It is almost as if the gale force winds of the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted the world’s axis. All lives are disrupted, all aspects of our day have changed – we no longer work, study or communicate the way we used to before the virus struck. It has changed even our closest relationships and the way we go about them.
So, why should the one between clients and consultancies remain untouched? A new world and a new audience requires new thought and new dynamics.
It is a strange landscape of utter extremes – some businesses and brands are experiencing survival-threatening lows while others have never had it so good.
Similarly, some clients believe that their consultancies are not equipped to deal with the new paradigm while other clients and consultancies have forged partnerships that are closer than ever before.
The largely transactional relationships have been exposed as hollow, while the deep-rooted ones have dug in.
No matter which box they fall in, all marketers have been compelled to redraw their plans for an environment in which the walls seem to be closing in. However, they also recognise this time as an opportunity to reshape their relationships with consultancies.
In the Indian context, specifically, there has been great volatility with clients stopping or pausing mandates, and many switching to project-based work rather than retainers. The smartest clients and consultancies, however, have pivoted to keep the wheel rolling albeit on a path they may never have travelled before.
There are a few key characteristics that have emerged in successful client-consultancy relationships.
Everyone is nervous – no one knows what lies around the corner. The world is already dealing with economic recessions, job losses and rising body counts. Clients are wondering what to conserve, communication budgets or cash. Consultancies, meanwhile, are pondering how to pay their bills, preserve the employee count and, yes, whether their clients can actually pay them for the work they are doing.
Yet, amid all this, we are seeing what makes us a uniquely human – empathy and collaboration. Not only are consultancies and clients helping each other to negotiate this time, empathy is evident in the campaigns we are strategising and executing.
It is no longer a good thing to do; it is an essential. No wonder marketing strategies are transforming from promotional to social purpose.
Clients and consultancies are working harder than ever to build meaningful relationships.
RoI is the buzzword
CEOs are feeling the pressure, at least part of which is being passed on to CMOs. There is renewed focus on return on investment (RoI), which makes the measurement of communication’s impact on business objectives even more critical.
Consultancies and clients are looking at how data and technology can help, and whether they have the right skills within their teams.
Consequently, consultancies are trying hard to be seen as trusted advisors to their clients. Building a working relationship with business leaders within the client organisation is the key.
Incidentally, even consultancies are examining their cost structures closely. Everything is under the microscope – from the need for large offices to team structures and salaries.
The consultancies that have understood new market demands are doing the best. Doing what you have always done may seem safe but it is no longer an option – because clients, markets and audiences are no longer what they always were.
So, clients and consultancies that engage early over clear objectives are the ones best placed to win in the long term.
Clients are keen on this and are finding ways to help consultancies who have stood by them. They are doing this, for example, by tagging on projects to contracts that have shrunk.
Symbiosis, then, is the buzzword for the future.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
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