Part 3/4: How to Keep Clients

July 22, 2019

Evan Pitchie

Part 3/4 of my commentary on David Ogilvy’s book, Confessions of an Advertising Man.

Part 1: How to Manage an Ad Agency
Part 2: How to Attract New Clients

In the 3rd installment we explore Ogilvy’s thoughts on how an agency can retain its clients.

At the time that the book was written (1963), Ogilvy claimed that a client changes agencies 1 in every 7 years. That being said, the client-agency relationships of today are very different. Clients are more open to the idea of working with multiple agencies for different distribution channels. Therefore, it can be argued that agencies are more at risk today than they ever have.

Traditionally, when agencies would seek new business, they would appoint their best people to the task. Once the client was signed, agencies would appoint junior people to maintain the account. Ogilvy encourages agencies to keep the best people on the account. As a result, the quality in service will remain as high and clients will be happy.

Ensuring you have the right people is also important as they will be the ones interacting with the clients. Ogilvy advises agencies to hire people that value relationships as they will work with their client in a way to build the agency and the client together, not just their own portfolio. With so much more competition in the digital age, an agency's relationship with their client can be the defining factor that could be keeping them.

Ogilvy advises to stay away from clients that have a reputation for often firing their agencies. Make sure there’s a client fit, and if an agency is going to work with a difficult client, make sure expectations are clear on both sides to minimize any friction. Working in advertising requires thick skin. That being said, agencies should not allow their staff to be pushed around by bullies. More often than not, it brings more long-term benefits to maintain high team morale than bigger pockets. In addition to ensuring the right client fit, keep in contact with your clients. Don’t just go see them when things go bad. Sending a book suggestion or an article with insights about their industry are easy ways to maintain a good relationship with the client.

Make sure every client feels like they are your crown jewel. Don’t refuse a client’s invitation because you are attending another client’s function. And, do not tell one client confidential information or results about another client; if you share someone else’s secrets with them, they may begin to believe that you are sharing their secrets with others.

Take ownership of mistakes before they are caught. The client will appreciate your honesty and if you have a solution to correct the mistake, you increase your chances of retaining the account.

Finally, if the account is not generating a profit for the agency (or any other type of value) and you lose faith in the account, resign it. It’s best to be honest than to continue selling a lie.

In the 4th and final part of the series, we will dive into Ogilvy's thoughts on how to be a good client.