How To Be A Good Client (aka Top Tips for Marketing Directors)

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Having previously written about how agencies can improve their pitch performance, I thought it was high time I wrote a guide for clients.

Working as an interim and consultant, I regularly see examples of (often unintentional) poor client practice, so here’s my Top Tips for Marketing Directors.  It’s not a comprehensive list, just a starter for 10, so if you have any top tips (or horror stories) of your own, I’d love to hear them…

1. Employ people better than you.  Or at least with skills you don’t have.  This includes your internal team and your agencies. Never be afraid when junior managers are after your job.  If they’re good and ambitious, they should be.  Be worried when they’re not.

2. Remember you work in a team.  Keep people motivated, involved and trained. Don’t take all the glory. There’s nothing worse than marketing directors who claim all the credit for successful campaigns.  No one who works in marketing works alone.

3. Treat your agencies as partners.  One of the ‘worst practice’ examples I regularly see is senior marketing managers who think they should keep their agencies separate and at arms length.  Successful roster management is a whole topic in itself, but in brief; share the challenge with them (don’t just tell them what to do), don’t get them to do your work for you and reward them fairly.

4. Be the voice of the customer.  Always.  Your job is to have their best interests at heart.  If you think something’s not quite right, you can be sure they will too.  Continually ensure you’re providing what they want, not what you happen to sell.

5. Take ownership of CSR.  The number of recent corporate scandals show morality and transparency are sorely lacking in modern business.  Whether it’s weak links in the supply chain or UK taxes not being paid, you can guarantee the crap will hit the Marketing Director’s fan at some point.  So take the lead and help the company become a better business by being more socially responsible.

6. Be brave.  Following a strategy of ‘known limited gains’ won’t change the world, or deliver big improvements to your bottom line, the customer experience or staff morale.  Occasionally your business strategy will need an overhaul.  Learn how to recognize that moment and know how to tackle it.  If you question the need to ‘innovate or die’, just look at Woolworths, Jessops, Comet, Kodak, Blockbuster, HMV…

7. Be honest.  With your team, your agencies, your board and your customers.  No further explanation should be needed here.

8. Keep current, keep learning.  It used to be lack of media knowledge that was the junior client’s guilty secret, now it’s digital. Don’t pretend you know it all and don’t be afraid to say “I’ll get back to you on that.”

9.  Know when to hold your ground and when to back down.  In any discussion; with your team, your boss, your agencies…

10. Network.  LinkedIn is equally loved and loathed, but undeniably useful.  You only really appreciate the value of a good network when you set up your own business and I wish I’d got mine together sooner. Keeping track of your contacts, networking and referrals are the backbone of good business, and always have been.

If you have a client – or are a client – that could do with some best-practice advice, I’d be happy to help.  Just get in touch.

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