The business development process can be frustrating for many agency leaders. Most didn’t get into the business to have a focus on selling, but rather to create effective and innovative solutions for clients.
That’s why client retention always matters. It’s better to keep the revenue you already have in hand than fight to win a signature on a new contract with an unknown prospect.
Focusing on client retention matters even more in times like these where every organization is taking a close look at spending and trying to understand the ROI of their investments.
That’s where a strong media monitoring and measurement program can come in to help keep your existing clients on board.
1. Show clients the results
Public relations agencies have long understood the importance of reporting results to clients. When I first got started in the agency world 30 years ago we would provide giant binders with every client clip neatly photocopied onto its own page. It provided what was called the “thud factor” since it made quite a sound when dropped onto a conference room table.
As impressive as the initial presentation might be, that binder usually found its way to a bookshelf – likely never to be opened again.
To solve that problem, agencies started using PowerPoint to put together pretty presentations with lots of charts and graphs. That was more likely to be looked at by a client, but it suffered from a key weakness: they tended to include mostly vanity metrics like total clips.
Today, clients want to see more meaningful metrics that help them understand what they have been paying for.
That means that agencies need to utilize their reporting tools to focus on things like share of voice and message penetration. They may even want to supplement with a survey or focus group data. In ideal cases, they will have some access to client web analytics or CRM data to provide even more robust reporting that ties media coverage to actual business results.
2. Stay connected to more client employees
While quarterly and annual reporting may represent the most obvious use of a media monitoring and measurement platform, there are many other ways to use these tools to improve retention rates.
Smart agencies produce daily or weekly executive news briefings for their clients to help them understand the media coverage that matters to them. It is a real-time-saver for clients who can find a fully customized digest in their email inbox instead of needing to surf the web themselves, look at raw media monitoring data, or consume generic industry news briefings that often cost a lot for what they really are.
Agencies can use many media monitoring platforms to create these customized executive news briefings with reasonable effort, but the real benefit lies in working with your client contact to expand the distribution list to the entire communications team and even the C-suite.
These news briefings are typically well-read by executives and can be a great way to position your agency’s brand – and expertise – in front of more influential individuals at the client’s organization than you can in normal day-to-day work.
Although some client contacts may want to take on the distribution themselves, you should consider making it easy for you to offer to maintain that list so that you ensure that your agency continues to reach throughout the organization.
3. Generate ongoing ideas
In my consulting work with agencies, I often hear that when clients leave they tell the agency that they didn’t believe that the firm was being “proactive enough” and that’s why they chose a different solution.
While this often ends up being a bit of an exaggeration, there is definitely truth to the idea that agencies fall into a bit of a rut with existing clients and continue doing things the same way. It might be because scope creep has already made the work less profitable (and therefore a new idea is less palatable) or it might be because the agency doesn’t want to rock the boat and potentially cause the client to look at the overall engagement.
By utilizing your media monitoring platform, you can more easily develop ideas for new pitches, projects, and priorities that will continue to keep the client engaged and excited to be working with you and your team. Configure search terms to track industry news and competitor coverage. Use the platforms to identify trending topics and see where audiences are paying attention.
The best part is that much of this will already be set up to help with the executive news briefings that you are producing, so it becomes a natural extension and an easy way to help improve retention.
4. Improve your targeting
Everything that we have explored so far involves client-facing activity with your media monitoring and measurement tools, but there are ways to use the platforms to help your internal workflow.
While reporting typically focuses on the rearview mirror – what coverage has occurred – you can also use it to zero in on better targets for future outreach. Use the tools to identify reporters and influencers, develop useful intelligence about what interests reporters, build lists of media outlets to focus on, and more.
Past topics covered by specific journalists can help to reveal the best outreach targets far better than a simplistic media database that just tells you the reporter’s official beat. Seeing where competitors have been covered can be a good indication of who might be interested – or what types of influencers or outlets might be good to pursue.
Reporting good results depends on getting good results so you should use your media monitoring and measurement program to refine your team’s activities.
5. Boost your efficiency to create more time
Media intelligence tools have come a long way since the time when I got started with multiple daily trips to the newsstand, countless hours spent collecting clips from the fax machine, and tedious work using a razor blade to cut individual stories out of print publications to photocopy and share.
As it becomes easier to monitor more coverage more efficiently and effectively, it opens the door to redeploying your team to higher-value activities. Use the tools available to generate executive news briefings instead of creating custom reports in Word or PowerPoint by hand. Take advantage of AI tools to create summaries. Use the power of technology to connect disparate data sources automatically instead of doing a lot of manual analysis.
With more clients demanding global perspectives from their agencies, it can even be helpful to tap into the experts that some media intelligence providers have who can help comb through coverage in many languages with much greater speed and much lower cost than agencies can using their own internal labor.
The time you free up enables you to have more resources to invest in client work, client relationships, or other valuable activities.
With agencies always concerned about keeping clients in the fold, it makes sense to look at all of the tools and resources available to improve retention rates.
While many – if not most – agencies have media monitoring and measurement programs in place, a significant number have not considered how they can be used for client retention. With just a little extra effort and some adjustments to existing approaches, agencies can move beyond basic reporting to turn media intelligence into a real driver of revenue.
Chip Griffin is the Founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA).