Meet client needs, not necessarily wants

Back in March, fellow Peanut Gallery denizens Tom Tom and Littlejohn chimed in on the importance of viewing and dealing with clients as if they were actual human beings, because they are. This is a valuable point that merits revisiting often, in order to fend of the apparently inevitable tendency to one-dimensionialize, stereotype and often demonize clients. It’s tough to earn respect and trust from someone you disdain, dismiss or demean.

This does not, however, mean we should kowtow, suck up, subserve or patronize our clients. Much of the value an agency offers its clients lies in its independent thought and willingness to share that thought, along with a spirited advocacy for and defense of the creative process.

The difference between good to great ad agencies and mediocre to bad ones is not necessarily the level of creative talent. It is more likely to be that agency’s ability to guide, direct, explain, consult, push and sell to clients. This in turn is predicated on developing a certain level of trust, which can only happen over time, built on having mutual success.

Agencies, as a rule, are more likely to create great work than to sell it.

Perhaps it’s helpful to remind ourselves that our job is not to make client conversations as short and pleasant as possible. Rather, we need to recognize when the client needs some tough love. A good client understands that sometimes the agency has a better idea of what they need (versus what they want) than they do. Here are some things that I’ve found most clients need, but few want:

• To slow down

• To plan, spend and generally think about their brand proactively, not reactively

• To think harder

• To know their customers better, or trust that we do

• To use their marketing dollars more wisely

• To keep the brand top of mind (in their own minds)

• To stretch their comfort zone

• To trust our judgment and their own judgment over the results of an informal poll of six people they bump into in the corridor

• To get over themselves

Surely this list is not exhaustive. What else do clients need, but not necessarily want?


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