WHAT ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS PAYING FOR?

Posted 18th Nov, 2012

by Andrew Savchyn

by Randy Brososky

Raise your hands if you haven’t been there. You’re on your way to a new client meeting. You’re thrilled, since this will mean consistent work, and you want desperately to impress them. You’re imagining all the creative work you can do for them, the awards it will win, the accolades from your peers. You enter the client’s office, exchange pleasantries, and then launch into your ideas for helping them build their business.

Fifteen minutes later you walk out, broken. The client has shunned your ideas, told you exactly what they want, and how they want it done. It’s terrible. It’s the same stuff that their competitors are doing with a different logo and phone number. It’s garish, intrusive, insulting, and now you have to build it for them. The worst thing is, you didn’t say anything.

This is completely understandable. There is a lot of pressure to please the client, to keep them happy so they keep giving you money. But there’s something we all forget from time to time. You have been hired for your expertise, not just your skills. If the client knew everything about marketing, they would be successfully doing it themselves.

You owe it to your client to let them know when they have bad ideas. That’s part of what they are paying you for.

How you let them know will be different from client to client. Some will be very resistant. Far too many of them will nod and smile and say “Do it my way anyway.” Some will actually thank you. We all dread the first type of client, and dream of the last type of client. But in exchange for the money they are paying you, you owe it to them to give them the feedback on their ideas. Whether they take it or not is up to them.

Here are four suggestions for making this conversation easier.

#1 – Craft the mindset

This is something you should do before you pitch an idea to the client, especially if you know it’s out of their comfort zone. It also bears repeating when the client shows resistance. Describe the mindset of the ideal customer who is about to come into contact with the message, in the circumstances that they will see it. A forty-six year old male construction manager is going to react to a tv commercial during the Sunday afternoon football game very differently than they will to an email on Wednesday morning at 7:30. Although it’s the same person, they have different priorities at that moment, and are more responsive to certain approaches. Help your client to imagine this mindset and they might see the idea with different eyes.

#2 – Question the intent

We can’t know everything about our clients. So they may react negatively to something and demand a change. Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, ask them what their intention is for changing it. Quite often it’s something very simple, and you’ll have the opportunity to suggest a much smaller change that accommodates the client without compromising the message. We have literally saved entire campaigns from the dustbin by changing three words.

#3 – Play the expert card

No matter what you say, your client might still insist on having it their way. And they are entitled to that. They are the client. They pay your bills. So if you know their idea is not the best for them, you can simply advise against it. “I understand what you’re saying and we’ll do it the way you suggest. In fairness to you, however, I would strongly advise against it.” Sometimes these conversations become power struggles. This approach diffuses that conflict, and solidly acknowledges that the client is ‘the boss.’ Almost every time we’ve used this tactic, the client, pauses, relaxes a bit, and asks “Why?” Which gives us the perfect opportunity to re-explain the rationale of the approach.

#4 – Develop the relationship

Although this is the last tip, it’s the first thing you should be doing: building a real relationship with them. Get to know them: what fuels them, what they relate to. Share information about other successful ad campaigns (yours and other agencies’) that demonstrate your ideas. Give them free nuggets of insight or wisdom. Prove to them that you know your stuff and that you are trustworthy and honest. Brand yourself as the expert in your field, and they will start looking to your for that expertise.

Sometimes we are forced into work that we know isn’t the best. It will pay a few bills and it will mysteriously not appear in your portfolio. But you owe it to your clients to flag their bad ideas.

That’s why they are paying you.

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