I just got off the phone with a lost opportunity. We didn’t win an account that we thought we were a good fit for, and that lost client was kind enough to tell us why we didn’t win. In doing so, he reminded me of a dirty little secret in the advertising business.

We were one of two finalists, and ultimately lost because our creative wasn’t presented as well as the top competitor. Fair enough, and a good lesson for us to learn. But it was after that discussion that I was reminded of a key point in selecting an agency. You see, our lost client is pleased with their initial strategy (we had scored equally for our strategic abilities). And he’s pleased with the creative he’s seen from them so far. But, and this is a big but, he’s missing an implementation strategy – so even when he has the final creative deliverable from them he doesn’t know what to do with it! So part of the secret is this: If you don’t know what to do with your new name and logo once you’ve paid for it, what good does it do you?

And more importantly, he told me he’s learned that vetting creative is a difficult process – and he’s had no guidance. “There’s no relationship built here,” he said. “I need handholding, someone to help me understand how to make some very difficult and important decisions but I’m on my own. They just handed me off.” And that’s the big secret – those creative people will wow you with their pretty pictures and colors and over-the-top creative. But once you’re engaged with them, they’re off engaging with their next client. And you’re left alone.

We take a very different approach at MBM. We’re as much about the handholding, building the relationship, and making sure that whatever we do together is right for you as we are about how it looks. In fact, even more so. Because we know that it’s long-term relationships that are the result of good work done the right way. Once we engage with a client, we’re engaged – and we don’t walk away from that, turn it over to junior people and move on to the next big thing. It’s just not our way.

So, the next time you’re looking for an agency think about what you’re really looking for from the partnership — and if you’ll be getting everything you need rather than a really great initial engagement but no long-term support and insights to help you accomplish all your goals.

– Maggi