I've been thinking about great clients, these days, and they frequently come to mind when they are harder than ever to find. During tougher times (which the industry seems to be experiencing), your good clients really stand out. I love it when an agency tells me about their sophisticated clients. They make an agency better primarily for these reasons:
- Good clients know that good work costs money. You'll figure this out early in the process, too, because they believe that revealing the budget helps them get better work. They talk like this: "I can scrape together $220,000 for this initiative. What do you think we could get for that money?" This transparency indicates that they trust you, which isn't the case when they say: "This is what we need. What will it cost." That statement screams that they don't trust you, but it also sets them up as the sole expert since they've already determined what they need. All that's left is for you to do it, at their direction.
- Good clients know that good work takes time. They are comfortable with the idea that a corporate rebranding cannot be done in two months. They are eager to soak up anything you can give them about your process and then relax as it unfolds. They trust you (unless you give them a reason not to). They are satisfied with what I call the "slow reveal" of lots of little pieces of communication along the way. Oh, and they don't expect you to answer emails after normal work hours or cram something through one day before a major holiday break. Sure, they'll ask you to jump through hoops on occasion, but it will be a genuine emergency and they will express their gratitude to you...and to the staff directly.
- Good clients know that direct results are not always guaranteed. No matter how crisp our thinking is around marketing issues, there are still elements of the marketing mix that are out of our control. We're marketing to humans, who show an unusual resilience at escaping our rules about how they should think and behave. It's art and science, and good clients know that there's still some guessing involved.
- Good clients want you to succeed. They introduce you to other potential clients because they aren't afraid to share you as if you are their private secret weapon. They look out for you: "That's a better price than I was expecting. Are you sure you are covering yourself for that fourth phase? I don't want you to lose money on it." And when they move on to another job, they give you a chance in their new setting.