This week for my second blog entry, I decided to write about an issue that has been top of mind for me the past few days – Dealing with Clients.
There’s a saying that I’ve heard on occasion, “Advertising would be perfect if there were no clients!” This sentiment is one that every designer feels at some point or another in their career. I’ve been dealing with clients of various types for 15 years and every one of them is different.
I’ve had clients that respond to the work that I show them as if I were ‘the god of design’ and practically fall all over themselves giving me praise about how much they like the concepts… wanting to run with ALL of them! LOL! These are the types of clients that I LOVE, but they too have their own challenges. Obviously for multiple reasons, but especially for campaign effectiveness, we can’t run with ALL of the ideas presented. I’ve found that leveraging their respect for our work and counseling the client to make a good decision about which direction to head in has been the best strategy. This is where my “Agency Recommendation” goes the farthest.
Then, on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve had clients that are NEVER happy with a single thing we do! I even had a client once, (worst client ever but I won’t name names) who sat down and had multiple threatening talks with me about my team’s work saying that he felt we weren’t creative enough… eluding to my team being fired if we didn’t do better. Set aside all of the compliments he received from the audience about our design work, and that my studio even won an Addy Award on one of the projects we designed for him… some people are just never happy! These clients are toxic for morale and counterproductive to the work. Some indicators to help you recognize this type of client can be how many designers (and other staff) they have gone through in the past 6 months, how much time they devote to meetings and giving feedback, how they respond to contracts and invoices, and if they are willing to give a defined scope of work outlining what criteria (if any) they will measure “success.” That particular client experience had red flags all over the place and ended up being a big expensive business lesson for me, one that even required lawyers to settle our differences!
Most of my client experiences, however, have been somewhere in between those extremes. Another good saying is that “great work requires a great client,” and this is so true! The best clients are ones that understand that the work that we do is a collaborative process… it’s not a box of cereal that you pick off the supermarket shelf. It requires a give and take of strategy, ideas, creativity, time and trust. There will always be certain client issues that are irritating for us, like having a million changes to a piece, or changing their minds halfway through the process, or taking weeks to make a decision then when they finally do they want it turned around in a couple of days! LOL! These issues come with the territory of Advertising and Design. Starting out as a new designer in the industry, they can be very frustrating and difficult to deal with, but no matter how good the client is, they are universal issues and don’t define an individual client.
Giving good Client Service takes practice, and reading a client comes with time and experience and they are all different. Ultimately, every client relationship is just that… a relationship. And just like other relationships, they can be good or bad and have the ability to turn on a dime. They all have their own unique personalities, expectations, and temperaments. For designers, it’s important to keep in mind the key indicators that I described, and be mindful of any red flags that show up, as well as how the client makes you and your team feel. Remember that as Designers, our job is to strategically interpret and visually communicate the client’s message to a designated audience. We are working FOR the client…but we also have to be able to work WITH them! I have a saying in my studio that we make “Happy Clients by Design.” I believe very strongly in going the extra mile, and bending over backwards to make a client happy! However, when the situation calls for it, saying no can be the best way to protect yourself and your team.