Opinion by Craig Naicker, Group Managing Director at CWDi
The Swiss Army Knife Suit
The last year under lockdown has seen us all adapt and move towards the “new normal”, and I can’t help but cast my mind back to one of the first games in my junior cricket days. We were batting at the time and there was a bowler from the opposing team (tall and super-fast), who was just ripping into our batting line up.
I was next in to bat and my coach came up to me and said, “Son you have a chance to do what none of the other batters have done, and that is to adapt to these conditions. If you don’t adapt, you are going to be out like the batters before you.” Fast forward to March 2021 and those words ring true for most businesses and people in the advertising industry – now more than ever.
Most agencies have had to realign their business to adapt to the current and future landscape; whether that means a bigger shift towards the digital world, forming new collaborative relationships or even acquiring other businesses that are currently not in their wheelhouse. So, what does all this change mean for a Suit?
Well, it is forcing us to think and act differently – to adapt, creating a new set of working tools like a Swiss Army Knife.
A Suit pre COVID-19
The Suit had to maintain client relationships, take detailed briefs, brief the agency employees, manage deadlines, and upsell the agency’s services to clients.
A Suit during and post COVID-19
In our new reality, it falls to the Suit to build and maintain strategic client relationships and meaningful connections. To stay on top of the game, they must also develop a strategic and creative mindset. Being proactive is extremely important.
We can’t just wait for clients to brief us anymore. We need to hunt those briefs down and chase them up. Now is also the time to add more value for your clients, by upskilling in all areas of the agency (ATL, BTL, digital, media buying, PR).
A Suit is no longer seen as the buffer between agency and client, but as the key to unlocking collaborations and solving client business challenges. Foster a collaborative environment internally. So, don’t just focus on your clients. Try to help the other Suits in the agency come up with collective solutions that will keep the whole organisation profitable – because that is in everybody’s best interests.
Let’s be the change
Over the years, I have seen people leading with empathy on only a few occasions. If we want to truly lead with empathy, it is time for us to start connecting on an emotional level by changing our behaviour.
Let’s stop looking from our ivory tower or glass house with a blanket approach, and start making emotional connections with people on the ground. Take the time to emotionally connect with our work colleagues, no matter the title, demographic or department. Place people before profits. When you can do that, you see the true value of your biggest assets which are the people you work with, the profits will follow. Understand your clients’ backgrounds and circumstances, show them that you are emotionally invested in them and not there to just sell them a service or a product.
If we truly want to be stronger together and beat the social and economic challenges we currently face, it’s time for everyone to lead with empathy.
Personal or Personality
When it comes to our clients, we sometimes grapple with the whole notion of personal versus personality. I have seen many a Suit break down over the years because they think that their client has a personal challenge with them. In most cases, it is a personality challenge as we do not take the time to emotionally connect with our clients from the onset.
People buy from people. Products or services that you offer are secondary – this is something that we hear often. In these uncertain times, the way we connect with our consumers, clients and work colleagues can go a long way to ensure our survival.
Be the Wingman
As Suits, we have told our clients many times that we see our agency as an extension of their business. Now more than ever, we need to start living by those words and adapt the way in which we provide services. We can do this by truly immersing ourselves in clients’ operations and being their wingmen. Clients need to know that their Suit is always ready to assist them with any business challenge that they might face. Being a true wingman means that your client can be vulnerable in front of you and vice-versa. This is proof that you have a meaningful connection with your client, which is built on trust.
Let us become Suits who are hybrids that have insights and understanding of strategy, creative, the digital world, planning, problem-solving and relationship management. Becoming a hybrid allows you to challenge internal agency thinking in order to deliver the best results for both the client and the agency.
So, the question you should be asking yourself right now is, “Am I a Swiss Army Knife Suit?”
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