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Handling inherited activities with new clients

When your agency starts working with a new client, chances are they have some existing activities already underway. They have a way of doing things that you need to become part of — or change to make it more to your liking.

In this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast, Chip and Gini talk about what happens when you find something that goes against your strategic and tactical judgement.

They look at a real-world example of an agency who found a contractor using a content and social media strategy that seemed nonsensical on the surface. But what might the new agency learn from the existing practices that might help them work more effectively for the client?

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin: Hello and welcome to the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich: And I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin: And today we’re going to talk about getting started on a new account and some of the strange things that can happen when you first start working for a client next on the Agency Leadership Podcast.

No, no,

Gini Dietrich: I just get,

Chip Griffin: you know, there’s, there’s something about 2 music that just really, it’s really snazzy. Absolutely. Absolutely. So we’ve all been in those situations where we start working for a new client and. You know, they’re doing something that just doesn’t make sense to us, whether it’s something that is left over from an old employee, or maybe they’ve got another vendor who’s doing something, another agency that we’re working with is doing something.

And we’re just like, that doesn’t make any sense to us. Why, why, why would we do that? And this, of course, is something that comes up from time to time. Uh, with all agencies, but it’s something that came up specifically in a conversation where in a great little place It’s called the spin sucks community indeed and where can you find the spin sucks community Gini?

Gini Dietrich: Oh, you can find it at spinsucks.com/spin-sucks-community

Chip Griffin: And since that’s a mouthful, if you’re watching this on video, I put it up on the screen for you so that so nice. Right there. And of course, as I always like to say, if you are not watching this, you should. It’s much more entertaining to see the facial expressions.

Where can you do that? At agencyleadershippodcast. com.

Gini Dietrich: Look at you, look at you with your fancy stuff here. I was doing a recording on with another podcast. Um, and they were using Stream Yard. I was like,

Chip Griffin: you were cheating on, you were cheating on this podcast with a podcast.

Gini Dietrich: Well, it was an interview. I was a guest, so it wasn’t like a hosting it or anything.

Okay. But I was on Stream Yard and I was like, this is not nearly as fancy as what Chip does. You need to up level, let’s go.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. But they’re probably less clumsy about it if, uh, if they’re keeping it simpler. So what are you gonna do? So Gini, when you get into those situations, when you start working with a client and you come across something like that, what do you do?

And maybe we should share the specific example. And if you were the person being cited in this example, our apologies, because we may be a little rough on you.

Gini Dietrich: So the question was, can I get a gut sanity check on a response I just received from another vendor I’m coordinating with on a client? The Response.

So for the context, her team functions as the client’s chief marketing officer vendor, who was hired by the client before they came on board, who writes one blog post per month for a list of their planned upcoming blog post topics and expected publish dates. So she was just like, you know, what do you think you’re going to do for the next?

12 months. If you’re doing one a month, let’s talk about what it looks like. And he said, this response makes a total bull to me and I would like your response or what you think. So the vendor who she asked for their planned upcoming blog post topics and expected publish dates said the first blog post will be on the search term.

And then the search term was there. And then they said, however, I would recommend having a month delay when posting to social media. The strategy I use is to allow the articles to be one month ahead of social media. So, for example, in February, I would promote articles on Facebook or Instagram that were written and published on the website in January, the month prior.

This provides Google’s bots enough time to search the website and index the new post. The time in between posting to the website and promoting those articles on social media also eliminates any bottlenecks and provides room to make any additions or revisions to the articles before promoting a link to the blog post.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, I, I have to say, I, I really just don’t understand that approach it, um, it sort of reminds me of back in the 1990s, I worked for an organization that insisted on sending out a press release on a breaking news event by mail. Oh, well, I said, that’s probably not going to do any good because by the time it actually gets opened.

It’s not, it’s not relevant anymore. Yeah. And it’s the same thing here. I mean, you know, I guess, I mean, why don’t you just send the blog post by carrier pigeon or something somewhere?

Gini Dietrich: It just, all of us were like, what? And then my response was, that means all, all of us are doing it wrong. And this one person is doing it correctly.

Like I’ve never,

Chip Griffin: it’s possible,

Gini Dietrich: but I don’t think anybody waits a month to promote content. They may promote content a month later. after promoting it within the published time, but not to wait a month before promoting, distributing it.

