November 15, 2016 / Karl Tiedemann
Excellence is an attitude. And it’s everything.

Big strategic ideas, creative concepts, and innovative user experiences are what bring clients to agencies. They are what we promote. They are why we are hired.

However, the reason many clients part ways with their agency is not always so grand in nature; a daily, seemingly benign mediocrity of service can ultimately drag an agency down.

If you have ever sent out an RFP for a new agency or responded to one as an agency, you may have noticed a very telling little clause that has worked its way into many of these over the last several years. A clause that states “The team that will run the business must be the team to come to the pitch.” Busy agencies don’t have their star players sitting around waiting for the next pitch to come in, but this demand reflects a past experience where an agency that was “all that” during the pitch fell down on the day-to-day job of servicing the client.

How does it get to this point? Why don’t agencies change their path when a client complains? In my experience, an unhappy client may not articulate just how dissatisfied they are. Most clients are nice people who don’t feel the need to complain about every little issue. Instead, they swallow their frustration over a period of time until all of those small annoyances build up to one big issue and then explode on a random Tuesday when they are listening to elevator music on a conference call that should have started 5 minutes ago.

To address this, there are 3 rules that I look to instill in everyone at our agency to ensure that we are delivering excellence every day:

  1. Show expertise worth paying for. Always

    When you are conscious that your everyday activity is something that someone is paying for, it puts emphasis on what every activity is. You should examine your work through that lens and think about the experience that you are creating for your client. Beyond the strategic, creative, and technical deliverable – the experience of how we share those deliverables and all of the touch points in between. That conference call, that medical legal submission packet, that contact report, and so on. Were they worth paying for? Was it of value? Strategic thinking is a baseline. But other important elements are agility, efficiency, and consistency.

  2. Listen. Actively

    Direct feedback is not common. Polite (unenthusiastic) praise or frustrated silence is. As service-oriented providers, we sometimes stop listening at the answer we want or need. How did the client react to the last round of concepts? To that last strategic presentation? If they didn’t jump up and shout “hallelujah” or express disappointment with it, we can struggle to navigate the enormous territory in between. And those are points in which clients are in tune with giving feedback. Most activities that we provide for them do not get the same ritual of feedback. So we must probe for it, look at nonverbal clues, and search for pain points. In order to provide everyday excellence, we use active listening to reduce friction points in our service.

  3. Be a part of your client’s business. The best part.

    You think your day is rough? Clients deal with a multitude of factors outside of their interactions with agencies. So when they deal with their agencies, although they always appreciate “push back,” they are really looking to partner with people who bring solutions. They are looking for teams that bring passion, fun, and solutions to the table every day. Of course we need to know every aspect of our client’s business, but the agencies that truly stand out are the ones that deliver “the goods” in innovative, solution-oriented, and fun ways.


The next time you have an interaction with your client or your agency – give some thought to it. Was it good? Was it great? Was it worth paying for? If it was, build on it. If not, change it. Delivering excellence every day means you must constantly evaluate and adjust. We don’t just do this because that is how we stand apart. We do it because our clients deserve it.

Karl Tiedemann / EVP

Karl brings close to 20 years of pharmaceutical experience to the table and has spearheaded the launch of nearly a dozen brands. At Razorfish Health, he has led the launches of Samsca for hyponatremia (Otsuka) and Synvisc-One and Jonexa for osteoarthritis knee pain (Genzyme). He has also led the highly successful campaign relaunches of Diovan for hypertension (Novartis), Silenor for insomnia, and Treximet for migraine (Pernix).