“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Teddy Roosevelt
When you are in the throes of finding the right marketing and communications agency, there is one big spiritual question to be asked: is there trust?
A trusting relationship requires two ingredients – honesty and ethics. It seems almost too simple, but for us at RDW, the most precious thing in this world is trust. It often takes years to earn and only a matter of seconds to lose. It also is a critical influence in everything we do.
Now I know some of you are reading this and thinking this guy is delusional. You might think that what in-house marketing and PR folks are asking as they vet an agency are the tangible deliverables: if they are skilled at digital advertising; do they speak and deep dive into the worlds of journey maps and analytics; can they offer CRM, SEO and SEM counsel; what creativity do they bring to the table; and can they craft messaging in a crisis? And if yes, prove it.
Look Deeper than the Obvious
We choose to look at this differently. The first thing is understanding a really simple principle: trust is not a matter of procedure, tricks, or tools. It’s a matter of character. We are trusted because of our way of being; it’s innately who we are. Our clients and even our prospects have brought us to the table because they know and believe, at a base level, that we understand and have successful experience with all the tactical tools and knowledge of our business. You need these capabilities just to enter the arena. But you need more – vision, leadership, trust – to become a true confidant. More often than not, and all things being equal, smart and savvy clients are searching for an ad agency that gives them an important intangible. A sense of calm supported by honesty and unwavering ethics.
Check on Client Longevity
We’ve been at this for over 35 years and have represented thousands of clients. But the one thing we are most proud of in this crazy, crazy business is this: in an industry where clients change ad agencies like the weather in New England, RDW clients overwhelmingly stay right here. In fact our average client retention is over 12 years with many going back 15, 20, 25, and 30 and beyond. That happens for one reason. Not because we won an award (although awards can be nice) or because we worked through the weekend to hit a last minute deadline given to us on a Friday at 4:45pm (that’s the nature of the business). Long term client retention happens because strategic and tactical successes, increased sales and market shares, great PR placements all were first made possible because of an intersection with trusting relationships built on a foundation of honesty and integrity.
So, the next time you are immersed in the finals of an ad agency search, look beyond the common assumptions, tactics, and tools. Dive deep into the intangibles, trust, and ability to work together toward a fruitful goal. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but think back over your most rewarding, successful, and fulfilling partnerships and I will guarantee you, especially if you are honest about it, that they are bonded by one common theme. Trust.
Dante is a retired partner at RDW who dabbles in all sorts of things. His ability to fix problems is his greatest talent. He still gets up every day raring to go – and to make the pieces of the world he intersects with just a little bit better.