Chip Griffin: Right. Yeah. I mean, it, uh, on the surface, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but, but I would emphasize on the surface, because I think one of the important things to do if you find yourself and your agency in this situation is you need to ask why you really need to, to dig into the root and try to figure out.

Is there some reason for it? It’s hard to imagine a good reason. I, you and I can’t, nobody in the SpendSucks community could think of a good reason. And there may not be a good reason, but there may at least be a reason. And, and my experience is sometimes you find out that there’s some weird landmine within the organization that you have to be aware of.

And so, so at least knowing that, uh, you know, uh, Johnny over in accounting told them that they have to do it this way or they don’t get paid or, I mean, I don’t know, something, right? I mean, I mean, seriously, I mean, I’m sure you see, there are all sorts of weird things I’ve seen when I go in and work for a new client and, and there are just, just strange things that they insist on doing or not doing for whatever reason.

Gini Dietrich: Well, and I think in this particular situation, I mean, they did say the strategy I use is to allow the articles to be one month ahead so that there’s time for, to eliminate bottlenecks and provide room to make any additions, additions or revisions. So it sounds to me like maybe there was a situation where The po the content was published, it was shared on social media, but then the content had to be revised at some point.

Yes. And that, that could very well be the reason.

Chip Griffin: Right. And, and, and, and it could, that could be a, a, a good, bad reason, if that makes sense. Right, right. Because if it’s, if it’s an organization that tends to change its mind. I have worked with clients who, you know, as literally as soon as something’s out the door, they’re like, Oh no, no, no, no.

I don’t, I don’t want to do it that

Gini Dietrich: way.

Chip Griffin: Bring it back. Can’t do that. Cannot unwind the clock. It doesn’t work. Right. But if that’s something that was happening regularly, that may be the explanation. And so then you as the new agency need to come in and figure out, okay, how do we avoid that same situation?

Or do we still need to have some sort of, uh, A pause in there, maybe it’s only a day or two as opposed to a month, but you know, but maybe you do need to have that. So you don’t end up getting in those situations where, you know, the client is apoplectic that you shared some quote on social media that they had previously approved, but now suddenly they decide they don’t like.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. I mean, we have a client like that right now, but likes to change his mind, change their minds. Pretty frequently, but from that perspective, I say, listen, it’s already out there. We’ll revise it. No big deal. We’ll share it again. Like it’s not, it’s not the big of a deal.

Chip Griffin: Right. But, you know, with clients like that, it’s often good just to kind of keep the paper trail too, right?

Absolutely. And so, you know, in, in situations where I’ve had clients like that, if they’ll, if they’ll tell me something over the phone is approved, I’ll usually send an email confirming it . Yep. Yep. So that, so that two days later when they say, I can’t believe you sent that out without my approval, I can say.

But right here, it’s right here and look, I mean, I, I hate CYA stuff and it just, it makes my skin crawl. Um, I don’t, I don’t like being on the receiving end of it or having to give it, but sometimes. It’s, it’s prudent. It’s the smart thing to do. And so in a situation like this, you might be learning something about the client and how it operates.

So it might actually be valuable information. So instead of just saying, you know, no, this person’s stupid, we’re not doing it that way, we’re doing it our way. It might be. I mean, it could be, I mean, but you know, but you need to dig in and find that out. Also, by the way, usually helpful to try to get any context around that other vendor or contractor employee, you know, make sure it’s not like the CEO’s nephew or something like that.

So that, you know, again, you’re not just inadvertently stepping into something. Cause I’ve had that one happen to where I’m like, yeah, we’re not working with this person anymore. And someone says, yeah. Do you know that that’s related to the owner? You may not want to go down that path. You may want to work around the problem rather than trying to get rid of it.

Gini Dietrich: I think your, your advice to figure out what the context is. And, and certainly there, we’ve all experienced this where we start working with a new client and things are going on where you’re like, Why, why? And it’s because it’s the way things have always been done. So in, in a lot of cases, because you’re the new agency and you have a new relationship and you’re sort of the, the shiny pennies still, you have an opportunity to say, well, let’s try it this way because we’ve seen this, this and this, or it’s a best practice to do it this way.

And here’s why. Um, I think you have an opportunity to change the way things have always been done, if they’re kind of ridiculous. you’re new like that.

Chip Griffin: And it is absolutely a good opportunity to do that, but I would also say, make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. Um, you know, and I would say this happens more with new staff rather than new agencies, but there is, there even with agencies, there is still sometimes the tendency to, to do To do something different, just to do something different, right?

