Main Content

bbbar-dreamstime_l_22561817-copy

What Clients Think report 2017

Up to the Light, in association with the DBA, has produced its fourth ‘What Clients Think’ report – the definitive annual barometer of client/agency relationships within the UK design industry.

The 2017 report is based on 455 client interviews that Up to the Light conducted during 2016, all commissioned by design agencies wanting to monitor the health of their most important client/agency relationships. The report is a fascinating snapshot of the client viewpoint and provides important pointers for how agencies can strengthen their client relationships.

Jonathan Kirk, Up to the Light’s founder, says, ‘We’re delighted that this year’s report is the biggest so far and I hope it will be a useful reference point for all design agencies as they seek to shape and improve their businesses. Above all, what it shows is the value of asking questions. So many agencies seek praise but an independent client survey asks the pertinent questions to reveal what your clients really think – horse’s mouth evidence for you to act upon.’

Divided into 3 sections, the report looks at:

  • ‘Client world’ – the bigger picture client concerns and issues.
  • ‘Winning clients’ – agency new business activity and pitching.
  • ‘Retaining and growing clients’ – client service and client development issues.
The DBA’s CEO Deborah Dawton takes a deeper look at some of the issues behind the results:

Client world

88% OF CLIENTS EXPECT THE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT TO BE TOUGHER THIS YEAR THAN LAST YEAR

88% OF CLIENTS STATED THAT THEY ARE ‘UNDER SOME PRESSURE’ TO REDUCE AGENCY COSTS

Deborah says: “It’s no surprise that clients are under pressure to reduce agency costs given that they’re under pressure to reduce all costs. We’ve seen a global slowdown that has led to low growth and consequently low returns. And when that happens, every area of a business comes under the spotlight, not just agency fees. If you’re in this position as an agency, then it’s more important than ever to demonstrate the tangible value you add. So if you’re not in the habit of hanging around long enough to measure the impact of your work, I would suggest that your days are numbered. There’s been an explosion in the desire to measure and evaluate, and a creative positioning alone is no longer enough. Brands need great creativity and design effectiveness.”

Winning clients

86% OF CLIENTS PERCEIVE THE CREATIVE STANDARDS OF UK DESIGN AGENCIES TO BE ‘VERY HIGH’

68% OF CLIENTS WOULD NOT EXPECT TO PAY FOR A CREATIVE PITCH

Deborah says: “The UK has the largest design sector in Europe and is second only to North America globally, and what Up to the Light’s report reinforces again this year is that the quality of what clients get from UK agencies is extremely high. This puts us in an enviable position. Design is understood to be a very important contributor to brand success and the DBA’s Design Effectiveness Awards prove that. So it bowls me over that we’re still facing the issue of a sector whose overwhelming instinct is to give work away for free, to be in the running for a brand’s patronage. Designers have a responsibility to fully diagnose the situation they are faced with and prescribe the right solution in their expert opinion and that cannot happen without considered thought, and a good working relationship based on mutual respect. 68% of clients would not expect to pay for a creative pitch and it’s our job to explain why that could be their undoing. Let’s celebrate the 22% that demonstrate best practice in their selection process, and probably have the business results to show for it.”

Retaining and growing clients

72% OF CLIENTS SEE THEIR DESIGN AGENCY AS A ‘PARTNER’ RATHER THAN A SUPPLIER

87% OF CLIENTS WHO HAD A WEAKER OR MORE VULNERABLE RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR DESIGN AGENCY CITED CLIENT SERVICE ISSUES AS THE MAIN REASON

Deborah says: “Moving from being seen as a supplier to a partner is the Holy Grail for any agency. Client services teams if you have them, or your designers, have to understand that simply doing a great creative job isn’t enough. It won’t paste over the cracks in a relationship that is perceived by the client to have gone off the boil. Maintaining our keenness and commitment to our clients is our responsibility, and a mark of the respect that we have for them and their brands. It’s perhaps no surprise therefore that client servicing and project management are the two areas that the DBA does most of its training in.”

Head to Up to the Light’s website to download and read the full report here: http://www.uptothelight.co.uk/news

Further reading – Designers: are you working proactively? 

For years, the typical prevalent behaviour of many designers towards client relationships has been ‘reactive’ and not ‘proactive’. But, working proactively can transform work-life experiences for the better, and put designers more in the driving seat. Read more

Image credits: © Bbbar | Dreamstime.com