Johanna McDowell. Picture: Russell Roberts/Financial Mail
Johanna McDowell. Picture: Russell Roberts/Financial Mail

As we head slowly towards the reopening of our economy after stringent lockdown regulations, Johanna McDowell, CEO of the Independent Agency Search & Selection Co (IAS) and SCOPEN partner, says our weeks of virtual relationship management have brought up some issues and opportunities that could make for fertile – or fallow – ground.

It’s said that when the tide goes out, we can see what’s left on the beach. The Covid-19 pandemic certainly took the tide out quickly and some beaches looked more appealing than others.

In the rush to ensure that clients continued to be seen and felt by consumers, marketers and agencies all faced the “Big Ask”, and adapted rapidly. In no time, our industry was Zooming, Teaming and flip-charting to stay on track and offer more than we’ve ever had to.

As we settle into online communications as a way of life, innovative ways of managing relationships must be developed – and this will not be a “one size fits all” exercise. So, how do we best create a path for moving forward, either behind masks or in cyberspace?

What to consider

  • What changes need to be made to continue a solid relationship in a new environment?
  • How do you make sure your teams are all on the same page, with both technology and resources to meet clients’ new requirements?
  • How quickly are you able to meet new demands in a landscape that is likely to be fairly volatile for some time?
  • Will the quality of input and feedback between marketers, agencies and clients be as consistent as it is important?

While relationship management has been the cornerstone of the IAS since its inception, we’ve found that the current circumstances have clients looking for a roadmap to navigate the ways in which our industry will need to innovate and create opportunities in the coming months and years.

In my view, they key is to construct a fluid framework that enables all parties to be flexible while maintaining the strength of a solid ecosystem a client can rely on. My experience shows that the best way to be consistent within the inconsistencies we all have to deal with is to ensure you have a set of specific shared objectives, and an impartial observer keeping the entire ecosystem on track.

With this in place, there’s no reason our industry shouldn’t not only meet, but exceed, client expectations in a whole new world.

The IAS (Independent Agency Search and Selection Company) in association with the AAR Group (UK) was founded in South Africa in 2006. IAS specializes in client/agency relationship management and helping clients find agencies.

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