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Business

What do clients want?

BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong - The Philippine Star

I was not an easy client to advertising agencies because I insisted that the agency should understand my business and must figure out the way I think. I was decisive and I get frustrated when the agency does not know what I want. Other cases are different, and most advertising people know this. They complain that clients want attention-grabbing innovative ideas that nobody has ever thought of. So the creative people dream up a lot of ambitious stuff and present these creative, big, and bold designs only to have clients shake their heads and wince. They claim that the studies are not what they are looking for and then direct the agency towards a campaign that is safe, timid and boring.

The fact is, many clients do not know what they want.

Honestly, I was the opposite type. I wanted advertisements to be: “In your face,” edgy and bordering on the ridiculous because the fashion industry caters to the young, and the young demands a lot of excitement and creativity. I knew what I wanted. The creatives love this but... the point of contention comes when the wild ideas and storyboards do not seem to:

1.  Reflect the philosophy of the products I was selling.

2.  May not lead to sales conversion.

It is always hard to bridge the gap between what the client wants and what the agency can provide. On many occasions, the client pins his or her hope too highly on the creative agencies to deliver a magnificent work of art that would capture the attention of the buying public and propel the brand, the product, or the business to the No. 1 spot. Truth is, this rarely happens because it is indicative that the customer does not even know what he or she wants.

Consider this quote from Steve Jobs: “Some people say, ‘give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page,” said this genius of a man.

I am now in the consultancy business. Equipped with a vast amount of business experience over the years and learning from the past mistakes I have committed, I have learned to relate to clients in a more meaningful way. Some clients know what they want. And I learn from them when I conduct training needs analyses with them. My clients tell me why they want me to do what I do, and they explain the rationale beautifully. And then there are the indecisive clients. They want me for sure, but they are not sure as to what they want me to say or do. Perhaps you have come across similar situations and are not sure how to deal with your prospective clients, perhaps the following ideas may help:

1. Assure clients it is their business and not yours.

You are not there to run their business for them, and this is why you need to ask questions (a lot of them). Ask clients to lay down the foundation so you can establish context. Inquire as to the issues or challenges they have and as many people in sales would say; “Ask them what their pain points are.”

2. Know what your clients need and want.

The client may know what they want. They may not even know that they don’t know what they need. To establish this, you may have to give them sample cases without mentioning names as a consultant-client relationship should be based on trust and confidentiality.

3. Make sure you and your clients are clear on expectations.

Nothing frustrates a person especially a client than unfulfilled expectations.

There may be times when clients expect you to be one of the Marvel Superheroes with magical powers able to transform the business to the level of their expectations. And there are cases when you cannot meet their standards. This is the part where honesty operates and admission of limitations become imperative.

I have actually turned down big projects and contracts because I was certain I would not be able to solve their problems and I would recommend somebody else. Trust me. This does not diminish my ability as a service or solutions provider. Instead, it builds trust and many times later, the client secures my services. Before any work can be done, the real action is the pre-work required to make the project successful. Transparency and honesty are key.

Now that we are approaching the middle of the year, there are “mid-year sales rally,” “mid-year conference,” “mid-year leadership training for goal alignment” coming up for me and I expect to do a lot more pre-work so I can effectively justify their training investments. Speaking is easy. Training is fulfilling. But behind the success of all these engagements is the hard work and grind in making sure the objectives and expectations are met. I may have been a difficult client for my ad agencies, but I should never make it difficult for my clients by making sure that I deliver and meet their expectations.

(Attend the two exciting and inspiring days of leadership training with Francis Kong in his highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership seminar-workshop on May 21 and 22 at the beautiful Seda Vertis North, Quezon City. For registration or inquiries contact April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at www.levelupleadership.ph)

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