1. Give great strategic advice, and be honest and clear
“Clients trust that we will recommend what’s best for them,” says Molly Spinak, founder and president of Toronto-based Quadrant Marketing. The key to building and maintaining that trust is to tell the client exactly what Quadrant’s team thinks is the best marketing strategy or tactic to achieve their goals. “Giving people the best advice in the nicest, kindest way, but telling them the truth about how we see things is paramount,” Spinak explains.
However, not everyone is willing to take advice, even when they are paying for it. “A client will sometimes say, ‘Thanks for your opinion, but we’re still going to do it this way,’” Spinak notes, adding, “That’s okay. Then we will be the best agency to execute, but we fulfilled our positioning as an agency by giving clients our honest opinion first. We also have a policy of total financial transparency with clients—we track our hours, and we’re glad to sit down and review. We generally put in a lot more hours than we get paid for.”
2. Put the client’s needs first
“If the client succeeds, we succeed; if the client doesn’t, we don’t,” Spinak says. “So putting the client’s needs ahead of ours—financially, strategically, and in every other way—will, in the long run, put us ahead, too.” Sometimes that means foregoing short-term revenue, as well as telling potential clients that Quadrant isn’t the best fit for their needs. “We have walked away from business after looking at a client’s marketing situation, saying, ‘You have an advertising awareness problem and need to put the money into media.’”
While such advice often comes as a surprise to would-be clients, they tend to remember that Quadrant put the client’s interests ahead of its own. When they do need the types of services we offer, Quadrant finds itself with a new client. Existing clients, too, have come to rely on Quadrant’s service-focused philosophy, knowing that their interests come first.
3. Hire and train the right people
In marketing, human talent is the foundation for success. “People will make you or break you in this business,” Spinak says. “I’ve lost business because I hired or kept the wrong people.” Quadrant’s 55 employees are treated like gold and understand the company’s operating philosophy. Getting highly talented, ethically responsible, and dependable employees is crucial for the business. “We try to get as many people involved in the hiring process as possible,” Spinak says. “We have structured interviews with preset, specific questions for candidates, and we use outside testing models to ensure fit.”
But finding good employees isn’t enough, either. Developing talent is another key aspect of Quadrant’s edge. “We have a lot of hands-on involvement by senior managers during employee training,” Spinak notes. “We send employees on courses, conduct ‘lunch ’n’ learns,’ bring in keynote speakers, and circulate information on what’s working and what isn’t. The industry is changing, and we need our employees to be current on what’s happening out there.”
4. Deliver consistent service and creativity
“We have grown to where we are without even marketing ourselves,” Spinak observes. “If you ask our clients, they will say they never want to let us go.” Kraft has been a firm client for 25 years, Procter & Gamble for 23 years, and Heinz for 14 years. “We keep our clients because we focus on what’s important to them—strategic smarts, great creative, meticulous execution, on-time project delivery, and staying within an approved budget—no surprises,” Spinak explains. That means producing marketing campaigns that fit the client and produce the results desires. It also means producing promotional materials that engage the target audience and solicit interest in the product. Finally, it means rolling out the strategy and the execution with attention to detail. “In any campaign, there are thousands of details that have to be just right,” Spinak says.
Quadrant relies on its staff and its training to make sure every aspect of a campaign as been reviewed and executed perfectly. “We have processes and forms that we have developed in which every possible question or ‘what if’ is addressed,” she explains. The firm also relies on teamwork. “Every campaign is a team effort,” Spinak says. “With multiple people, and therefore checks and balances, we don’t miss a detail.”
Such practices have helped Quadrant evolve over the years. Since its founding, in 1987, the agency has split into independent companies, with Quadrant continuing as a general marketing communications agency, and Q2 Marketing Communications offering fully integrated services, including television and print advertising, media buying, and digital/social-media solutions. But Quadrant succeeds where others fall short by sticking to simple principles that keep its clients happy and loyal.