And when you’re, when you’re a new hire, you know, you’re running a department, you just come in, you know, oftentimes you want to put your stamp on it and you want to make people think, you know, yes, you’re, you know, you’re taking initiative. Sometimes those end up being good. Sometimes it ends up being different just for different sake.

And so you want to be. how you’re implementing those changes and not doing them just to sort of make it appear as if you’re doing more than you are. And it’s, it’s not necessarily even a conscious thing. I mean, it just, we all have that tendency when we walk in to say, Oh, this is, this is what I want to do with all this.

But sometimes it’s good to sort of live with it a little bit before you figure out what the right answer is.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. And, you know, this goes to, it’s a, it’s a larger conversation, but this goes to my feeling on. Writing proposals and responding to RFPs and providing ideas before you get into the business.

And I think this is where agencies get into trouble a lot is we say, We meet with a client or a prospect and we say, we, we ask her questions and we say, okay, we can do this, this, this, and this, we put it together. We put together a scope of work, we put together together pricing, and then we get into the business and we realize everything that we just recommended, isn’t going to work because of stuff that you learn as you start working with a client.

Right. Right. And so, I mean, like I said, it goes to a larger issue and a larger conversation, but I think this is one example of the type of thing that you don’t know. until you get in there, how things really work, what their processes, what their policies are. They may have fed you a line of bull, or they may have said something to you that they want to have happen in the new business meetings where it’s not in fact the total case once you get in there.

So I think this is a really good example of How those things happen and it’s sort of outside of your control, right? So now you’ve proposed something that you want to want to be able to do based on conversations you had, but because of these hurdles or roadblocks, you can’t get them done.

Chip Griffin: Right. But, uh, I, you know, I sort of like to compare it to, to people who, you know, they, they buy a new house and they immediately do major renovations, order all sorts of furniture and all that kind of stuff before they even move in.

And, and, you know, I mean, sometimes there’s just stuff that has to be done. But a lot of times it’s, you know, you think, you know what you want and then you get in and you’re like, Oh, well, you know, I probably wouldn’t have done this on this side of the house. Cause that neighbor’s kind of noisy. And so I actually kind of rather, you know, spend my quiet time on the other side of the house or, you know, you just, you know, I mean, to me, I, you know, You and I both love to cook.

I’m sure we’re very particular about where we would like to see things in our kitchens. You know, the more that you live in a house and you sort of figure all these things out, you can figure out, Oh, this is actually a good idea or no, that’s a terrible idea or those kinds of things. So I think it’s, I think it’s worthwhile to live with the client for a little bit, get to know them.

Frankly, you shouldn’t be spending time talking with as many of their team members as you can, because you can pick up a lot of things and you can really make yourself sticky as an agency by. Talking to the team members and figure out, you know, what they thought should have been done that wasn’t being done before.

Because now you can use that glow that you have, assuming you agree with what those team members want, and you can go in and push them through. Push those, those new strategies or tactics through. And then not only are you doing something good for the client. You’re a hero to those internal folks who maybe have been waging this battle for years internally and couldn’t win it, but you’ve helped them get across the goal line.

So they now appreciate you instead of being there and resisting you.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah, 100%. And I think that goes back to what we were talking about at the very beginning, which is, you know, figure out what it is. What the context is certainly don’t step on toes. If it’s the nephew of the CEO, um, but definitely give yourself the time and the opportunity to learn so that you can make change because there is nothing easier than having an outside expert come in and say, and repeat the things that you, that the internal team has been saying for years.

And, and it, and then that they’ll make change. And it happens. All the time. I say to people, all the, I say to clients all the time, do you want me to have a conversation with them? Because as soon as I repeat what you’ve said it, and it’s only because I’m external. Right? Right. It’s not because, because I have some magic pull or anything.

It’s just because I’m not in it every day. So I think that’s a big opportunity for you to learn sort of what the team has been trying to get to your point across the finish line and hasn’t been able to, and you might be able to help them do that.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, it’s, I mean, it’s, it’s something I learned when I was internal and we would bring in outside vendors or consultants, you know, I learned over the years that I could leverage those people to get what I wanted, you know, and, and, and sometimes I would just be overt and say, Hey, can you say to so and so that we need to do this?

