Becoming Your Client’s Right Hand Man
One of the founding fathers of the kwpx business was a very smart man.
He used a number of techniques to build indestructible relationships with his clients. It allowed our business to be incredibly influential within theirs. It became a true partnership. In fact, when a particular client released their history book, kwpx was listed as one of the top ten reasons for their success. This founding father had even made it to the speed dial on their phone.
And yes…this was the era of long lunches and FBT free-for-alls; and this too played a part in building this “superhuman” bond.
Now, I’m a simple country bloke, I started my career by answering the phones and letting people in the door. This allowed me to observe what this gig in ‘advertising’ was all about. I learnt a lot from watching this man in my early days as a ‘suit’. I always wanted to be that bloke that the client trusted more than anything.
Because ultimately, with a strong partnership, everything we do in this job is easier, and that’s when the best work happens.
I’ve had a number of clients over my 16 years, and some have been harder to win over than others. I’m fascinated by people and how they operate, and in this role you really need to understand your client’s world and how they operate best. One of my favourite old clients (with whom I had a superb run for many years) hated coming back to work Mondays. And I knew it. He was a new dad and was miserable early in the week. Didn’t want to be there. I avoided him on Mondays like the plague and presented work only on a Friday. Regularly at the pub. And had an incredible success rate.
This is a super simple example of understanding your client and using the info to make you a bloody awesome client’s right-hand man.
So, what else can you do?
Most clients want someone looking after their business who understand them and their place in the world today. Their brand, the competitive set and their brand metrics are all key pieces of information to know. All of this can open the door to briefs and budgets you didn’t know existed.
Christmas, Easter, Grand Finals, Birthdays. They all happen the same time of year… every year. Think about the clients you are working on, and what can have impact on these moments. Present proactive work. Don’t do it every week but pick your moments during the year. Do it too often and they’ll get sick of seeing you. Go with your gut.
Use production shoots to your full advantage.
There is no better time to get to know your client’s business, personal life and what makes them tick than driving 5 hours down the highway to the next location on your shoot. Embrace shoots and extract the maximum out of them. This means just spending time with them. Most clients aren’t interested in being pampered, but work on your likability. Those stories and memories you create will last a career. Always make sure the client comes along, even if you think it may be a touch tricky. It’s amazing what magic can happen when you’re all out of the office, away from conference calls in some epic place you’ve both never been, having beers, watching an incredible sunset at the end of a massive day.
Clients can smell a bullshit artist a mile away. Be real. Be transparent (in your costs and timings). Don’t try and spin things. If there is an issue, get on the front foot and own it. From experience, clients don’t like surprises and if you have a strong relationship, tricky conversations can be easier to navigate. They’ll appreciate it. If you fuck up, fix it.
Drop into the office with beers on a Friday from time to time. Be visible in their office; walk the halls and meet the people you don’t know. But again… don’t do it every week.
Be confident and get things moving.
So much time is lost in agencies because of the time it takes to get things moving. Find that insight. Engage your creatives early. Give them inspiration. Get back to the client quickly. They’ll appreciate you not wasting their concept fee going down a rabbit hole that isn’t fertile.
Switch them on. Follow your client’s social media and interact with them. I see things in real time as they’re published. I don’t miss too much. Use it to share competitive work with clients or new campaigns to your team, as they mightn’t have seen it. Your clients will think you know your shit, and if you’re doing this, you probably do.
Listen to the ABC.
As long as you’re okay with hearing the barrage of lefty views, you get a real handle on the pulse of a city and what’s important in that moment in time.
I learn something new every morning driving to work (in between two squabbling boys in the back seat badgering me to listen to the Power Rangers theme song on repeat).
I’ve lost track of how many conversation starters, proactive ideas or great conversations I’ve had with clients after tuning in. In fact, you can kind of become an influence to your client – their own personal news outlet.
Becoming your client’s right-hand man puts you in a real ‘sweet spot’.
Once you’re there, anything is possible. Whether you’re trying to get a risky or exciting concept signed off, looking for a bigger budget or simply to get yourself out of a pickle – all these scenarios are vastly more successful when you already have an established level of trust.
Tristan Glover // Integrated Team Lead, kwpx Darwin