The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Don’t Wait Till You’re Spoken Too …
July 4, 2011, 6:16 am
Filed under: Comment

One of the things that I have always advocated is building a relationship with your clients.

I don’t mean just attending meetings, but creating a dialogue inside and outside the office environment.

This is not to be confused with becoming mates … or getting so close to the business you lose your ability to be objective … it’s about helping develop better understanding of each others needs and skills so that over time – and with a continual stream of positive actions and input – you can build the trust that leads to you being seen as indispensable to that individual and their business.

So how do you do it?

Well obviously it’s doing the big stuff well – however I am a firm believer you have to continually demonstrate you give a shit about them and their business … which means sending them information that you think is interesting … writing papers/documents/books that you think could be valuable, even if they haven’t asked for them to be done … doing mini research projects that you think could raise issues or opportunities for their business in the future … even going for lunch and just seeing how everything is going.

In short – as my colleague Richard Summers say’s – marketing yourself to them.

There are a lot of companies that believe the flow of communication should be carefully managed – and of course, you don’t want to go off and do things on your own without at least notifying your colleagues and wider team about what you’re doing – however if you think client relationships should only be the domain of the account service department, then you’re both limiting your influence as well as your ability to develop the skills that could lead to you working on things you really give a shit about.

This isn’t about being a corporate toady … nor is it about falling into a ‘client management role’ … it’s about shaping your role, influence and career which is why planners who think their job is only about working in the background are missing the point, because the best thing you can do is help clients define their objectives rather than simply responding to their briefs.

10 ‘Quick Ways’ To Open Dialogue

1/ Use Google Alerts to identify interesting news/issues that you can send off.

2/ Use Twitter to track popular opinions/news that might be of interest to your client.

3/ Read newspapers – you never know when a topic of interest may come up.

4/ Look at the things the company fundamentally believes and do mini projects to see if things have evolved/changed.

5/ Visit and photograph a different client store each week and report your findings.

6/ Do street interviews and report what you’ve found in relation to your clients business or just people’s general attitude and approach to life.

[You can do this in a whole bunch of ways … ways that also allow you to show off your unique/different approaches to uncover insights – ie: photographing what people have just bought through to the clothes they’re wearing to go shopping … and pretty much anything inbetween. Trust me, it would be a very strange client who didn’t find this interesting, if only for the approach you’ve used]

7/ Do a competitive review – but not on who their competitors are, but on who could view them as a competitor.

8/ Tell them about films/books that you feel cover issues that you know are close to their [personal or professional] heart.

9/ Connect them up to people you know who do things – or have experience in things – that are of [personal or professional] interest.

10/ Invite them for lunch.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

This is, of course, in no way an exhaustive list – I’m sure many of you have a bunch of totally different little tips and tricks to open dialogue – however if you’re lost and looking for a helping hand, any one of these may help, accepting that some [like research and competitive reviews] will take alot more time to do than others, which automatically has implications on just how often you can interact with your client.

Word of advice, don’t over-do your interaction.

There’s a fine line between helpful and annoying … but if you provide genuinely valuable information in a positive way, you will soon find you get sought out [as well as stand out] from the countless people they regard as giving them problems rather than solutions or even simply, ‘food for thought’.

PS: Happy Independence Day to all Americans out there. Though there’s nothing happy about it from her Majesty’s perspective.


69 Comments

but dont fuck them. unless they’re really hot.

Comment by andy@cynic

Is this where I don’t say the word “Amber”?

Comment by Billy Whizz

im still destroyed to my fucking soul about that. how on earth did he pull that one off? best bit of strategy he must have ever fucking done. but then he was young and semi pretty back then.

Comment by andy@cynic

Let’s leave this one here shall we …

Comment by Rob

you fucking kidding? its the best fucking thing youve ever fucking pulled off in your life. and that includes your 2″, flacid bastard wiener.

Comment by andy@cynic

8/10 things on that list are quite fucking good. not great but quite fucking good.

Comment by andy@cynic

im fucking amazed how few creatives have a relationship with the people that can make their career a fucking dream or a fucking nightmare. they sit there leaving their blood, sweat and booze to others and then have a fucking fit if the result isnt positive. grow some fucking balls and start meeting and knowing the fuckers that pay your bills before you complain. besides its much fucking harder to say no when youre sat across the table from the person who came up with the fucking idea than bollocking some weak as piss, 16 year old suit. cowards.

Comment by andy@cynic

That’s a great point Andy. Not just creatives either, but planners as well.

Comment by Pete

i know it is. stop leeching off my brilliance.

Comment by andy@cynic

To be honest Andy [and yes, I know you’ll know] your comment is a post in itself.

I understand why people might not want to sit in mindless meetings, discussing things that ultimately have no impact on the bigger picture … however, it’s unfair to blame others if things don’t quite go as you wanted just because you have this stupid attitude that all client interaction is left to a single person in a single department in the whole bloody agency.

That doesn’t mean you should be in every meeting that happens, but at the pivotal points, it would be good if you were there … and if you have been building some sort of individual client relationship in the background, you might find your involvement genuinely helps the process rather than just gives you another person to blame.

