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2021 What Clients Think report

The 7th annual What Clients Think report by Up to the Light was launched on Thursday 4 March in a DBA member-exclusive webinar. Based on 580 client interviews, the report gives you a unique view into the client world and the impact the last year has had on client expectations of their agencies.

Says report author, Up to the Light’s Jonathan Kirk, “Covid-19 is responsible for creating new challenges and in some cases, has accentuated existing trends. The report revisits some key issues, as well as exploring completely new areas not covered by previous reports.”

The report is a valuable tool for agencies in planning new business approaches and assessing their client services and relationships. It enables an agency to put themselves in their clients’ shoes and predict reactions and objections before they are raised. 

This year’s report is divided into three sections:

  • Covid world: acknowledging the influence of Covid on the bigger picture. This section looks at wider client pressures and concerns, over and above the client/agency relationship.
  • Winning clients: looking at agency new business activity and pitching.
  • Retaining and growing clients: covering client service and development issues.

Here are my three top take-outs from the report and launch event:

1. Location

screenshot-2021-03-05-at-09-31-43Location is not an issue. Covid 19 has accelerated an existing trend with 87% of clients now saying location is ‘relatively unimportant’.

This is great news for those agencies not based in London who have always wondered if they needed to have a London presence. For agencies paying high rents, this might push them into moving out of the high cost urban areas.

Smaller agencies which have flipped to the remote model demanded during the pandemic, may also be considering whether they need to go back to an office at all.

2. Lack of business context


A top client criticism of agencies is their lack of business context in case studies, which are often presented as a beauty parade of visuals. This, together with the feeling that agencies are not distinctive enough from one another, makes it difficult for clients to choose.

Illustrate what the impact of the work was, not just what it looked like. Clients are trying to solve business problems through the use of design so tell them how you solved the problem. Make it easy for them find that information, and make sure it is recent so the client sees the relevance to what they are dealing with right now.

3. Job titles


Traditional new business job-titles are a turn off to clients as they scream of sales, this coupled with the fact most clients want to feel like they have ‘discovered’ an agency, suggest new business should be more about drawing an audience towards you.

Consider titles such as ‘Client Director’ or simply just ‘Director’ and work hard on your positioning and delivering thought provoking content to illustrate your expertise so potential clients see you as the answer to their problems.

Get your copy of the 2021 What Clients Think report here

Up to the Light’s annual What Clients Think report, published in association with the DBA, is a valuable tool for planning your new business approaches and assessing your client services and relationships. It enables you to put yourself in your clients’ shoes and predict reactions and objections before they are raised. 

Download your copy of the 2021 What Clients Think Report.

Watch the report launch

WTC2021reportlaunchWatch the launch webinar of Up to the Light’s highly anticipated ‘What Clients Think’ report in association with the DBA. In this webinar exclusively for DBA members, DBA Expert, Up to the Light founder and author of the report Jonathan Kirk, took us through the main findings of the brand new report and answer your questions about what clients really think.

DBA members can login and watch the full recording here.


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