One of the most endearing qualities in business is the ability to be gracious. This is especially true when things don’t go our way. It’s an attractive quality and it pays dividends in our work and relationships.
At a recent agency conference, a presenter declared that agencies pitching new business should not say “thank you for the opportunity”. His point was that there is a lot of bad client/prospect behavior and that agencies shouldn’t be thanking them for the opportunity to invest time and effort in a pitch. He’s right about the last point: there certainly is some bad prospect behavior.
At Mercer Island Group, we do not share the sentiment that agencies should not thank the prospect for the opportunity. While we certainly don’t believe in being doormats (have you met us?), we simply believe that being gracious is good business. That goes for agencies and for marketers.
We’ve thought a great deal about this and collected a handful of examples of situations where being gracious is good business.
Marketers should express appreciation for agency work
The work doesn’t have to be good. Even when the work is not good, a team worked hard to create it. If it was part of an active client-agency relationship, the agency team was undoubtedly trying to meet the client’s needs and help their business. If it was a pitch, the agency was undoubtedly investing their time and resources to win the account. And in either situation, they may have missed.
Be gracious! Thank the team for the work before AND after you deliver what may be tough to hear feedback. Kindness and appreciation go a long way. They WILL do better next time, because they will WANT to.
Agencies should thank prospects for the opportunity when pitching
The pitch process is expensive and nerve wracking for agencies. The pitch may not have been run perfectly. Despite all of this, take a breath and appreciate that the clients aren’t perfect and are also imperfectly trying.
The pitch process is also nerve wracking for clients. Selecting the wrong agency can have a negative impact on the work, the business and even the client’s career. Be gracious. It goes a long way.
Agencies should be gracious when they lose
It stinks to lose a pitch. The agency has invested in the pitch. The team has spent hours and resources on the pitch instead of a number of other opportunities. This is sunk investment; money the agency can’t get back.
It also stinks when the client or consultant has to deliver the bad news.
Agency execs can choose at this difficult time to be difficult and defensive (which we occasionally experience) or they can be gracious and understanding.
Guess which approach leaves lasting positive memories and a greater desire for a client or consultant to interact again with the agency in the future? Be gracious.
Clients should be gracious about demanding requests
Clients often are faced with making requests of their agencies that are less than ideal. The timeline may be compressed. The client may have given poor feedback or contradictory directions. The budget may be less than originally anticipated.
Regardless of the challenge, it pays for clients to acknowledge that they are asking for something special and difficult from their agency partner. Name it. Apologize. Thank them. Be gracious.
The examples are endless
We could go on and on, but the point seems clear: we work in a people business and we often end up in situations that are less than desirable. These are the times when gracious leadership matters.
Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Zillow Group, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Ulta Beauty, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.