Just recently, I was in the market for a new car – or more specifically, a “new to me” car: a used, slightly older model BMW convertible. I’d been daydreaming about owning one for a while and being my thrifty self, decided a previously owned one was a more cost-efficient option.
I went to a large used car dealership to see if they had what I was looking for in inventory. When I walked onto the lot, I told the salesperson who greeted me specifically what I wanted. I didn’t see the vehicle but asked, “Do you have one?”
The pleasant and talkative salesman proceeded to lead me to a convertible…a Volkswagen Bug. It was a nice car for sure, but not the one I wanted. I listened politely to his sales pitch and then reminded him of what I was looking for. Our next stop was a Mazda Miata. Another fun convertible but still not the one I wanted.
This process continued. Clearly, the salesman either didn’t hear me or, more likely, thought he could herd my interests toward something he did have in stock. Ultimately, I ended up excusing myself and leaving the lot, frustrated that I had wasted my time.
With regard to business relationships, we’ve all been there at some point, right?
As a veteran PR and marketing professional, I’ve learned the value of communication, which centers on really listening to clients about exactly what they want, where they want to be six months or a year down the road, and what keeps them up at night. Here are some key questions to ask yourself to determine whether your PR team is really listening to and comprehending your needs:
Did my agency take the time to get to know me? Every client relationship should begin with a meeting for thorough discussion, to allow you to communicate your company’s specific history, situation, challenges and desires. Not only does such a meeting allow you to express what you need, it also allows the PR team to ask the tough questions that can be eye opening. Carabiner organizes these sessions with our clients, which are followed up with an analysis document that communicates back to you what we heard and makes some key recommendations. It’s assurance we’re all on the same page.
Are the agency’s services (and results) meeting my business objectives? Oftentimes, it’s easy for agencies to go on autopilot, providing the same services to each and every client. If you’ve told your PR team that what you really need is a branded social media presence but they’re still spending the lion’s share of the budget on a stream of press releases for the wire, chances are you’re at that infamous “failure to communicate” point (to borrow from Cool Hand Luke). A cookie cutter plan that fails to address your specific needs and goals is one way to know right off the bat the agency isn’t listening and maybe never was.
Am I being asked regularly for feedback? At Carabiner, we first find out what our clients want and then do our best to create customized approaches accordingly. Then, as we execute plans we are continually evaluating what’s working and what isn’t, and making adjustments. A big part of that is regularly consulting with our clients to gain their perspective on the success of the tactics being used. An agency should always be asking “how are we doing?” and be both listening and reacting to the answer.
And by the way, I did finally find that convertible!