What If You Were A Client of The Martin Agency

Since the amazing AAF Hall of Fame event, I’ve been busy with personal and business travel, lecturing and a little mentoring on the side.

One of the things I enjoy most, and have throughout my career, is sharing ideas and passing along some of the wisdom I’ve picked up from others along the way. 

To that end, below is an observation I shared with our staff [at The Martin Agency] in a recent meeting. I hope it will be of some use to you.

What if you were a client?

Some years ago a man named Michael Treacy wrote a book in which he concluded that truly exceptional organizations excel at one of three competencies, and are competitive in at least one other.

     Product superiority

     Customer intimacy

     Operational efficiency

One might conclude, since we are in a service business, that the core competency of an advertising agency should be customer (client) intimacy.  We’ve always looked at it differently here.  We’re in the product superiority business.  Our product is the stream of ideas of all kinds that we produce in all areas of the business.  In a client service business, this stream of ideas is the most valuable service we can provide.

What if you were a client of The Martin Agency?  What would you expect from us?  What would you want from the individuals at the agency with whom you work?

It’s worth taking time to think about.  After the quality of our work, the quality of our relationships is the most important thing we’ve got.  In fact, the quality of those relationships is a crucial ingredient of the quality of our work.  And while we talk about relationship between the agency and a client, we all know there are no relationships between companies, only relationships between people.

I’ve thought about this through the years, and of course, talked to clients.  Of course I’d want great ideas; I’d want work to be done on time and on budget.  But the other things I’d want are the things we all want in a relationship.  So here’s what else I’d want to feel about each of you who worked on my business.

I can depend on you to tell me the truth.  I trust everything you tell me.

I know you care about what’s important to me.  You don’t just understand it, you care about it.

I know you will fight for my company.  I know you want my company to succeed.

You help me succeed personally, and you’re really happy when I do.  Sometimes it feels a little lonely trying to get my management to feel comfortable with the great ideas you bring me and with the cost of some of those ideas.  You help me think through the case I should make.  When I do well in my career, you’re almost as happy as I am.  You want me to look good and do well.

You don’t play games.  You don’t manipulate me or hold things back from me for your own purposes.  You’re transparent.

You seem to care about me as a person.  Maybe we’re not personal friends, and I know you don’t always agree with me,  but when I make decisions that aren’t the ones you’d like, or have to tell you something wasn’t approved, you don’t think I’m a bad person, or a dumb person.  You respect me, and you’re still in my corner.

You say thanks. When I get something approved, when I sign an estimate.  You don’t say thanks once a year, you say it once or twice a week.

I think that’s what I’d want.  And that’s what I’d get. Half a century of that philosophy, in support of a focus on great ideas, has served us very, very well. Congratulations. Keep it up.

About the Author

John B. Adams, Jr.

John B. Adams, Jr. John Adams has spent 42 years at The Martin Agency, an award-winning advertising agency based in Richmond, Virginia. The agency has been included on the Advertising Age five out of the six years it has been published and most recently, The Martin Agency won an Emmy for an interactive documentary created for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Adams plays a key role on the team that continues to bring national attention to Martin, representing such brands as Benjamin Moore Paints, Discover Financial Services, GEICO, Hanes, Oreo, Ritz Crackers, Stolichnaya and Walmart.

Adams is an active leader both locally and nationally. He is Chairman of the board of directors at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter, and also serves on the boards of ChildFund International and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. He is a past rector of Longwood University and has served on the boards of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Historical Society.

A member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, Adams lectures frequently on marketing and business issues throughout the United States.