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November 12, 2008 / davebirss

Advice from a ‘bloody client’


For nearly 15 years I’ve sat on the agency side of the conference call – doing silent ‘wanker’ hand gestures with my tatty converse up on the boardroom table. So becoming a client as Unchained has been quite an eye-opener for me this year. I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my observations for agencies (and other clients) to learn from.

Get your Moleskines out, here we go.

  • Be interested
    Don’t assume you understand us. In fact, don’t assume anything. We’ve been living with this business night and day  – there’s no way you can pick it all up in an afternoon meeting. Ask questions. Intelligent questions. Spend time with us. Come and work with us for a day. It’s impossible to have too much knowledge. And if in doubt, ask.
  • It’s OK to make mistakes
    As long as you admit it. Don’t weasel out or make excuses. Raise your hand, tell us what you did wrong and assure us you won’t do it again. It’s all part of the learning process. If you just make excuses, we’ll feel as if you haven’t learned anything.
  • Be honest with us
    As well as being honest about your own mistakes, be honest about ours. If you think we cocked up, tell us. If you think we should be doing something different, tell us. If you think we’re asking you to do the wrong thing, don’t keep it to yourself. You have a perspective on our business that we don’t have and we’d like you to share it with us.
  • Screw diplomacy
    We hate it when people talk to us like we’re ‘the client’. That false, tone of voice drives us to distraction. It’s difficult to trust someone who goes into supplier mode. Please leave your clichés at home and try not to talk to us like a 6 year old with the lead part in the school nativity play. It’s much better to deal with people who are natural, have a sense of humour and give their honest opinion. We want you to be business-minded, not business-like.
  • Don’t present something you don’t believe in
    We want to see work that you’re going to defend. Your confidence in it gives us confidence. If you buckle under our questions too easily, we’re going to wonder what we’re paying you for.
  • Don’t over-promise
    We don’t want to be disappointed when you don’t quite hit the mark.
  • Be proactive
    It’s nice to know that you care and think about us even when you’re not on duty. And you may get some extra work out of us.

Lesson over. Class dismissed.

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