First up, no backbiting. “I will not tolerate ungentlemanly behaviour,” says Leach. “There’s nothing worse than hearing a salesman slag off another company. I really detest that.” Big Mouth maintains radio silence when it comes to the shortcomings of rival agencies, but it’s always ready to swoop in to pick up the pieces, winning seven out of ten pitches it goes for. New clients aren’t tied into lengthy contracts either. There’s no commitment at all. “Our customers work with us on a month-by-month basis,” says Leach. “They can cancel with a quick phone call.” Clients rarely do: Big Mouth holds a 98 per cent retention record over the past five years. Why do they stay? More “all for one and one for all” it seems. Big Mouth specialises in search marketing, but “we don’t have any formal allegiances with any of the search engines or analytics programmes,” says Leach. “Our clients feel completely comfortable that we have their best interests at heart.” Sickening, isn’t it? All this transparency and fair play. Ready for another helping? Big Mouth insists on calling its salespeople “business developers”. The distinction? “I don’t push my staff to up-sell things to existing clients,” explains Leach. “It’s about developing new business relationships, rather than squeezing our customers for every last penny.” Salespeople around the country roar with one voice: “Traitor!” But this really takes the biscuit: when prospective clients pose a conflict of interest for Big Mouth, Leach passes the business to agencies he respects, despite being in direct competition. “I gave away the Virgin Media travel business because of our British Airways relationship,” says Leach. “I recommended one of our competitors and Virgin’s now one of their biggest clients. The deal pretty much put them on the map and made the company much more of a competitor.” It’s less “dog eat dog” and more “dog gives other dog last Rolo”. But Leach explains that behind every nice gesture is a canny business move. “We got a lot of kudos for making that decision – both from our customers and the industry. Not only that but the agency returned the favour. Now, whenever there are conflicts of interest, we pass clients back and forth.” Phew. Steve Leach is human after all.
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