Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘The day you sign a client, you are one day closer to getting fired?’ This is a real struggle that all brand managers and agencies have to live with. We are living in a time when the agency model is shifting. Brands are trending toward wanting in-house marketing teams, and handing out more and more project work on an ad-hoc basis. At Infinite, we have found it extremely important to keep close relationships with our partners (notice I didn’t say ‘clients’) in order to ensure we will add value to brands. By building personal relationships, staying nimble and diversifying our services we are ensuring we will not be seen as replaceable when there are inevitable budget cuts at the end of our partners’ fiscal years.
This may sound very condescending, but my number one piece of advice to an intern or a junior is to ‘be a real person.’ Too many times, I’ve seen sales-y, pushy, or transactional brand managers or agency teams. In order to maintain a close relationship with a person (not just partners) you need to be real. This has helped me grow numerous small-project accounts into AORs throughout my career. Think about it. When a brand has the option of going with any of their 10 agencies for a project, they’re going to choose the agency that they enjoy working with first. An enjoyable partnership is key to winning business and retaining contracts. How do you stay ‘real?’ Treat partners as if they were your friends. Talk about your life, don’t just ask about theirs. Pay attention to details like their family, their home, their careers and mostly, their business. Ask lots of questions. These are all ways you can show you’re genuinely interested in them. And don’t just show interest, actually BE interested! Both partners benefit when there is a mutual respect and interest in each other. I have been extremely blessed with interesting, fun partners, but I’ve also had partners that could not care less about me or my personal life. It is our job to read the person and situation and adapt to their preferences. If they don’t like hugging or small talk, respect that…they will enjoy you more.
We all know the industry is changing, along with the agency model. More brands are shifting budgets from traditional advertising toward digital marketing simply because they want to be data-driven. It was extremely important that Infinite saw this trend, and became experts in the digital space. We grew a whole digital department because it was what our partners and potential partners needed. As an agency, we have to stay nimble with the trends in order to continue to be innovative. As a brand manager, staying nimble is always crucial to a relationship as well. Brands have internal issues and crazy deadlines they are managing and we need to recognize that staying flexible will help alleviate those pressures and create better relationships. Yes, the change in creative direction may royally screw up our timeline, but let’s keep a clear head, take a deep breath, and keep pushing…together! Obviously, when a brand has the choice to go with an agency that is helpful vs. one that pushes back on every pivot, they will choose the former 100% of the time.
During our agency tour, there are countless partners who’ve exclaimed ‘I didn’t know you do that in-house!’ Our internal business model has shifted with the agency model, as well. By bringing every capability in-house, we create the flexibility and cost savings that brands are looking for these days. Social content, as we all know, needs to be produced quickly and often. By having an in-house content creation team, we are giving our partners more flexibility and efficiency on their social channels. We have always found ways to say ‘yes” while delivering great work. We created a whole experiential department at a time when most of our clients were just starting to dip their feet in that rapidly-growing vertical. Our ability to adapt to whatever our clients need will continue to reap benefits because when other agencies are saying ‘We don’t do that,’ we are saying, ‘Yes.’
Infinite has grown and will continue to grow successfully because as an agency, we are helping our partners and potential partners solve their business challenges one project at a time. Our agency has learned over the years that brands need awesome partners with flexibility in order to do their jobs efficiently. That’s always our goal at Infinite.