Thursday, October 20, 2011

Truly, madly, deeply.

I have had two clients in as many weeks fall in love with creative work. I don’t mean just being very happy. I mean truly, madly, deeply falling in love. Getting up out of their chairs, using emotional language, clapping, cheering and in one case, honestly welling up when talking about the work.

I am not the common link here. I am lucky to be working with two excellent teams who have produced world class creative solutions in both cases. But I’m interested in what the common factors were in both these (very different) client situations. What are the circumstances that can cause a client to fall head over heals for a piece of creative work?

First of all, the work has to be great. Of course. But it must be great in a specific way. It has to have drawn its solutions, conclusions and inspiration from a place of deep understanding of the clients needs. This is something beyond the basic audience, market, competitor analysis. It goes deep into what I call ‘client empathy’.  I’ve discussed this idea in previous posts. It is one that requires stepping wholly inside your client’s shoes and acting upon their full range of challenges. Their colleagues, their boss, their budget, time and authority constraints – are all part of what we are understanding, caring about and helping them with when we work with client empathy.

Clients fall in love when they can see a way out of the woods. Part of the emotion they feel is gratitude and relief that we are helping them achieve something that they have been losing sleep over.

Secondly, the work has to be brave. It has to go further than the client was expecting and probably further than they are really quite comfortable with. A client told me recently ‘This could get me fired!’ And meant it in a good way. It’s part of human nature to enjoy achievement. Giving your client a sense of optimistic daring  by presenting them with a viable solution that they would not have previously though possible, is a very powerful thing. Great joy comes with exceeded expectations.

Thirdly, the client has to like you. I mean really like you. This one is highly subjective and hard to plan for but they have to start by wanting to be in the room with you and enjoying listening to what you have to say. This is tied to the empathy idea but it is not the same thing.  I think it is to do with a combination of charisma and good old fashioned kindness. You’ve got to be someone they would choose to go on a road-trip with – resourceful, dependable, thoughtful but also a lot of fun. I’ve seen many creatives miss this opportunity, preferring to take the ‘the don’t have to like me they just have to know I’m good’ stance. It doesn’t work. Falling in love with the work is in part, also falling in love with the team that created it.

Presentation is important. But not necessarily in the way you might think. I’ve always been a big believer in rehearsing presentations. Getting the flow just right, making sure the pace doesn’t lag or skip over details. But I’ve had equal success with off-the-cuff, unpolished presentations or ones plagued with technical difficulties. The key ingredient is to have a good story that you truly believe in and to tell it with great passion.

Why does it matter to have clients fall in love as opposed to just liking or approving work? Because it allows us to take them further. Love makes them brave. Excitement makes them think bigger and longer term. Less likely to pick over minor details. More likely to fight for and defend the idea within their own organization.

Most importantly, once a client has known true love, they will always come back for more.

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