From Been There:
Q: I get a lot of respect as a creative within my agency, but when it comes to meeting with the client team, they treat me like I'm at the bottom of the barrel. For example, I can say the exact same thing word-for-word as my creative directors, but if it's coming out of my mouth instead of theirs the client pays no attention. How long will this go on? Is there any way I can get them to respect my opinions and abilities without some fancy title in front of my name?
Good question. BTW: this situation (real or imagined) reoccurs, no matter the length of either your title or resume. With each new experience, or new client, you have to earn their respect. It’s not a given.
So, here are four simple questions to ask yourself. Answer truthfully.
1) Are you genuinely interested in your clients business and business goals? Because if you are, you have to communicate this ways other than talking about the latest photographer, typeface or voiceover talent you can’t wait to try on their account. Getting to know their business IS your business.
2) Is the only time you spend with your client in formal presentations with one-way lectures on how great the work is you’re trying to sell them? Make an effort to get to know both the person as well as their business. Clients don’t like to be “sold,” especially if they don’t know you.
3) Have you brought them something they’ve not asked for that could be of special interest? Bringing information genuinely related to their business or personal interests such as an article from the industry or information about an experience they might enjoy will go far. Take the time. It’s worth it. And, you’ll learn something new, yourself.
4) Do you give your client credit for what he/she brings to the table? Clients know their business. Clients have great ideas. Make certain you give them credit for their contribution to the work you bring them. They do a lot of the tough stuff, let them know you appreciate their insights, ideas and hard work. They’ll go to bat for you.
Your client needs to genuinely believe your interaction with them isn’t all about You. Your CD and other senior management spend more time both with the individual clients themselves and with others that work on their business (both internally at your agency, on the supplier-side and on the client-side). Your CD knows stuff that’s not just on the latest assignment brief. Sounds like you’re already in meetings to help sell your work. Great. If you’re not present in other input/information-gathering sessions, or other non-meeting opportunities, those times with the client are valuable to help build both your relationship and your credibility. Those times don’t just happen at lunch. Let your CD know you’re interested in spending more time with your client in order to better serve that client. Your CD will know the best opportunities and if it’s right. They’ll also know if your request is genuine and in the best interest of the agency’s relationship with that client.
Clients who respect you and your genuine interest in their success will reoccur in both your personal and professional life. Eventually, if you last in this business, you’ll be asked to give ideas for new client prospects in new business sessions. And, who knows, you may even have your own agency some day. Good clients from the past will help you, whether or not they’re still your client or even with the same company. Trust me on this.
- Nancy Rice