Monday, October 17, 2011

Know The Process - Know The Client

The better we know the client's organization, the more successful marketing and design firms can serve them, including better client relationships and increased client retention. Some integral parts of the client's organization, or any organization, are the methods and tools it uses for getting things done. These are processes. 

Now "process" is a dirty word for some, since it can smell of rigidity, formalism and the like. But whether you want to accept it or not, all work consists of processes and they can be elegantly designed or left to develop on their own (usually a problem with the latter). The idea here is that if that firms can understand some of  the clients' key processes, ones for which they serve as suppliers and/or customers, they will ultimately achieve better results.

Processes can be best understood by dividing them into five components: suppliers, inputs, the process flow, outputs and customers, as shown in the diagram below. Let's see how looking the client's process that governs how an agency gets hired, for example, might help.

The suppliers and inputs to this process follow: the marketing department who provides the requirements and a list of agencies to be considered;  agencies who deliver information about themselves and the project, which could be in the form of an RFI or RFP response; the procurement department who creates standards or language that become an RFP document. The finance folks who probably calculate a budget. And senior executives who provide the go ahead decision and expectations about firms and desired results.

The process section is really about the flow of activity, step by step actions taken by those involved in the hiring the  agency or design firm.

The outputs are those things produced by the process and received by the customers. In this case, the hired agency is a customer who receives the contract as an output. The rejected firms also receive something, in this case a rejection letter and maybe feedback on why they didn't win. The marketing department is a customer who receives the go ahead for the project and a firm to work with. 

So why does this matter? What if and agencies or design firms could know about what was important to procurement or the executive group who are suppling inputs to the process? Would it be valuable to know the budget for the project and where it ranks in priority to others? And wouldn't it be helpful to know the actual steps and decision points in the process flow itself?

The answer, of course, is yes to all these points and it takes a smart firm with good investigative skills to map and analyze this information so it can deliver better products and build better client relationships.

So, knowing a client's processes helps firms to understand their clients better, which ultimately leads to better performance, higher client retention and better client relationships.

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