An interview with Björn Wigforss, Vice president, Experience Marketing at Schneider Electric
Based in Paris, Björn recently joined Schneider Electric as vice president, Experience Marketing. In his 22-year career, Björn has worked as a consultant, training manager and in various marketing positions at several different companies, such as EBI (the European Business Institute), Ericsson, Nokia, and Microsoft. Immediately before joining Schneider Electric, he served as the global head of Marketing and Communications for Tecnotree, a Finnish listed company. Björn is also a senior advisor to a major Central Eastern European live marketing agency, Creative Pro Group.
Q: By your opinion, what defines a good agency-client relationship?
ONE TEAM. I have a habit of “tearing up all business cards” at the beginning of a project, I do not care who pays the team members’ salaries, I care about the competence each person brings to the table and the ability to collaborate as one effective functional team.
Q: What is the first sign of deeper problems in this relationship?
I have experienced situations when there is a lack of proper interaction between different participants in the project, and that sometimes can lead to a lack of trust or other conflicts. In most cases, the reason turns out to be uncertainty about roles and responsibilities. Usually, these issues can be resolved if reacted upon quickly.
Q: Share with us your typical case showing the mistrust between the agency and the client.
Agency to Client:
Sometimes I think that the agency assumes that there is more budget available, that we are “holding back” money. This is not the case, we have very specific budgets. If we can prove that the impact of the event will improve through higher spend (or that lower spend will severely reduce the impact) then we could potentially adjust the budgets. It however almost never happens. The biggest problem is when cost increases come unexpectedly – so planning accuracy is everything.
When the client clearly does not understand what he wants it creates uncertainty and mistrust. In those instances it is better to write the brief together — and for the client to make a direct selection of partner rather than going through a selection or RFP process.
Client to Agency:
Way of working
Sometimes the agencies do not understand how I and my team prefer to work – I call it “co-creation mode” – so I might be surprised to see work happening that is not agreed beforehand. This, of course, can lead to trust issues.
Another thing that I have experienced as an agency (I am a senior advisor and partner of an event agency, Creative Pro Group (http://creativepro.agency) in addition to my corporate job) is how clients treat agencies like “dirt” – meaning that they clearly enjoy bossing the agency around. You know what, when clients behave that way it affects motivation and performance and thus the quality of the execution.
Zero margin survival:
Some agencies are at times forced to use shady methods to survive. This is often because clients enforce so low margins that it is not possible to maintain a healthy business without creating the margin by other means. There are many ways for agencies to make their margins when they are being squeezed too hard on agency fees or staff hours by their clients. This creates an unhealthy business environment that we as an industry have to combat! I am all for transparency and ethical behaviour.
Q: What do clients want to say to their agencies?
Do your best work with us, be totally transparent.
(Also, let’s have fun together because life is too short.)
Q: Do you trust your agency in a process of event creation and execution?
Yes, and do you know what? I never blame the agency if something goes wrong. Ultimately I and my team are responsible for the execution. It does happen that our partners make mistakes or miss something it is never one person’s or one agency partner’s fault, usually the root cause is due to a lack of communication and unclear accountability. What’s more, we always co-create so we are in the same boat. We HAVE to trust each other and this is the only way we can succeed together!