About ten years ago I had the chance to interview with a digital agency that I very much wished to work for. IMC2 was seen at the time (and still is, under it’s new name MEplusYOU) as an innovative shop that had cultivated deep relationships with top brands.
As part of the interview, I was to prepare a presentation on a situation where I had been a hero to a client. It was a tough assignment for me. After all, there were just so many stories to choose from, right? In reality, I couldn’t think of much super hero work that I had really done to that point. I decided to go back to the roots of my first job in college and present something that was a bit nostalgic to me and demonstrated the type of client service person I had molded myself to be to paint a picture for the type of guy they’d be hiring. My delivery was so so, but the energy in the room told me I was definitely still in the mix for the job.
Following my presentation, the founder and CEO of IMC2, Doug Levy had an even tougher assignment in the form of one simple question – “What is the important thing in client service?” I froze. It seemed that I was so close to landing this job, yet now I did not know what he was looking for me to say. The one single, absolute, most important thing? What is it? I kept asking myself over an over internally. After a long pregnant pause, it didn’t matter what answer I delivered. It just mattered that my answer was the wrong one.
“Know Your Client’s Business” was the answer. I didn’t know that answer and I didn’t get the job. Now I’m in the business of helping agencies to better know their clients’ business. All of my experience to date tells me Doug was dead right, it’s the most important thing in an agency and client relationship. Not focusing on knowing the business can cost you an account or in that case, a job opportunity.