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Sep 12, 2018    Industry Intrigue

The Clients You Actually Need to Worry About


If you’ve been working in the advertising and marketing industry long enough, you start to sort clients into types. At a digital agency in Austin, our past experience with one type of client informs how you need to deal with another similar client. Actions, not words, right?

Here are some examples. Try to identify which client type I’ve become most concerned about:

Overly-Involved, Wants to Basically Live In Your Office

This is a client who feels comfortable taking up massive amounts of time, scheduling weekly or daily calls, sending emails at all hours of the night. Maybe they don’t trust you. Maybe they’ve been burned by other agencies and they are incapable of trusting you.

Thinks She or He Can Teach You About Your Job

If you get a client who has worked in marketing before or even just read a few articles on Mashable, they might start to convince themselves that they are better than any creative agency in the world. That makes it harder to convince them on the merits of your methods, and it tends to lead to too much micromanagement. There was a client where after we vetted them, and after they became an ‘official’ client, revealed that she had applied to work for us before. I let the conversation about that topic drop.

Has No Power, Everything Must Be Approved by 99 People

At some larger corporations, sometimes a piece of creative needs to be passed through every link on the chain of command before getting approval. That means very few things get approved, and tend to proceed only after the idea has been mutilated beyond all recognition by the edits from a dozen opinions. So you end up fighting for what the CEO wanted and you end up fighting for what will actually lead to new clients. They hire you for growth hacking services but you get the lowest common denominator to work with.

Approves Everything Without Comment

This can be reassuring when they trust you to know what you are doing. But it can also mean that they aren’t especially invested in their own brand or your work. As pleasant as this client sounds, you need to be careful. They may be 100% satisfied with your work. But if they aren’t, they aren’t giving you the constructive criticism you’d need to adjust and make them happy.

The latter of these examples is the client that keeps us up at night. The others all tend to lay their cards on the table. You know their needs and their attitude, and can adjust your working style to meet them. But the client that tells you nothing gives you nothing to work from.

We are never going to produce the perfect deliverables 100% of the time. We can’t read the clients’ minds. But a good client will invest time in explaining the benchmarks we ask for and how they got there. They will consider their marketing, advertising, and growth agency a part of their team, and will make an effort on their end to work with you to improve the deliverable.

I work too hard to hire creatives that will drop their egos for the client to have the client in turn not give us their honest opinion. I always tell the prospect we will never know more about their industry, and hopefully they never know more about digital marketing, but it’s the collaboration that kills it. I am ultimately vetting for clients we can grow with, as I know I have to pay for myself and then double that amount to make it worth it to me. I plain care too much and have never been shortsighted.

Smart clients also know their agency isn’t flawless. Loyalty is earned only when you make a mistake and a client gets to see how you react to it and what you do about it.

The agency-client relationship works best when it’s collaborative. We never expect a client to have to come up with an idea or strategy for us to execute. However, the client tends to possess a knowledge of their industry that, through extensive research, we only begin to touch. They know we will be asking a lot of questions. What they don’t know is how we process that information shows in the quality of our work. It’s the strategy we need before we ever start writing or designing. We are insistent on using client time on priorities based on those benchmarks. A good client will appreciate the questions, and know that they come up by us keeping on up their latest industry news, and how we think it may affect them in terms of growth.

They came to us because we were growth hackers before the term existed, and we’re a branding agency with an innate sense of what makes people buy. I come from a business development background, so the company culture is sales-focused. It’s hard to make the sales for the client if the client remains silent. I always ask for the ‘why’ – that’s where the gold is. Getting the best results doesn’t come from doing the easiest thing. So it makes sense: the clients to worry about are your “easiest” ones.

However, if they take the time to convey the nuances of their industry to the agency, everyone benefits from improved results: the client gets more sales, and the agency keeps the client.

Let Your Curiosity Take Control