The following post, from my friend and colleague, Seth Pederson, struck a nerve with me. I’ve worked with marketing teams with “yes” men (and women)–we probably all have at one point or another. It’s painful. It’s soul-sucking. But most of all, it’s disappointing. We get paid to lead our clients. We get paid to keep our clients one step ahead of the curve. Oh wait, this is Seth’s post isn’t it? 😉 I’ll let him opine…
Tucked away in the recesses of my Google Reader feed are a few guilty pleasures. Subscriptions that, while mostly still workplace appropriate, guarantee I laugh at least once every day.
If you don’t already have a few guilty social media pleasures, let me get you started by suggesting the adolescent This is Photobomb, the classic The Oatmeal and the horrifying Clients From Hell. All are funny. Sometimes they’re even educational.
The last entry on this list features (alleged) real interactions between freelance graphic designers and small business clients. I’m not sure where these folks could possibly come from, but I’m certainly thankful for awesome clients.
Normally, Clients From Hell is hilarious because it’s almost believable in a The Office sort of way. Do some people really think Web design is free? That Greek text is copyrighted? Or that gold color costs more?
But I wasn’t laughing when I came across a post in August admonishing a designer for delivering exactly what was asked — “I hate it when you do exactly what I tell you to do.”
Granted, the content is not technically aimed at me. And 131 folks have even “Liked” it. But this short post should be sobering for anyone who works with clients. Do my clients ever say this about me or my colleagues? Are we perceived as an industry of order takers? Do we ignore our clients’ needs and just give them exactly what they want?
To be fair, it’s tempting. The client pays the bills, which makes ours a service industry. And when the budget is tight, the client is firm and the deadline is approaching, it’s easy to say “yes.”
But to do so would undermine the discipline of marketing communications. It would concede all value for creativity, research, trends and results in marketing. Ultimately, we’d be doing a great disservice to our clients just to make life easier.
I vow not to let that happen and you should too. If you work in marketing, advertising, PR, design or social media, take the pledge with me:
I am not here to do exactly as I am told.
We are not order takers. So then, what are we?
We are creative. We specialize in creating compelling ideas that can effectively move the needle for a client’s objective.
We are insight-driven. We use data and customer insights to identify the best path forward.
We are adaptive. We stay on top of the new, the different and the trendy, in order to understand implications for our clients.
We delight. We adapt to the wants and needs of our clients to keep them happy and satisfied, but only while keeping the end goal in mind.
Don’t be an order taker. Be a thinker and a do-er. A strategist and a counselor. A trend spotter and a master brainstormer. Bring your clients along for the ride and help them understand your approach. Give them what’s needed to get the job done right and they will thank you for it.
Clients From Hell, however, may find itself out of content. Any suggestions for a new guilty pleasure?
Seth is a practice leader for digital influence and consumer brands at Exponent PR in Minneapolis. Exponent works side-by-side with sister ad agency Colle+McVoy to deliver creative, integrated and effective campaigns for regional and national companies. Follow along at @SethOrNone and @ExponentPR.