We’re in this together. Which means taking on responsibility together. Shame some people view that attitude as alien – or worse – evil.

Comment by Rob

youve just ruined my fucking brilliance with your planning bollocks. like you always do.

Comment by andy@cynic

I agree with Andy’s excellent point, and Lauren’s below.

Too many people just sit and think they should have no contact or interest in the work outside of specifically briefed pieces.

If creatives want to sell more exciting work, you’d think attempting to build a better relationship with the client would be a reasonable goal.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

you lost me at “continual stream of positive actions and input”

Comment by john

thats good because the fucker has been trying to shake you off for months. what the fuck are you doing on here on a sunday night? havent you got some talk to listen to?

Comment by andy@cynic

but youre right, “doing good shit” would be better.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m with you Doddsy, that sounds like he’s describing a piss after 20 diet cokes.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Ice. No lemon.

Comment by Billy Whizz

campbell is a lemon.

Comment by andy@cynic

Guilty as charged.

Comment by Rob

indefuckingpendence day. look at the state the fucking country is in today. all was ofuckingk when we left it.

Comment by andy@cynic

What about rule #11.

Get the client pissed. Take compromising photos. Blackmail.

That’s always worked in the past, didn’t involve doing any extra work and you got a good and expense claimable night out of it as well.

Comment by Billy Whizz

still the most fucking effective. especially if you can bring live animals into the mix.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great post Rob with some great tips and I’m not just saying that because you made me do them at cynic and I want other people to suffer as well.

Comment by Pete

I once worked at an agency that said they didn’t want anyone doing any client/agency projects outside of the agreed scope of work. They said it would “set a bad precedent” and impact future agency fee negotiations.

I understand there can be a fine line between relationship building and unprofitable behavior, but what Rob is suggesting isn’t about embarking on all agency initiatives, it’s about individual growth and recognition.

I would add one more tip. Phone the client.

Too much communication is done through electronic means and talking to them can be much more personal and meaningful than another note in their email box.

Comment by Pete

but thats because you worked at a bunch of fucking fucked up places till we saved you. and you never even paid us a fucking dime to say thank you. prick.

Comment by andy@cynic

Saint Andy.

Comment by Pete

Most agencies couldn’t effectively market themselves if they had a 50 PR people at their disposal so you better do what you can yourself or face the consequences when the inevitable agency review comes up in 12 months.

Comment by DH

Good call David.

Comment by George

what the fuck is going on with you dave. you dont do sensible shit on here. youre not allowed to do sensible shit on here.

Comment by andy@cynic

Is independence day the day we stopped having to listen to Freddie Mercury?

Comment by Billy Whizz

oh, hi

Comment by rich

I thought you had better taste than to come on here. Or maybe it’s because I name checked you and you want the ‘fame’. Pity everyone who comments here isn’t worth much. Ha.

Comment by Rob

In short – as my colleague Richard Summers say’s – marketing yourself to them.

I can’t believe he said that.
no wonder he’s repackaging himself as the lean mean veggie eating hunk. All for marketing himself to the client.

Comment by kei

To be fair, it’s much harder for him to be taken seriously.

He has red hair.

Comment by Rob

This is great advice again Rob. Thank you.

Comment by Rafik

Not advice, just a little nudge.

Comment by Rob

can we all stop complimenting the fucker. its sickening, especially when all hes fucking doing is spouting off some common fucking sense.

Comment by andy@cynic

testing…

Comment by kei

the fact that you have to write a post like this is the reason i’m still completely baffled by agency life…

don’t you just do these things when you care about something/someone?

Comment by lauren

Yep …

Saying that, there is the issue that some companies have a structure – as Pete’s comment highlighted – where their goal is to limit agency/client interaction to only those covered in the ‘scope and fee’ meaning some of the younger guys – or folk in different departments – automatically are at a disadvantage to highlight their own skills and talents.

This post is to help them take back that opportunity.

Comment by Rob

just to clarify, i’m not criticising you posting it – i can absolutely see why you need to and am glad you did. people being interested/caring well is always good.

Comment by lauren

I can confirm these actions would make a positive impression on clients because they are some of the things Robert did to me when embarking on our mutually advantageous relationship.

Comment by Lee Hill

You should do more posts like this. The hardest thing about planning isn’t planning, it’s surviving in the culture of where you work and who they work for.
And don’t get me started on ‘partner agencies’ i.e the one’s who are always right behind you in order to sink the knife in at the first opportunity

Comment by northern

And ruin the carefully crafted image that I know fuck all and do fuck all? Never.

Great point on partner agencies … pity the definition of partner seems to be people going through a really bad divorce.

Comment by Rob

agree with lauren.

marketing yourself. oh well. i guess its a fine line between genuine caring about a person/business/issues and, pardon me, whoring yourself out because it could be beneficial. the latter might work until theres someone at the receiving end who can see intentions. after all its personal relationships in a business environment. still one on one. just saying.

