How To Be A Great Client


Photo by Mikael Altemark under Creative Commons.


Mark Schofield, President of Account Leadership

Clients come from all kinds of backgrounds these days. Many of them have not had training in marketing and even fewer have actually worked in agencies. So, how could a client know what it takes to be a great client? And, just what makes for a great agency-client relationship anyway? As a former client, I used to think that an agency was supposed to get creative ideas done on time and on budget. Plus, it helped if they didn’t take more than 10% of my time because I had so many other duties to perform in my job.

Boy, did I get it wrong. I missed out on getting the best thinking, the very best ideas, and the extra effort from the agency that can make the difference between something that moves the needle a few percentage points and something that changes the course of the brand.

So, what did I learn? Here are the lessons that eventually turned me into a great client.

Provide one focused direction. One client. One direction. As an old agency boss told me, a dog can only bark to one master. If more than one client must decide on work, put the people in the same room at the same time to evaluate the work. It improves the chances of giving the agency one unified reaction.

Demand the agency’s best work. Then fight internally for the work. Nothing demoralizes an agency more than getting approval or positive feedback only to hear later that “someone” didn’t like it. The great client fights for the work. He/she knows that ideas are fragile. They can be dismantled very easily. An agency needs an advocate.

Provide accessibility for approvals. Clients can take days or weeks to get together to approve work. Yet the deadlines never seem to move to account for those wasted days. The agency could be working on more, even better, ideas instead of waiting around for clients to get approval. It is in the client’s best interest to move the process along to give the agency as much time as possible to sharpen the work.

Let the agency present the work to you in person. The agency can provide a context and rationale for their ideas. Remember, the agency has been working on the ideas for days or weeks. The client sees the work in an instant and oftentimes makes a decision. The great client gives him/herself the benefit of hearing all of the agency’s thinking before making a decision.

Let the agency help you present the work internally. Usually, agency professionals present creative work more skillfully than do clients. Why? The agency does it a lot. Clients mostly do it occasionally. Why not give the work the best chance to sell to your bosses? It only makes you look better.

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