Challenging clients in a challenging time

By Domain | Sponsored
Andrew Knowles

There’s a saying that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert.

It seems laughable to spend that much time on anything in the age of the ‘time poor’ where everyone is facing mounting expectations, shrinking deadlines and endless grabs for their attention.

It seems even more implausible to apply that to advertising where, if things are moving, you can guess it will be quickly. In my 14 years on the publishing side I’ve watched the industry change and, while new players and technologies have challenged us to stretch ourselves creatively, there are times when they’ve simply left us stretched.

I’m not sure if I am at 10,000 hours of responding to briefs yet, however we must recognise that sound opinions take time to develop, because they’re based on research rather than a hunch. Investing time unpicking a client’s problem, and gaining the knowledge necessary to tackle it, puts you in a position to challenge them and offer real value. You’re hired to be an expert, not a yes-man.

For an industry facing a time crisis, putting in more time and resources may sound counter-intuitive. But this is a short term pain, long term gain strategy. The client — media agencies, trading desks, creative agencies, content agencies and the brand — segment consumers for targeted messaging and engage with these audiences around the clock. If you don’t develop an equal, if not greater knowledge of these markets, you aren’t offering value.

At Domain, we know a thing or two about moving fast. We’ve grown our team from 200 to 750 people in three years and while our goals might change, our client first approach never does.

To be clear, client first doesn't mean saying yes to everything or that the customer is always right. In fact, it’s often the opposite. Our most successful campaigns are the result of symbiotic partnerships where we act as a genuine extension of our clients’ teams, taking the time to challenge their views and expectations.

Harvard Business Review analysed a survey by the Sales Executive Council, with data gathered from over 6,000 reps across nearly 100 companies in different sectors. The study categorises salespeople under five pillars: Relationship Builders, Hard Workers, Lone Wolves, Reactive Problem Solvers and Challengers. The findings concluded that challengers dramatically outperform other profiles, particularly Relationship Builders, and dominate the world of complex solution selling. Sales people that take the challenge approach have abundant, ongoing client relationships and deliver successful results.

Challenging doesn’t mean rejecting a client’s opinion or goals. It’s about offering another perspective, based in fact, that delivers results.

For example, home loan service providers often come to us with briefs to deliver leads at an effective CPL. But our research and experience have taught us that there’s much more to consider. Consumers need to engage with a brand and feel a bank has added value through their home loan journey, which can take up to seven years, before jumping in and signing a home loan application. By proposing content and tool integration within Domain, we’ve had overwhelming success converting leads at the end-point of the funnel.

In order to be able to make these kind of recommendations, your product, specialists and sales team must be trusted.

Domain has evolved from a website that three years ago was only relevant to banks and utilities, offering display ads, a bit of content and basic targeting — to a connections, data, lead gen, programmatic, Adtech, content and creative business that appeals to clients from diverse industries, on multiple levels and platforms.

Throughout this time, the Domain Media team has grown from less than 10 people to over 60 people, generating the need to hire experts in specialist fields that understand the product in a highly detailed capacity. However, even with these platform specialists, we’re only 50% effective if we don’t interrogate our clients and get to the bottom of their business objectives.

Still, there will only ever be so many hours in a day, and given the lack of time many clients have, we’ve learned to adapt to their needs, delivering what they want on time, in an easily-consumed package.

The client first approach understands client objectives above all else, leaves space and trust for recommendations and push-back, and delivers market-leading solutions. Adopting the creative agency ‘suit’ approach, where one person is the face of a client proposal, has been successful for us in the past, enabling us to collaborate efficiently and build trust to deliver campaigns that seamlessly accomplish branding, direct response and awareness objectives.

In an increasingly time poor industry, getting this right is more pressing than ever. And if all else fails, the steak at Rockpool is a sure fire winner.

By Domain national agency sales director, Andrew Knowles.

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