How to develop standout client strategies in the new yearDec 26, 2022
Thoughtful and effective strategy development sets agencies apart and demonstrates value as long-term partners to clients. Providing quality, strategic guidance builds trust that an agency partner can provide solutions and guides high-level decision making. Strategies also give meaning to an agency’s results by demonstrating how results map back to the client's larger goals and objectives.
There are a few key considerations when creating a strategic plan for a client. It’s essential to keep in mind that plans are meant to move the needle and go beyond strategic thinking. This means that these plans shouldn’t be a brainstorm but rather a detailed strategy for how an agency plans to take the client from point A to point B effectively and efficiently.
When creating a plan, there are three critical elements to consider as a starting point.
1. What are the client's goals and objectives, and how is the agency’s work being used as a tool to achieve them? Agencies are creating strategies to meet the goals and objectives of their clients. Defining those goals and consistently ensuring activities can be mapped back to them is key to producing impactful work.
2. Who are the client’s stakeholders? This can be broken down into both the audience the client wants to reach and the key people the agency, and sometimes even the client contact, reports to. Every organization will have many different groups of stakeholders, whether that be customers, investors, employees, or retailers. When choosing stakeholders in strategic planning, agencies need to think about which stakeholders are vital to the client achieving the goals and objectives identified within the plan.
3. Which tools will the agency use to reach the client’s goals and influence their stakeholders? These are the strategies and tactics proposed for achieving goals and objectives.
Matching strategies with the tools & tactics that best help a client achieve their goals and objectives is the key to an effective plan. For example, an agency working with a beauty brand may decide that based on the client’s goal of 10% sales growth, they are going to reach new customers through a targeted digital advertising campaign, influencer marketing, and an experiential event. However, an agency working with a corporate client whose goal is to increase employee retention and attract new talent may consider strategies for internal communication, reputation management, and best workplace awards.
Now that we’ve outlined what to consider in a strategic plan, it’s time to think about how to create one. The strategic planning process can be broken down into four phases:
1. Audit. This is the time to take stock of all existing initiatives, assets and industry trends. This phase often includes a SWOT analysis and competitive research. The goal is to be as informed as possible about the client’s business and competitive landscape.
2. Define. Begin to outline the constraints and constants of the strategic plan, including the client’s goals and objectives, audience, stakeholders, budget and timeline. These give shape to the plan and create the boundaries to create recommendations.
3. Plan. Choose your tactics. This is where agencies choose the tactics & tools they’ll use to achieve the client’s goals and objectives. Consider:
- What has worked well in the past?
- What learnings can be applied from past campaigns and activities?
- What will be the most effective use of the client’s budget?
- How can the agency uniquely succeed? What can the agency bring to the table that the client has potentially been missing or has not been capable of executing without an agency partner?
4. Execute. This is where the plan comes to life, and the team outlines how they will execute the plan that’s been created. This can include who on the team is going to have a role in this project, what part of the project they will execute, the timeline of events, the reporting cadence, and anything else that needs to be defined for execution.
REPEAT. This is where the planning phase comes full circle, and the team returns to the Audit phase to assess how the plan performed. At regularly scheduled intervals, determine what’s working well and what’s not. Clients find value in these insights and it demonstrates that the agency is continuing to innovate and strategize on their behalf. A few items to address in this assessment include:
- What worked well?
- What was learned that can be applied to future strategies?
- What can be done better in the future?
How to create supercharged strategies
Clients look to agency partners to solve a problem and maximize opportunities. When creating a strategic plan for a client, it’s crucial to find strategic leverage. This means using the process above to find an advantage for the client that helps the agency meet their goals. The best way to do this is to find an opportunity in something that is different, missing or new for the client. For example:
- Finding white space. Is there an untapped opportunity, providing unique circumstances for the client to win and succeed?
- Messaging opportunities. These are usually found in the audit phase and are differentiators that are not being highlighted and amplified properly.
- Identifying trends. Keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s trending within a client’s industry is always an important role of an agency partner. Presenting a relevant trend to the client is a great opportunity for strategic leverage.
- Finding hidden treasure. This is something special that the client is doing but no one knows about yet. Maybe they have sustainable packaging, an amazing employee benefit program, or a charitable initiative that can be highlighted and shared.
- Gaps. For example, is there a knowledge gap in a client’s industry that they can step in to fill and be a resource for information?
Strategic planning is a process that we are continuously updating, auditing, and improving. The agencies that hone their strategic planning skills and processes are uniquely set up to maintain long-term relationships with their clients.