first to say let’s fix it. And if it’s not fixable, then absolutely move on. But if it’s a decision that’s based on bad business sense, then I struggle to see the rationale behind it. That’s when I get emotional.