Comment by peggy

It has nothing to do with whoring yourself … and marketing doesn’t automatically mean you are trying to create an illusion of caring … it’s about ensuring you can interact enough with the other party so that you can start developing a deeper understanding of where each other is coming from and then a higher level of trust and influence.

Sure there’s a job to be done, but the best and most effective relationships come from human interaction and all I’m trying to do is give people some tips to help them earn the right to being more involved, respected and successful.

Comment by Rob

what do you think i want to do

Comment by peggy

telling a client no because of the short notice to be able, kind of, have a semi chance in hell of producing decent, non generic, work is good marketing as well..I hope..

Comment by niko

lets remember campbell is the bloke that has upset more fucking clients than you lot have had hot fucking dinners by fighting them for whats right, so why are some of you lot making him sound like hes saying you have to be a bunch of fucking 2 faced slippery servants and do whatever the fucking client wants.

this post has fuck all to do with being toady and everyfuckingthing with making good shit happen for yourself so pull your fucking heads in. its advice not
fucking whore orders.

Comment by andy@cynic

i thought this post is about making good things happen for the client, which eventually might end up being good for the agency and yourself.

this is all i pointed out, in case you were talking to me — saying that it should be about caring for the client, the relationship, the work etc. but ultimately not placing yourself at the forefront of intentions.

i dont do hot dinners. and my bull neck doesnt make it easy to pull my head in.

Comment by peggy

you should start an agency called cynic because youre more fucking down on stuff people do than we ever were.

Comment by andy@cynic

you were definitely one of the people i was talking to peggy. absofuckinglutely one of them.

Comment by andy@cynic

are you saying you should only do shit that guarantees getting something good from the client? that sounds more fucking contrived than doing stuff that tries to get you both to know and trust eachother.

quite fucking sure you dont mean that but then you interpret shit on here that no other fucker sees so thought id better ask.

Comment by andy@cynic

Peggy, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. Robert isn’t advocating doing things for clients to ‘con them into liking them. He is suggesting doing things that allow them to demonstrate their smarts because many agencies keep their more junior staff from forging one on one relationships. Frankly I can’t see how this could have been read otherwise but it must, because that seems to be how you have interpreted it.

Comment by George

what planner boy said.

Comment by andy@cynic

i dont know what the fuss is all about. i dont know why im painted to criticise rob. because i havent. i was adding something about attitude in personal relationships. and thin lines. if you want, some additional advice. that is all. the rest is already written in my comments.

Comment by peggy

seems we must all be shit at reading.

Comment by andy@cynic

no, its attitude and cognition 😉

Comment by peggy

you fucking said it.

Comment by andy@cynic

On the other hand, getting them pissed and taking them to a lapdancing club works wonders. And that’s just the women.

Comment by Northern

not if youre client is peter fucking stringfellow it wont. he does all that shit every fucking night. better than hefner, he jut gets to empty his colostomy.

Comment by andy@cynic

Matters arising:

1) We need to hear much more about Amber.

2) Good marketing isn’t about lying or conning which is why having 5 or 50 PR people never helped any company’s marketing effort.

3)Isn’t this post ultimatel;y a conemnation of account managers who don#t even think to introduce planners and creatives to their clients. I thought their job was facilitation.

Comment by john

1) too fucking depressing to think about.
2) stop being sensible doddsy.
3) yes, but theres also a fuckload of fuckwit planners and creatives who think talking to a client is someone elses fucking job and a fuckload of suits who think its only their job.

adland. magnet for muppets.

Comment by andy@cynic

Apologies for typos. My laptop broke and Bazza hasn’t rushed to replace it so I’m using some horrendous windows thing.

Comment by john

you get a freebie laptop when i get a freebie anyfuckingthing from him. so put your fucking coat on doddsy because itll happen when hell freezes the fuck over.

Comment by andy@cynic

[…] Don’t Wait Till You’re Spoken […]

Pingback by Lemmingification … « The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Thank you for the tips.

Should the account team be included (cc’d, notified) on any information/analysis shared with clients? As an associate strategic planner working with the planning director on accounts, should I even have ‘open dialogue’ with clients?

I just wanted to determine how best to implement your tips at my current level.

Thanks.

Comment by LeeAnn Chen

To be honest, I’m not sure if I understand your question. If you’re working on a piece of business, you should have some exposure to the client. Whether that translates to drinks and dinners is another thing … but you certainly – at least in my mind – be a stranger.

The key is ensuring everyone knows what’s going on – the client doesn’t want 10,000 different people talking/writing to them and your team mates don’t want any nasty surprises … but if you work as a team, as we should all be, that shouldn’t be the case.

So if you’re not communicating with your client now, start … just involve and include rather than go off on your own. At least in the early days.

Comment by Rob

I’m sorry that my questions were unclear, but your response answered them.

I’m not a stranger to the client, but I didn’t know if I should share things with them directly, through my boss, or through the account service team.
At our agency, it seems most of the communication with the clients is through the account service team. Perhaps, like you mentioned, it might be good to discuss how we can talk with clients more as a team.

Comment by LeeAnn Chen




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