Every company needs support to achieve greatness. It goes beyond support from customers/investors/employees, and includes suppliers and service providers. One group that seems especially important is your marketing services agency. If you believe just paying them is enough to get their best, then you’ve probably not learned how to be a great client, and you’ve never achieved your company’s full marketing potential.
I was lucky enough to learn about being a client from one of the best, Mike Roarty, former head of marketing at Anheuser-Busch. During his tenure, the brewery and its agencies came up with “This Bud’s For You,” “Weekends Were Made For Michelob,” “Gimme A Light, A Bud Light,” “Spuds MacKenzie,” and many other great marketing programs. Mike won so many “Man of the Year” awards it would be difficult to note them all, but he is a member of the Advertising Hall of Fame, and was a Daytona 500 Grand Marshall, and Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin, Ireland.
Here are ten ways Mike taught me to be a great client:
- Establish the rules of engagement first, and stick to them. Bending the rules in your favor because “you’re the one with the checkbook” is not motivational.
- Clearly communicate what deliverables you expect to receive, when, and in which format. Be willing to negotiate upfront, and be flexible with good reason.
- Give your marketing agency time to do their job. You want to be treated like you are their only client, but you know you are not.
- Build in time for inevitable delays. If you need it in four weeks, tell them you want it in three; if you want it by Christmas, tell them by Thanksgiving. And as long as they tell you in advance it may be slightly late, don’t punish them, especially since you’ve already built-in time for the delay.
- Listen. You can learn a lot from them if you’re not the only one talking, and it shows your respect for them.
- Always appreciate what they bring to the table. Sometimes their work may not be spot on, but people who spend their lives selling creative ideas need reinforcement for their work. Tell them “I see where you were going with this, and that would work in many situations, but have you thought about approaching it this way so we can get here?” That should put them back on track without taking away their spirit.
- Be as specific as possible with your direction. The clearer you are, the faster and better their work will be. Saying “I know what I like and that’s not it,” doesn’t move the ball down the field very far.
- Be available. Access to you or your team during critical points in the process is vital to producing the end result you want.
- Reinforce great work and show your appreciation. Instead of you being the one that is always taken to lunch, pick up the tab once in a while, invite them to your holiday party, or offer to recommend them to other companies.
- Be honest, but understand honesty is only one virtue. Honesty builds trust which builds partnerships, but being humble, generous, and considerate helps the partnership flourish.