Friday, February 11, 2011

Are the good agencies the ones who argue back?

A client once described his experience of working with me with the comment ‘just don’t expect to stay in your comfort zone.’ I’m still not sure whether to be pleased or worried by this remark.

Pleased because it’s good to challenge your clients and not let them (or yourselves) take the path of least resistance when a better solution can be aimed for. But worried because I don’t like the idea that I’m causing anyone discomfort.

I like to think I take care of my clients, reassure them and make them feel they are in good hands. But you can’t win someone’s trust if you don’t tell them outright when, in your professional judgement, they are wrong.

The petulant response from many designers when a client requests (what they consider) unreasonable changes is, “why don’t they go to Prontoprint next time and tell them how they want to logo to look.” There are plenty of places you can go where standing over the shoulder of a Mac operator giving instructions is acceptable behavior (hint, a good design firm is not one of them). These days, add in crowd sourcing and easy-to-use DIY graphics software and the range of ways that clients can get things done cheaper and with less back-chat than going to a design firm, are abundant.

Still most of the time they come to us. And this is because experienced, professional people know that if they want something done well they need to hire experienced professional people to do it.

When you’re a client pressures of ROI are very real and agencies that seem to be snubbing their noses at this can be infuriating and in some cases kind of scary.

As an agency you really don’t want to get put in the ‘too hard’ basket. No matter how great your results, your client may decide they just don’t have the patience or resources to deal with you next time and chose an easier route.

So when does pleasant and easy to work with become gutless and mediocre and when does challenging and forthright become just a pain in the arse?

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