Introducing the ‘Client Lead’, by Gavin Grissett

Say what? Yet another agency buzzword? A new title for a role that already existed? No, it’s more a reflection of the way we continue to evolve as an agency and the way we work with our clients in order to stay relevant.

No business can keep going without staying relevant. BBD was founded in 1961. And we’ve had an impressive list of clients over those 58 years. Some big household names and global companies. A good number of them stick with us too.

So how does a little agency in Bournemouth compete with production houses, digital specialists and big-name Ad agencies, who have teams of whatever-new-industry-term-is-trending-today ‘specialists’ producing data-driven campaigns across every platform going?

The importance of making it personal

We are and always have been all about people. Getting to know them. Understanding them and what they want. Both our people, and our clients.

Because it takes a certain kind of person to ‘be’ a BBDer. Whether you’re a lifer like me, or a lifelong client. We’ve always worn many hats, been more than just ‘marketeers’ or ‘strategists’. When it comes to our closest clients, we just ‘get’ each other.

Talking specifically about client relationships, it speaks volumes that historically here at BBD we have always had a ‘Client Services’ department, rather than an ‘Account Management’ team.

But I have to say (with some regret) that there was a bit of a gulf between Client Services and Creative in the past.

Even thinking just a few years back, the ‘studio’ was largely kept out of sight. Occasionally we’d be let outside for a pitch, or chaperoned into a call to talk through some executional rationale… but generally speaking, the agency was divided.

So it’s taken a while, but times they are (finally) a changin’. For the better.

Creative Collaboration

Way way back in the mists of time when I was working in my first real agency after Uni, I remember it being a tight-knit affair. Around 6 people in total. Everyone mucked in out of necessity. Brainstorms involved whoever was free. Designers went to client meetings to take briefs and talk turkey. Account Managers spray-mounted presentations while the Copywriter rewrote a radio script at 2am, before the MD drove us to a pitch at 6am.

Heady days. Funny how things have sort of come full circle for me again, then.

While BBD might have a few more staff than that little ad agency of yore (35 and counting), we’re still very much small enough to be ‘intimate’ with our clients. And, sometimes out of necessity, our individual roles have to shift for the good of the account.

Which has meant that lately I’ve been spending a lot more of my time on the client side. And it has, frankly, been game changing. I’ve recently had to learn the art of the status report. And learnt to keep a closer eye on cost and timing plans than perhaps I used to (although I have to admit these tasks haven’t been particular highlights as a creative).

I have however had the good fortune to be able to spend more time actually working with some of my clients. As real people. Face to face, on the phone, or just on email. Which has been really refreshing – and I honestly believe that both sides have found it a truly positive experience.

As with any relationship, it’s been a journey of discovery and mutual learnings (and rewards).

It’s given me the chance to get to know not just my clients’ brands better, but to get to know their individual needs better. It’s meant we’ve been able to iron out all the little idiosyncrasies – meaning we can work smarter and more effectively. Testing and learning fast by iterating has meant we can make better informed decisions, together.

For my clients, all this means they have the support of a creative consultant, not just an unseen presence executing designs. And for me it’s meant that when we’ve initially disagreed about a creative approach, I’m better placed to back up why I have faith in the idea, based on what has worked in the past.

And ultimately for BBD, it’s proven that a more collaborative approach really works for all concerned.

It doesn’t mean creatives will be less ‘creative’. And client services must still be the heart of ‘client services’. It just means that we’re all going to be in this more ‘together’, supporting each other in order to deliver even better results for our clients.

High fives all round?