I really like what Marc Brownstein has to say in Ad Age about learning your client’s business. He relates a story about a CMO friend of his:
He believes agencies have to go farther and deeper in helping him grow his business. For example, he would like the agency teams to roll up their sleeves and learn his business — by working in one of the company’s retail stores for a few days or a week; or maybe working in one of his factories to see how the products are made and appreciate the logistics required to get to market. He wishes his agencies would read his trade publications and become experts in his industry. He wishes his agency teams would be less arrogant, stop assuming they know his business so well when they actually don’t, and be more proactive about truly learning the challenges he has and ways to solve them. In other words, he wants them to walk in his shoes.
I’ve always believed in the notion of “taking the factory tour.” And talking to a client’s salespeople and customers when possible. But as a copywriter, I’m always the last one invited — or more often, completely left out altogether. Why? Because I’m more valuable sitting behind my computer billing time for writing, not out learning the client’s business. And yet I’m one of the people most responsible for capturing the essence of the brand, or the desires of its customers. Some agencies don’t believe that creatives would be interested in learning more. It’s true, some creatives aren’t. But the good ones are.
I hope Brownstein takes his own advice to heart — and lets all of his people who work on a client’s business learn that business. Not just the Account Director.