When it comes to general knowledge sharing, such as conferences and round tables, time and again I have seen and heard clients express an overwhelmingly negative view on agencies. The reason? Primarily, it’s the perspective that agencies can’t help but, “sell, sell, sell,” leading to a level of distrust akin to a used car salesman. Not exactly a great reputation to have. However, as agencies travel down this path―primarily by continuing the behaviors that cause this less-than-stellar perception―they, and we, are missing critical opportunities to learn from one another and grow the entire industry in a meaningful way. The key is to stop selling and start listening.

First Things First
Agencies. We have to break the never-ending “selling” habit. Think about it. If all you talk about is you and only push out “company” content, you sound like an annoying “me-monster” that you want to avoid at all costs.

Here are a few simple tips to change your mindset about agencies:

  • Focus on valuable content that serves the best interests of your clients and potential clients and others outside of your organization. Even if you share a direct competitor’s article, distributing quality insights demonstrates your dedication to knowledge not sales.
  • Understand that clients are experts too and create a two-way dialog. This means having conversations instead of a one-way content dump. Most often, the best ideas are those formed in agency-client collaborations.
  • When you get the chance to participate in those conversations, be open to setting ground rules to guide the discussion. And, let a client throw a red flag if they feel you are starting to be too “salesy.”

Next Up
Clients. Think about the massive amounts of time and investment spent on conferences, round tables, and other knowledge-sharing activities. People are obviously eager to learn from those who have faced industry challenges and come out on top. So, why not take advantage of those who spend their lives in the trenches every day at agencies?

Here are some reasons clients should embrace agency input:

  • Agencies tackle challenges and solve problems using multiple angles in diverse environments, so there is a wealth of learnings to pull from that very likely align closely to the issue or issues you are facing
  • This diversity of experience can lead to a more flexible world view, and the ability to talk about your challenges from your unique and valuable perspective, rather than just sharing a cookie cutter case study
  • As a third party, agencies can often say the things that clients can’t due to political or other reasons, allowing a much more honest conversation
  • Let’s be honest, just because someone is being too “salesy” doesn’t mean you have to buy. Use agencies for all you can get! If you are working with one who can’t get out of sales mode, find another who is willing to have a more open discussion. Believe it or not, they do exist.

In today’s world of collaboration and cooperation―or, one of the other many terms to describe competitors working together―there is way too much value being left on the table. Surround yourself with a network of smart people from diverse backgrounds (even a rival or two) and amazing things happen. Let’s all open up, play by the rules, and see how far it can take us.

Gunnar Jacobs is a Senior Director at Monigle and our resident evil agency guy.

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Gunnar Jacobs
June 9, 2014 By Gunnar Jacobs