Taking the guesswork out of client targets

Image for Louise Neale By Louise Neale

When it comes to business growth, what’s your plan for your agency’s future? While it’s true that growth can come from new business, it’s generally accepted that it’s easier to work on getting more in from your existing clients. Here, lots of agencies apply a year-on-year growth figure as a target, such as ‘10% more than last year’. But that’s just an arbitrary figure plucked out of the air.

What you really need is some strategic planning… taking you from guesswork to growth.

First, you might be wondering what’s wrong with applying a standard target figure across your clients. The answer is that it might not be realistic. Does every client have the capacity to give you 10% more? Conversely, some might be in sectors with high growth and have more than 10% potential to offer. Have budgets been increased or decreased? Do you have the right resources to effectively service your clients’ own strategic planning?

From these few questions, we can already see that some clients might be able to offer very little in the way of extra, while others might bring much more to the table. It’s time to roll up your sleeves, stop plucking figures out of the air and do a bit of lovely number crunching. Setting realistic client growth targets in a creative agency involves a mix of data analysis, customer understanding and strategic planning.

It’s easy when you know how, so here are five steps you can follow to get to the heart of your targets:

Take a data deep dive

Getting to really know the spending habits of each client can help you decide where to set your targets. The first place to start is a review of previous spend – how have they spent in the past and on what type of work/services? And was some of that spend a one-off, such as for a big rebrand, or are there trends you can spot, such as exhibiting at a big event every two years?

If they are increasing spend, why is this? Is it simply budgetary changes or are they getting just what they need from your agency? On the flip side, reduced spend could also be for internal reasons, or are they seeking other services that your agency isn’t providing?

Get a good understanding of your clients…

Clients change and evolve all the time, so it’s a good idea to carry out a bi-yearly review with them. Ask them about their goals, challenges and plans, and how you could fit into the bigger picture? Now is also a good time to ask them to evaluate your services: are you fulfilling all their needs, or is there something you could be doing better?

… and the markets they operate in

Some sectors or services may have higher growth potential than others and understanding this can aid your target setting. Explore the overall market growth rate and demand for creative services – are clients likely to be investing more or less in certain services this year?

Assess your resource and capacity

If you’re planning to bring in more work, who’s going to do it? Just chucking more projects at current creatives will lead to overload (and a likely mass exodus). So you need to look carefully at your agency’s capacity, resources and capabilities to handle this extra work. What type of work is it likely to be, and will you have internal capacity or do you need freelancers or to recruit?

There’s nothing worse than a client giving you more work and you failing to deliver. This just results in them not giving you other stuff and you’ll miss your targets. Be honest with your clients: if they want more, but you can’t fit it in right now, tell them openly. They’d rather have transparency than inefficiency.

Review, evaluate and adjust

Targets don’t have to be set in stone. Look at actual performance, market changes and client feedback and adjust them accordingly. As part of your client review, see if there are ways you could work more efficiently to meet a lower budget, for example, than them looking elsewhere. Bullishly forcing everyone towards an unachievable target isn’t going to do anything but lower morale. Realistic has to be your watchword.

Find out how to track client targets in Synergist.

None of this is rocket science or particularly time consuming, but will give you a fantastic boost in getting your targets on point. So you can wave goodbye to randomly irrelevant figures plucked from nowhere, and instead focus on real, meaningful and strategic data. Which in agency land, is always a great way to power your growth… and your profits.

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