When clients aren’t right.


Are you brave enough to tell a client or perspective client that they are wrong, their plan won’t work or even “no”!

I have been overcome with a sense of right and wrong.  We have entered the “era of the close” and forgot about results and success.  In traditional marketing and now in new media marketing there is a line in the sand drawn between those who deliver what the client and/or the public say they want and those who dare to disagree and deliver what will over deliver results.  Ideas and campaigns that the client and the public have no idea they want or perhaps are even scared of.

Mad Men / Art & Copy

I was late to “Don Draper” and Mad Men and somewhat regret it, an era when creative ruled and when ad men (and women) were brave enough to make sure the best campaign was put into motion even at the short-term risk of losing the client. What I do fully regret is how late I am to “Art & Copy“.  If you haven’t watched, stop reading and do it right now!

The Close vs. The Win

It is not a shame and completely understandable when after all the cold calls, networking, emails and dinners when that prospective client looks at you and says “I am going to spend “x” with you, we need a Facebook campaign to get more people to like us, we want a mobile app and of course some display ads” you say YES and thank you. When in your heart and brain you know they need a SEO strategy, email segmentation, and inbound marketing strategy. But who did you sell short? Actually both yourself and the client.  But you closed the deal and can go back to your boss and tell them you closed a deal that won’t work and has no chance of renewal because it won’t hit the client goals, you make you, your company and the industry look bad. So instead of building a campaign that would keep this client loyal, trusting and spending with you for the long-term, you gave in, gave them what they think they wanted and took the quick hit.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs once said “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Same thing with clients.  Many times, they are like focus groups and think they know what they want and what will work. It’s not their fault they only know what they know, it’s our job to blow that out of the water and deliver something so unique that it will not only surpass their goals but will change the game and keep them one step ahead of their competitors.

Names to Know

If you study advertising there are a list of names that you need to know: George Lois, Lee Clow, Hal Riney, Dan Wieden, Mary Wells and many others. Other than an amazing list of client like Nike, Esquire, MTV, American Airlines, Apple, Ronald Regan, Saturn, Alka Seltzer and the list goes on, these mavericks all had the bravado to push through what they knew would work.  They care(d) more about the results and the future than they did about the close.

George Lois ““Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality overcomes everything.” / “Only with absolute fearlessness can we slay the dragons of mediocrity that invade our gardens.”

Hal Riney “I would rather deal with a tyrant any day than a committee. Committees, as a general rule, aren’t willing to take chances, which is why you have a committee in the first place — so you can share the blame.”

Mary Wells (Lawrence) “In this business, you can never wash the dinner dishes and say they are done. You have to keep doing them constantly.”

Sales People vs “Creatives”

A constant battle that doesn’t need to exist.  Sales people need to put money on the books and they can’t do it without brand people, solution providers and the “creatives”. Brand people, whether it’s designers, developers, copy-writers, art directors and marketing people must have the intestinal fortitude to push back, but you have better done your homework.  You better have read about the client, their challenges, their competitors, their success and failures. You better be so immersed in solution that it overcomes you, and when you make that stand and look that sales person in the eye to tell them “that isn’t what we are going to sell them even if it what they asked for”, it’s more than just lazy arrogance or your gut backing that up. But once you do it, and it works I mean really works – you may never have to justify a suggestion again.

Many Time Clients Are Right!

This is important to know.  I am not trying to say that you should think everything a clients asks won’t work.  Many times it will. Many times they truly understand the pulse of what makes their brand tick. There is no reason to challenge an idea just because it came from the client.  Never get int he habit of thinking if it didn’t come from you it can’t be good or right. I am saying stand up for what is right when the client really needs help, your creativity, your knowledge and your backbone.

If “greed is good” so is intelligent confidence

Knowing what clients to accept, knowing what campaigns to run, and having the courage to trust your convictions is the difference between greatness and mediocrity.