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The power of relationships

Relationships help or hinder success in life. That’s especially true in the world of advertising, says Nick Lawson, Worldwide COO of MediaCom

Relationships are important in life. Strong ones nurture us, educate us, help open doors and create opportunities; negative ones have the opposite effect.

This is especially true in business. Relationships with your colleagues, relationships with your suppliers, and especially in the service industry, the relationships you have with your clients all determine whether you succeed or fail.

Developing relationships isn’t always easy, of course, but if I’ve learnt one thing after all these years, it’s that to make a relationship work, you have to put in time and effort, and, crucially, show that you care about the other person.

Caring is a critical part of agency life. I always tell our people that the metric that matters most to our clients is showing that we care. The moment they think we don’t is the moment they start to leave the building.

Showing that you care

In business, showing you care goes beyond the core requirements of doing the basics well; turning up on time, returning calls, responding quickly to emails, supplying a written agenda for meetings or producing agreed action points afterwards.

In our world, it even goes beyond the necessary process of challenging a client’s stated campaign objectives and securing clearer targets and goals, whether that’s volume sales/CPA or ROI for response campaigns or shifts in awareness/consideration in brand activity.

One way I like to show I care is to get to know the people I work for and with on a more personal level. This might mean meeting one on one – over a coffee, drink or meal, perhaps – so we can chat off the record and better understand each other’s concerns and constraints.

It also means talking about more than just media. Without those conversations about interests, family and the like, it would be like a cricket player being interested in batting but ignoring the impact of bowling.

Caring is also about curiosity. I want all our people to have opinions about all parts of our business – and our clients’ businesses – and to share their views about how the creative strategy and execution of a given campaign can be improved, or how on-site conversion or the experience delivered by their call centre can be made better. I want them to care.

Ways of working

Of course, you can’t force people to care but you can build ways of working that will encourage them to enhance relationships. One way, for instance, is to encourage them to let stakeholders know what they’re doing, involve them in their plans, and work collaboratively to drive real results.

In our business, we use the Scrum framework when responding to complex briefs, inviting our people and client stakeholders to collaborate together during ideation. This allows us to get ideas out in the open, so we can refine and improve them quickly at each stage of the process.

Caring also means giving people constant opportunities to upskill. Doing so ensures they work harder – and stay longer – because they feel valued and stay motivated. That’s good news for every company because no organisation can thrive with just a few senior experts; in today’s agile climate, businesses need experts at every level.

At MediaCom, we know that every person working on every account needs to be able to understand, advise and act on growth opportunities as soon as they appear. And because we care, we make sure that whoever we call upon to do a job for us can deliver to the highest possible standards.

For relationships to really thrive though, it takes commitment and effort on both sides. I’m rarely asked by our clients how they can work better with us, but I would love it if they did. Our teams thrive on strong and dynamic relationships with their clients – and those relationships genuinely create the best outcomes time and time again.

My brother used to be an advertiser. He ran a vacuum cleaning company for years. Once, he asked me how he could improve his relationship with his agency. I said he should find the names of all the people working on his business and send them each a vacuum cleaner. Not only would it show them that he cared about them, but it would help them ‘live’ his brand.

Such two-way relationships are important but, too often in business, people can be afraid to let their guard down. As Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady of the United States, once said: “We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all.”

In business, we need to overcome that barrier in order to deliver significant business results for both parties. And surely that’s what we all care about.

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