Anyone can win new business, says The Artistry’s Phil Barker, it’s the “keeping them” part that often proves more difficult. Barker is a former managing director of News Magazines (News Life Media) and is a regular columnist on Fairfax Media’s men’s life and style portal, Executive Style. Here are his top 10 tips and he accepts the below is very easy to say but hard to do.
It’s true that people like doing business with people they like. We work in a relationship-based communications business and the quality of your relationship with your client will determine the length and depth of your professional engagement. Ultimately, successful relationships come down to who you are as a person. Therefore, so does your potential to succeed.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate!
Obfuscation might save the day but will ultimately lose you the client. If you’re caught hiding something, your relationship with this client, and possibly every other, is over. So if you don’t know something, or something has gone horribly wrong, pick up the phone …
“Hi, look, yes the 17 cases of Penfolds Grange for the most expensive event you’ve ever approved that starts in one hour seems to be … currently … location variable.
“You mean you’ve lost it!”
“Right now, um, yes. However, our plan B is …”
The client will be unhappy but they’ll be more happy than they would be if they find out later.
Don’t Say Anything To Get The Gig
It’s usually directors who are most guilty of this, because they’re motivated by paying next month’s rent. Account managers will sit, open-mouthed, in a pitch as their director says: “Oh course we can do 3D projections, live horses, Dom Perignon, the Sydney Symphony orchestra and the real James Bond from a helicopter for $12 a head …”
Under-delivering is bad. Over-promising puts pressure on staff and ultimately damages your brand.
You’re Really Part of THEIR Team
Your key client contact will be battling for budget, probably battling for his or her job and justifying every cent to someone who does NOT understand how wonderful and creative you are. If your relationship is strong you will quickly become part of an internal dialogue with senior management, justifying return on spend. Accept this is pretty much as it will always be and, if you value the client, step up to help. You’ll end up maintaining your business’s long-term relationship.
Understand the Client Better Than The Client
Know every element of the client’s brand, so you know how the bit you’re creating fits into local and global strategy. Know their competitors, challenges and other divisions. It helps you become … infectious.
If you have success with one division of a business, you will be talked about positively in any crisis meetings. Other people from the same business will start calling with different problems. Soon, you’ll have spread through the entire organisation, like a happy infection.
But this can only happen if your relationships are good and you actually deliver.
It goes without saying you must actually be able to do what you say you will for the money the client had given you, or the gig will be your last. (see point 3).
The Client Is Always Right Except When …
The client is always right except for when they’re really, really not. If they like blue and you like green, give ’em blue. But if they’re demanding something brand-damaging, a thing you have a serious problem with, say so. Say “this is what I believe will happen if we do this. I am advising against it.”
Make sure there’s a paper trail and you’ve been heard. That way, when it all goes horribly wrong say, very nicely, that perhaps next time a little more weight might be given to your agency’s opinion. After all, that’s what we’re here for. Don’t gloat and say I told you so. (See point 1.)
Delight the client constantly. Deliver what you said, then drop a few little extras. It’s like giving your partner flowers when you’ve done nothing wrong. It might be a serious little nugget of IP, or it might be as simple as an email to share a cool video inspiration for an awesome thing next year.
x. Accept Love Doesn’t Last Forever
In the end, you’ll break up with your client. Marketing managers change, global policy changes, the market changes. Know you’re in it for a good time not a long time, so do great work while you have the opportunity, for you and your client. Capture it on your platforms. You’re your own best marketer and success in your last job is the best possible content to secure your next.