And most of the time, they’re like, yeah. Yeah, sure. Why not? Um, and, and, but sometimes it’s, you know, you just kind of plant the seed so it can become their own idea. You know, you sort of have to read each individual consultant or agency and, and figure out how to get them to do what you want them to do. Um, but you know, I think the other thing is we’ve, we’ve said one word a number of times here today and that’s why, and I think that really, um, When you see these kinds of situations, when you’re coming into a new client, you know, ask why they’re doing it, really try to understand it.

Because my experience is that it’s rare that people do things that are stupid simply because they can, or simply because they are so woefully uninformed. Usually there’s something that’s driving it. Uh, and, and if you can get to that, then you’re in a much better place to make the real change that needs to happen in order for that.

One of the problems that I met recently was with people saying, they are not doing it right. You’re not doing it right. You’re not doing the right thing.

Gini Dietrich: And I think that that’s one of the big problems. I think that’s one of the problems. And so I think it’s important to understand that the interviews that you get out and It gets to the point where I’m like, you know, someday you’re just going to do it because I asked you to.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, I don’t think so.

I mean, my oldest is almost 20 and he still doesn’t often do what I ask him to do.

Gini Dietrich: Why? Why? Why? Why? Uh,

Chip Griffin: no, neither of my boys really spend much time asking why. They just say no. You just say, no, . They, they went through the why stage though. I mean, when, when, when they were younger, they, they, you know, they went with the why, um, you know, they, they generally just go with no now or later.

Um, or, uh, or my, my younger one who is uh, 16 just prefers to say, that’s stupid.

You know, put your dishes in the dishwasher. No, that’s stupid.

Gini Dietrich: I mean, sure.

Chip Griffin: Where should we put them? I mean.

Probably somewhere, I guess somewhere. Right. I think at one point my wife suggested putting them on his bed and that didn’t go over too well. Of course we’d have to, we’d have to get, we’d have to get to his bed first. I mean, that’s, that’s an OSHA violation right there. Just try and walk across the floor of his room.

Yeah. I made the mistake of going into their shared bathroom the other day. Oh, that was because we put them in charge of cleaning that. Which just means it hasn’t been done in probably a year and a half, something like that. Yeah, sure. Yeah. So anyway, in any case, um, yep. So, uh, so ask why or, or don’t, you know, if you, if you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask why that’s probably smart advice too.

Gini Dietrich: Well, and I mean, going back to this, I do think that there, there was a, there wasn’t, it was not a good explanation. There was an explanation as to why. So in this case, Um, but I think in this case, I would probably go back to the vendor and say, so explain to me why this is the way that it’s done. And I understand that you want to, you know, create, get rid of the bottlenecks and, and you want to give Google time and all that kind of stuff, but explain to me why, um, because you may find out that there’s something there, or you may find out that the person’s just, Yeah.

You see, how do you

Chip Griffin: know what’s coming? I mean, I’ve played a video game where there are couples and I think the, the you have to have a channel, the your, And you need to remember that, that you need to learn how to use them in order to be able to make them work. And it, Oh, Yeah. But, but, but knowing that can be very, very helpful.

So, so don’t jump to conclusions, ask why, and then try to figure out, you know, what the best path forward is from there. And you’ll end up in a much better place as an agency and have a stronger relationship with your

Gini Dietrich: client. And that is much better advice than my head exploding emojis.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, probably, but not nearly as much fun.

Not nearly as much fun. So, with that, we will not ask you why, we will simply thank you for listening, and we will draw this episode to a close. I’m Chip Griffin.

Gini Dietrich: And I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin: And it depends.

Thank you for listening to the Agency Leadership Podcast. You can watch or listen to every episode by visiting AgencyLeadershipPodcast.com or subscribing on your favorite podcast player. We would also love it if you would leave a rating or review at iTunes or wherever you go to find podcasts. Be sure to check out Ginny Dietrich at Spinsucks. com and join the Spin Sucks community at Spinsucks.com/spin-sucks-community.

You can learn more about me, chipGriffin@smallagencygrowth.com, where you can also sign up for a free community membership to engage with other agency leaders. The Agency Leadership Podcast is distributed on the FIR podcast network where you can find lots of other communications oriented podcasts. Just visit www.fipodcastnetwork.com.

We welcome your feedback and suggestions and look forward to being back with you again next week.

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The Hosts

Chip Griffin is the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA) where he helps PR & marketing agency owners build the businesses that they want to own. He brings more than two decades of experience as an agency executive and entrepreneur to share the wisdom of his success and lessons of his failures. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Follow her on Twitter at @GiniDietrich.

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