Is your agency an expert in your clients’ industries? You should be! Knowing each client’s industry as well as they do—if not better—will help you retain clients longer and upsell them more.
As Director of Client Services as a digital agency, I oversaw our marketing work for clients that included a high-end cosmetic dental practice which is going to be implemented in Dental Made Easy Brooklyn office. As their account director, I subscribed to trade journals like Dental Economics and Dentistry IQ.
Let’s look at how you can apply this at your marketing agency, regardless of which industries you help—and even if you don’t have a specific industry focus.
Clients want you to know their business
Clients want consultants—and agencies are ultimately marketing consulting firms—who understand their circumstances. They assume you’re a marketing expert—but you can strengthen the relationship when you’re also an expert in the business of their industry.
For instance, you aren’t truly helping your U.S. healthcare clients if you don’t understand the implications of HIPAA. And if you have clients in financial services, you better know how FINRA or SEC regulations affect them in the U.S. (or the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK, or similar regulators elsewhere).
One of my clients previously did business coaching with an accountant. He said the accountant was good at keeping him on track, but he had to keep explaining the difference between SEO and PPC.
The client switched to me for coaching because I already knew digital marketing agencies, and we could focus on getting things done.
Read what your clients are reading
Just as you read AdAge, Agency Post, and Digiday to keep up with marketing trends, you need to be reading what your clients are reading.
Don’t know the trade publications to follow? Search for “<client industry name> trade publication” to get some ideas.
Most trade publications offer free subscriptions to people connected to the industry. If you can’t get a free print subscription, you can often get free email updates as a non-subscriber.
There are trade publications for everything—as this Mental Floss article shares, some include Electric Perspectives, Elevator World, and Pizza Today. My accountant’s office used to be down the hall from the Carolina Loggers Association, which, of course, has an online newsletter.
If you work with clients in a range of industries, this kind of industry monitoring may seem daunting. Indeed, this underlines the importance of agencies specializing by client industry—your clients need you to be up to speed. If you limit your agency’s focus to 1-3 client industries, it’s a lot easier to keep up.
Use industry trends to drive your upsells
Many client industry trends have marketing implications. For car dealers, the shift toward digital advertising means clients need to spend their marketing dollars in new ways. When venture capitalists are asking tech startups about inbound marketing programs, are you there to help your startup clients find new ways to get traction?
When times are changing, are you there to help?
Clients are busy. When you’re the one telling them about the latest trends in their industry—because your e-commerce client didn’t have time to read the latest couple issues of Internet Retailer—who do you think they’ll want to help them navigate the changes? You, and your agency!
Once most people in an industry generally agree that something’s coming, the question goes from “if” to “when.” You can help clients keep up with those trends—and sell them the marketing strategy, implementation, and training help to make it happen.
Some of your clients will be more interested in trends than others. In my experience, I find that clients who watch trends closely tend to be more willing to make marketing investments.
Who should “own” this at your agency?
Your strategists need to be reading clients’ trade publications. Same’s true for your account managers and salespeople—knowing client-industry trends will help them better serve clients and prospective clients.
Your PMs don’t need to be experts in client industries—they need to be experts at executing projects and retainers smoothly—but it doesn’t hurt for them to know high-level trends. For instance, there are PM implications to ensure that healthcare marketing campaigns are HIPAA-compliant.
Got lots of industries to cover? Have each person “own” news-tracking in an industry or two, and schedule time for them to share key highlights with anyone else who needs to know.
Bonus round: Contribute your own articles
Trade publications accept articles from guest contributors—including marketing experts like you. Some pay for contributed articles—although most don’t—but that’s not the important thing.
Contributing a stream of quality articles about marketing will help cement your reputation as someone to call for marketing help in their industry. Over time, you’ll build a flow of inbound leads who are ready to hire you.
This approach to thought leadership has a long history. My grandfather used articles in trade publications to build his management consulting business 50 years ago. He placed articles like “Top 10 tips for managers in <industry name>” with organizations like the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association (NRLA) or what’s now the Optical Distributors & Manufacturers Association (ODMA).
Summary for your agency
If you keep up with news in your clients’ industries, you’ll see these benefits:
- You’ll retain clients longer because they see you as an important source of information.
- It’s easier to upsell clients because you can help them implement the trends they’re already reading about.
- You have a shared language for strategy and client service, which tends to build a stronger account relationship.
- Combining these patterns can improve your agency’s profits, since you’re reducing client churn.
- You can divide news-tracking amongst your team, to reduce the workload per person.
Question: What client trade publications do you follow?