The Hazards Of Love: Keeping Mindful Within Long-Term Engagement
No matter your side of the business, you’ve been conditioned like the rest of us to strive for long-term engagement. If you’re an agency, you’re bred to eschew the one-off project or single campaign and pitch for Agency of Record status, or at least a retainer-based arrangement.
If you’re on the sell side, you know how to skillfully sweep aside the pilot or the test proposition and angle for the longer-term contact. Tests are for wimps. We need skin in the game to understand our own capacity for success.
There’s a lot to be said for having the time and space to conceive, execute and deliver on the promise of the engagement — and then to deepen the work over time through learning. Plus, having something that looks like long-term, lasting love from the outside staves off the competition… right?
The trouble with this notion is that our focus on long-term commitment from the outset is not always based on a long-term commitment to enriching the engagement between the people involved. In our data-driven realm, where we are chiefly focused on improving performance of marketing, media and creative assets, we forget to apply the same diligence to the human part of the engagement.
Before we can value this kind of commitment and insist it is key to our longer-term business prospects, don’t we need a plan for assuring the staying power of the team, the people managing the business? Yes. And, this comes down to a few things like scope of intelligence, strategic accountability and keeping a place for play.
Scope Of Intelligence
Does your team think wide and big enough? If you are a marketer, does your agency have the right scope of knowledge? This extends to platforms, enabling technology and data analytics — all things you will need to know your way around to execute data-driven marketing across channels with full efficiency.
If you are an agency, is the potential brand client receptive and open to new ideas, exploration and risk taking? If you are on the supply side, this all applies — you want agencies and brands that get it, are open and will lean in and try things, taking equal parts short and long view. Both are essential.
Today, with such an intricate space and an ever-evolving tech underbelly, a certain level of intellectual flex bodes well for the future. We cannot afford to be incurious — that leads to a certain blindness or robotic way of operating that does not allow for evolution.
Early on, we win new business based on a few things: our reputation, a relevant body of work, the promise/indication of results and, importantly, connecting on strategic ideas. We resonate with each other based on how we see the path forward playing out. Either we are already on the same page strategically, or we respect the strategy the other has put forward and trust that our engagement can take us to where we want to be. But, so often, that falls apart as we get into the weeds, get tactical, get immersed in the day-to-day.
It’s important to check in occasionally on the strategic integrity of the engagement. How are we getting there? How accountable are our methods and tactics to the strategy we agreed upon? No matter where you sit, you’ll want a team that gets, lives and breathes your objectives. We should continue to look each other in the eyes strategically and check in on that Vulcan mind meld that led us down the path to falling in love in the first place.
Keeping A Place For Play
Lastly, yes, we are still going to strive for the longer term. It’s a calmer, healthier way to build a business. You can’t cobble and sustain a long-term play of thousands of small projects each and every year. But, there is a place for tests and pilots along the way.
Just as you might keep a relationship fresh by trying different things, it’s essential within your master plan to co-develop with your team various “excursions” — ventures into new territory on placements, platforms, creative, messaging or the science and tech behind it all. Trying new things cooperatively within an existing engagement provides vital spark.
In short, we do ourselves a disservice in our default preference of long-term engagement, without keeping vigilant on how we engage as people within it — our intelligence, our approaches, strategic ideas and spirit of collaboration to try new things. If we just love, love without digging in and getting real, the longer term is just as shallow and fleeting as the one night stand.
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