MCLELLAN: How to be a good client
Friday, July 20, 2012 7:00 AM
I’ve been working in advertising agencies for almost 30 years now, and I’ve had the incredible good fortune to work with some amazing clients over the years. Early in my career, before I had the deciding vote on whom we’d serve, I also worked with some real jerks.
Most of us in the marketing world serve clients (could be an internal department or external, paying clients), and in most cases, we are also someone else’s client (vendor, strategic partner, agency if you’re client side, etc.) as well.
I thought I’d reflect on my life with clients (and being a client), and share the best practices so we can all be better clients on the next go-round.
Talk to us about budget: It’s ridiculous how some clients make their agency jump through hoops to guess at the budget. We can’t help you spend your money in the wisest, most effective way possible if we don’t know the boundaries. If you don’t trust us enough to tell us – fire us.
Say thank you in your own way: One of my all-time favorite clients came over one Christmas week and serenaded us with one of her holiday favorites. What an incredible gift – to share something so personal with such affection and heart. I’ll never forget the experience.
Invite us to the party: We can be so much more helpful if you bring us inside. Let us interact with your c-suite, sales team, and customer service reps and be a part of the very early strategy sessions. We bring a very unique and valuable perspective – we’re informed outsiders. We can see with more clarity and less bias, but we also know enough to ask the hard but insightful questions.
Trust us: Our job is to make you a rock star. To help you achieve and surpass your company’s goals. We’re on your side. In theory, you selected us to be your partner because you believe we’re good at our work. So trust us. Don’t let your personal bias or preferences lead you in the wrong direction. When we disagree with you, let us explain, from our experience and expertise, why we disagree and be mindful of your mindset. In the end, it’s your money and we’ll do as you ask, but don’t shortchange our desire to be your best ally.
Pay your bills on time: On the other end of the money -- pay your bills on time. Odds are we jumped through hoops to hit your deadlines, and now it’s your turn. Don’t put your agency in the position of being your bank. Remember, they’ve incurred costs on your behalf, so don’t hang them out to dry. Everyone hits a tough spot, and when that happens, talk to us about it. But don’t leave us in the dark.
Connect with us: We all want to work with people we like. Don’t hide your humanity. Show us your vacation pictures. Tell us your funny weekend story. Reminisce about the old job or the old boss. We don’t have to be best buddies (although it’s nice when that happens) but it’s human nature to work harder for someone you like. So let us get to know you on a personal level.
Celebrate with us: Marketing is usually a a winding road of obstacles and last-minute adjustments, done at breakneck speed and involving a bit of risk. When it all comes together, it’s magical. Take time to celebrate with the entire team. Give kudos to the people who often don’t get to lead the team or enjoy the glory. Rewarding everyone with a special dinner or even a bagel break will fire up the team for the next challenge.
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