Defending a piece of business?

The news of the Tabasco business going into review sparked the comments you’re going to read. Here’s a client/agency partnership that’s lasted for over twenty years. The underdog in me has to tip the hat to TracyLocke for wanting to defend the business. An industry standard I’m familiar with suggests they have, what, a 20% chance to keep it?


Assuming you find yourself in a situation like this and you’ve made the fateful decision to defend, what do you do? What follows are… some thoughts. All of which, or course, are based purely as an outsider that does not know the facts – including the real reason(s) why and how the change is happening. Today’s thinking is meant to spark a thought or two.

  • Is there any chance to head off the thing? Of course, there may not have been any warning signs. But what does the client lose by running the review? Energy, time and resources put against specific sales initiatives? Sometimes day-to-day clients have limited access to senior management. Does this review take up that bullet?
  • Beyond the day-to-day clients, who do you know inside that can help? In long-standing relationships, the agency may have relationships throughout the organization – sales, R&D, distribution, senior management, etc. Where do these people fall inside the organization politically? What will the process or the supplier change mean to their world, and how is this a bad thing for them? Could these people be your spies, not only sharing intel but poo-pooing your new competitors (who don’t understand the complexities of the brand). Poo-pooing will work best coming from the inside. Maybe these people are additional champions for you.
  • What news can you bring to the relationship? This must be a key component of your defense strategy. New staff, new ideas, new processes, new consumer insights, new distribution thinking, new services, etc. Can you bring a new supply chain solution that can add extra value to the partnership? How can you save time, money or both?
  • How might your competitors be looking at this business? A new perspective is in order, as that may help deliver the innovation you need to keep this revenue.

Should you need to defend business, your problem is well known to you. Said in a different way, it’s the challenge you’ve addressed time and time again. The client wants a blue ad. You need to find out why and convince them that your solution, a new one, will help address the real issue. Cast in this slightly different light, how might that change your strategy?

Your biggest advantage is that you know this company’s culture, people and brand issues better than your competitors. How can that help? Most importantly, how will this impact how you bring NEWS to the partnership?

It sucks to be in this situation. But here’s a thought that might bring some small measure of comfort, albeit a cold one: consider defining success differently. Do you win if you’re able to keep the business a bit longer? Do you win if your staff gets moved over to the new agency? What about leveraging what you know and replacing the revenue before you lose that particular stream?

God speed!

If you’re an agency that has beat the odds, tell us. Share a learning or two.