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Coming out on top with procurement departments

RLH are a London-based full-service B2B agency. 

They began back in 1977, and have a team of 28.

Chris Ross, their MD, talks here of the demands of large corporate clients today, the rise in procurement and how he and his management team have transformed the agency in response.

"Once in the know, agencies can greatly benefit from the process and the deepened relationships that can flow from procurement."

RLH clients

How does an agency thrive for 36 years in a rollercoaster world?

"One answer is not to be afraid of change and to have the courage to reinvent and adapt to clients' needs.

"Clients demand ROI, quite rightly. And in recent years we've seen major corporate clients introduce comprehensive levels of procurement.

"But there are two sides to that. We believe procurement teams must appreciate what it is we offer."

"We see it as part of our role to help them better understand:

  • Exactly what we do
  • What they are buying
  • How we operate
  • What they should expect from us

"They also need to know how hard we work to forge strong partnerships with their brand teams to ensure they achieve their marketing goals and meet their business and budget requirements.

"We are custodians of their brands and budgets. We take this responsibility seriously."

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Procurement-style thinking

"We totally embrace procurement-style thinking, which has paid off strongly for us. It includes:

  • Planning
  • Statements of works
  • Clear areas of responsibility
  • Evidence supporting time taken and costs
  • Prompt invoicing

"Like it or not, procurement is here to stay. Fortunately, attitudes towards procurement have matured in many large organisations today. Procurement departments are therefore not the enemy.

"Once in the know, agencies can greatly benefit from the process and the deepened relationships that can flow from procurement.

"It is important to scope the deliverables in a detailed and clear way." 

"Expectations around ways of working in both the 'input' and 'output' stages of the process should be highlighted, such as:

  • The approval process
  • Stakeholder involvement
  • Team composition
  • % of assumed time to be spent on delivering projects
  • Overhead recovery
  • Details of third party costs

You need to have good data

"Obviously you need to have good data so you are on top of it all:"

"We chose Synergist 10 years ago. One issue was getting our account management teams to see it as a tool to help them and support them, not a finance tool to beat people with! Once they see the power of what it does for them, they get it. Over time we've updated the system, given more training to our teams and now have data and reporting at our fingertips which help us make better and more informed decisions.

"Our client brand teams are happy that we give them the creativity they need.

"Our client procurement teams are also happy. That's because we are transparent and so we're seen to be trustworthy."

"Our agency directors are happy, as they can instantly review any project and monitor the success of our teams. So it's a win-win for all."

"There is no doubt that Synergist is part of the process that helps our agency deliver."

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