Posts Tagged ‘Client Relationships’

Two sides of the table: Agency vs. Client

Seth Godin hit it on the head of the nail again. He posted a blog today and turned my thinking upside down, inside out, like no one ever has, on the subject of being a great client. “Is there such a thing?” you may ask. Of course there is. Having been on both sides of the table, trying to be innovative on the agency side, and trying to keep innovation flowing as a client, I’ve never thought about my role in the light of “fostering.” But Seth said it well, and here’s my reaction to his bullet points.

I have here counter bullets of what you’re supposed to do if you’re on the other side of the table — that you’re the innovator. I think these bullets will serve as great reminders for anyone who wants to stay innovative and to become your client’s favorite innovator:

If you’re the client… If you’re the innovator…
  • Before engaging with the innovator, foster discipline among yourself and your team. Be honest about what success looks like and what your resources actually are.
  • If you can’t write down clear ground rules about which rules are firm and which can be broken on the path to a creative solution, how can you expect the innovator to figure it out?
  • Simplify the problem relentlessly, and be prepared to accept an elegant solution that satisfies the simplest problem you can describe.
  • After you write down the ground rules, revise them to eliminate constraints that are only on the list because they’ve always been on the list.
  • Hire the right person. Don’t ask a mason to paint your house. Part of your job is to find someone who is already in the sweet spot you’re looking for, or someone who is eager and able to get there.
  • Demand thrashing early in the process. Force innovations and decisions to be made near the beginning of the project, not in a crazy charrette at the end.
  • Be honest about resources. While false resource constraints may help you once or twice, the people you’re working with demand your respect, which includes telling them the truth.
  • Pay as much as you need to solve the problem, which might be more than you want to. If you pay less than that, you’ll end up wasting all your money. Why would a great innovator work cheap?
  • Cede all issues of irrelevant personal taste to the innovator. I don’t care if you hate the curves on the new logo. Just because you write the check doesn’t mean your personal aesthetic sense is relevant.
  • Run interference. While innovation sometimes never arrives, more often it’s there but someone in your office killed it.
  • Raise the bar. Over and over again, raise the bar. Impossible a week ago is not good enough. You want stuff that is impossible today, because as they say at Yoyodyne, the future begins tomorrow.
  • When you find a faux innovator, run. Don’t stick with someone who doesn’t deserve the hard work you’re doing to clear a path.
  • Celebrate the innovator. Sure, you deserve a ton of credit. But you’ll attract more innovators and do even better work next time if innovators understand how much they benefit from working with you. 
  • Ask what success means for your client. Tell your client what success means to you in relation to your client’s success.
  • Lay down ground rules and lay out a road map with which you can reach a creative solution, and explain to your client how you’re going to get there. Find out what your client’s ground rules and road map to innovation is like.
  • After writing down the ground rules, if you think some of them are getting in the way of innovation and creativity, revise them.
  • Discuss the importance of simplicity vs. efficiency, that your client doesn’t need to sacrifice sophistication nor efficiency with simple design.
  • Get the right people on your team, even if they’re smarter than you. Having people who are very good at what they do on your team is better than getting generalists who try hard to be good at everything.
  • Talk about innovations and decisions with your client. Make it clear from the get-go that decisiveness and a risk-taking mindset is key to the successful execution of innovative ideas.
  • Be honest about resources and constraints with your client. Be transparent about the truth, you’ll earn your client’s respect that way.
  • Don’t work for cheap. You know the market price of your work, so don’t accept less and spoil market.
  • Don’t concede to issues of irrelevant personal tastes from your client. Your client may have weird tastes and pet-peeves but your client may not be the only consumer of the product/service that you’re innovating. Your audience is king, your client is not.
  • If you sense someone on your client’s team is consistently killing innovation, pull the person aside and have a one-on-one discussion about innovation. This is a great opportunity to “educate” someone who might not have gotten it yet.
  • Your client may be the faux innovator, and you can’t run away from him. If the client continues to supersede your job to innovate, maybe you need to change your strategy or simply walk away.  
  • Celebrate a good client. If your client offers you plenty of room to innovate and make things happen, you should recognize the wonderful relationship and do even better work. 

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Think What Not to Brand: 5 Things You DON’T Want Others to Say About You or Your Business

When we talk about branding, we’re really talking about how you want people, i.e. your customers, to talk about you and your service/product. And if we can get this concept down, we’ll have success on any media platform from social media to website to advertising.

  • Think of 5 things you want others to say about you and your service
  • Think of 5 things you DON’T want others to say about you and your service
  • What does it take for people to say what you want them to say about you, but not about your competitors?
  • Why should your customers trust your brand versus the others?
  • What functional and emotional benefits you can offer to your customers?
  • On a scale of 0-10, what would your customers rate you in terms of service satisfaction?
  • On a scale of 0-10, how likely would your customers recommend or refer you to others?

Once we’ve identified these items, we can begin to discuss the language, messaging and visual image you aspire to convey through your brand.

My little annecdote: On the client loyalty surveys we conduct with customers, we always ask the following set of questions:

  1. Would you recommend us?
  2. Are we your top-of-mind partner?
  3. Are you getting quick enough responses from us?
  4. Do we demonstrate knowledge of the marketplace?
  5. Are you happy with our products/services ?
  6. Are you happy with the process we deliver our products and services?

Ultimately, these are brand perception questions and the answers to them can help us figure out what we need to work on for successful branding.