It’s about persuasion, respect and compromise.
About knowing when to accept, when to question, when to fight… and how.
We bring ideas to our clients. They like some and don’t like others.
The ones they like, they do. The ones they do, they change.
How we handle getting good ideas rejected or changed, is what this is all about.
There are no stupid clients
And let’s face it, marketing isn’t
rocket science anyway.
A lot of our clients are not
And may not be instinctive ones either.
That’s not their fault.
If a client makes the wrong decision,
there’s only one cause:
We’ve failed to convince them of the
*If we keep failing over and
over again, it’s probably the
wrong client for us.
This is a service business:
We make money by giving
clients what they want
(and getting them to want
the right things).
This is a consulting business:
Our authority is our product.
If we’re not respected as
experts, we become hacks
who deserve what we get.
Together, these make for powerful marketing.
*It’s a human thing.
Even if they don’t show it, clients often feel
uncomfortable criticising our work. It’s stressful.
They don’t want to appear unreasonable, picky, pedantic, ignorant or weak.
For some clients, just being a client makes them feel insecure.
So when a client sticks their neck out and gives criticism,
it’s the perfect opportunity to:
Surprise them with how open we are.
(and how passionate, when we fight our corner)
Help them relax so they can listen to us too.
Which will earn their gratitude and bank some
points that can be spent on future projects.
Our client will be grateful, will like us more,
and will be much more likely to:
Relax, be reasonable, listen to us, fight for us,
let us win a few, and give us more work.
When they’re right, admit it.
When they’re wrong, point it out while showing you’re
not being defensive or taking things personally.
Have a sense of humour about it.
Respect their their ability to be open, listen and change their mind.
Don’t assume they’ll be closed-minded.
Show that we know this is part of our job and we don’t resent it.
Show we don’t feel smarter than them.
We’re open and professional.
We understand it’s their right to change things.
We respect their opinion and understand their agenda.
We’re realists. We know that politics and egos can lead to unwanted outcomes.
We have perspective: knowing when and when not to push.
So we should actively look for places where giving in gracefully
is easy and doesn’t hurt the project.
It shows that we:
Care about quality and effectiveness.
Care about their business not just our portfolio.
Made choices based on solid reasoning.
Evaluate options rationally (by holding them up against
goals and taking the target audience’s point of view).
So actively looking for times to resist the wrong changes is important too.
it justifies our fees.
We all want colleagues to say behind our backs:
And the best way to encourage a client to be these things is to exhibit them ourselves.
If clients feel we’re saying this (and they can tell), they’ll love working with us.
If they feel the opposite, they’ll loathe it.
The best way to make a client do
this about us is to do it about them.
No one wants to
think we’re hanging
up the phone, calling
them a wanker, and
rolling our eyes -(
Make a caseProbeAccept
Fine if it’s correct or
Disagree Fight hardQuestionDefer
They're lazy • In a rush • Embarrassed • Being prima donnas •
Have their own agenda • Are scared of their own creatives •
Aren't listening • Don't value my opinion
They’ve listened but don’t agree, they’re professionals,
they have my interests at heart, they have pride in what they do,
they don’t take losing personally.
An interaction that doesn’t show one or all of these things is a wasted opportunity.
This is a service business.
We have to give the client what they want –
but it’s our job to get them to want the right things.
If we resist their input too much, they’ll think we’re arrogant
and they’ll take their work to an agency that will listen.
If we resist too little, they lose confidence in our
expertise and we lose control of the relationship.
“Of course we can do that, but what about…”
“If we came up with a way to solve that issue without damaging XYZ,
would you be open to it?”
“I completely see where you’re coming from,
but it physically hurts me to change ‘sell’ to
‘generate incremental revenue opportunities’.”
“Okay, I lost this one but you can’t say I didn’t give it my best shot.”
“I understand what you’re up against. What if we…”
You don’t have to manage the client relationship on your own.
If you’re losing a big one, bringing in reinforcements and escalating the
discussion can help. It can also blow up spectaculary, covering everyone in
the thick slime that is, after all, the essence of this zany marketing game.
If the relationship sours, it's usually our
fault and it makes everything harder.
If the relationship is open, trusting and postiive,
there's nothing we can't do together.