Archive for the 'Clients' Category

When your client is just plain wrong

The dust has settled, but over the recent holidays, a colleague of mine had a particularly tough client. (I’ll not mention names for obvious reasons.)

We’re talking about  a client that is unorganized with resources, inconsistent with direction, unfocused on objectives, and not particularly open to taking advice from the marketing experts she had hired.

What do you do when you find yourself in these situations? After all, she’s the client. She pays the bills. How do you live with that?

I like the approach shared by The Mad Ad Man in his recent blog post. He writes that once you realize that drastic changes have to be made – yet your client is unwilling to upset the status quo – you have two options.  There really are three, but the last is unacceptable.

“You can radically challenge the status quo,” he writes. “You break down the house, clear it out completely, and then rebuild it from the ground back up. This will require a lot of schmoozing, and diplomatic relationship management on your end, but this has a chance of success.”

The other option is “slice by slice change” – “For you, this means, being extremely patient, and starting with smaller projects, making her part of the process, making her buy into the process, and hence, get her support. Then, you will move on to larger projects, until you have gradually changed the status quo.”

The third option is to simply surrender, give up, and wave the white flag. But our author reminds us: “You should be ashamed of yourself though, and I am sure you will feel like a prostitute, only doing it for the money, not for the love of your profession. You won’t last long this way. So no, it’s not an option.”



Awards matter


Over the years, I’ve been a bit ambivalent about the significance of industry design awards. After all, the true value of our work should be measured by how a stronger brand builds business for our clients, rather than how our work appeals to industry colleagues.

Yet I must admit I’m very proud of the work I did with Ron Leland of Real Life Brand Architecture for one of our fave clients, Jim Dunnigan of Niemann Capital Management. The Service Industry Advertising Awards recently recognized our brand-development efforts with three Gold and two Silver awards for a logo design, website, brochure, calendar and brand launch campaign.

As gratifying as it is to have your hard work recognized, it’s even more important when your client can leverage this recognition internally to build company-wide support and pride in a distinctive brand identity. Awards like these build credibility and confidence. It tells everyone involved that we’re on the right track. That certainly has been the case with Niemann, a relatively small company with a unique message to share in the financial-services industry.

We can do a bang-up job with design and messaging, but a brand cannot be built without true buy-in from the client. And awards can certainly help in that effort.

What can brown do for you?

I’ve always loved that UPS tagline: “What can brown do for you?” It not only extended the UPS brand by taking ownership of a color, but implied a wide and diverse range of capabilities. Rather than suggest benefits themselves, the UPS guys invited their customers to imagine (and then ask for) a service that was relevant  and valuable to them.

I think it’s a great tactic to use in this tough economy. Rather than sniff around to see if someone needs a new website, or is looking to revamp a brand identity, simply ask what it is you can do to help.

In his recent blog entry, “Easiest way to dramatically increase sales,” Seth Godin suggests calling or writing your customers and asking: “I know that times might be tough for you. Is there anything I can do to pitch in and help?”

I tried it Monday and was rewarded immediately by two requests I never would have imagined. Neither are giant gigs, but both are opportunities to get back in with valued clients and help them during a tough time.

To paraphrase JFK’s famous inaugural line: Ask not what your clients can do for you, but rather what you can do for your clients.

Build your clients’ dreams

The guys at the Men With Pens blog remind us that while we may be in business to make money, build a better life, or play by our own rules, we also should be mindful that we’re in business to help someone else achieve their dreams.

“Helping the dreams of others come true is a pretty big responsibility,” writes Harry McLeod. “Your clients trust you with their project, but they also trust you with something far more precious. They trust you to handle their vision with care and attention.”

“As a writer, a designer, a marketer, your job involves taking the time and having the patience to unravel the tangles of the client’s dream to bring focus to the project.”

Sometimes the work we do may not match the vision of our clients’ dream. McLeod reminds us to be prepared to try try again with an open mind.

But remember, you’re the expert. So help them along, guide them, explain the process, and help them find clarity so they can achieve their dreams.

What do you expect from clients?

The guys at 37 Signals point out the familiar scenario: “We get it. But our clients will never understand.” Matt Linderman writes in their recent blog entry:

Read between the lines and there’s a disturbing undercurrent to that message. It’s really saying, “I get it but these other people could never understand. They don’t have the wisdom and the understanding that I do.” It’s like the way some LA or NYC people sound when they talk down about the masses in the flyover states. It’s insulting.

But, of course, your clients can handle a lot more than you think. You just need to guide them. In fact, it’s part of your job as a creative professional.

“Start out by agreeing on your common goal: to create the best final product possible,” Matt says. “Agreeing on a common goal is an old Dale Carnegie technique that works well because it gets everyone to realize they’re on the same team and fighting for the same thing. You start getting “yes” immediately.”

“Then steer them in what you think is the best direction. Take the initiative. Set expectations. Explain why you want to do it a new way. Tell them how you think the project should go.”

“Will this approach lose you the job? If it does, maybe it’s a bad fit in the first place.”

“Don’t assume ignorance. People live up to the expectations placed upon them. If you assume intelligence and flexibility from your clients, you just might get it.”

Robert Hyndman

can be reached at his Laguna Beach studio, 949.497.3179, or by using the form on the Contact Me page.
October 2019
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