S1:E5 Where Precision Meets Performance
Wisdom Nuggets: Less Is More
Now, it’s time to talk about something that has happened in my decades-long career, and, well, what I learned from it.
Have you ever wondered how to deal with an overly discerning client? Yeah? Well, me, too!
Over the decades, I’ve had a lot of lessons when it comes to what to show clients, how and when.
When I got my start, I worked at a bunch of design firms and ad agencies. And, they all seem to have one thing in common: they like to show progress and options. In retrospect, I’ve come to realize these are rookie mistakes. The AE’s were never that much older than me. The creative directors didn’t really give two shits. And, the agency partners were generally focused on operations and business development. So, it was the account executives, who knew very little about creative development and visual communications to begin with. These were kids with marketing degrees or business degrees, not communications nor fine arts degrees.
Frankly, I didn’t think anything of it. I just accepted it as a normal part of the process, especially since it was the same method from agency to agency, firm to firm and one location to the next. But, it wasn’t until I started the branding agency I owned to today that I discovered there could be another way.
When I began the company, I used the same process as before. I would walk clients through the whole process. We’d review the creative briefs and edit them together. Then, we would review all the sketches and make modifications and selections together. We would show mechanical mid-process. You get the picture.
It didn’t take long for me to realize this was all wrong. Why the fuck would I be showing these people aspects of the process? They’re not designers. They’re not communicators. Well, they may be marketing directors or EVPs of sales and marketing. But, their wheelhouse is not how to visually connect messaging and tone. We’re the experts, not them. Plus, there were times the customer lacked the ability to envision the final product. While we hired based on our portfolio, among other criteria, we were fired a few times, because the client just couldn’t see how everything would evolve to the levels they had expected. The last time that happened, would be the end of us showing our process.
But, we still continued to show them options. Sometimes we would show them dozens of logo concepts. They were looking for something that they would only know it when they saw it. I can’t tell you how many times that bit us in the ass. There would be excessive scope creep with no prospect for compensation.
As you can see, this can make working with a discerning client quite messy. So, what’s the solution? Is there a solution?
The short answer is yes and no. It’s critical to note sometimes you’re just not going to please everyone. But, your clients should be reminded through actions they are hiring you, because you possess something they want. So, what that means is it’s important to project yourself as being an expert. After all, on one level or another you are or will need to become one, while you’re working on each of these creative projects. If you don’t passionately problem solve and understand your client and their clients, you are doing everyone involved a massive disservice, especially yourself.
Ok. So, back to the solution. Well, let me rephrase that. I’m not saying it is THE solution. I’m saying it is a solution. And, it’s generally a solution that works.
Just like before, keep record of every step of the process. Then, show the customer how you get to the solution. That’s right. You do the same shit as you did before. But, you just do it all at once.
Remind them what the project is. Explain the purpose of the project. Detail the rationale that leads you to each step. Show how you illustrate the solutions. It’s really that simple. Let’s say you would ordinarily show progress to the customer every few days, and have everything to them a few weeks. Instead, tell them you will have the presentation ready when it’s done. A good client will accept this. A better client will embrace this.
After all, it’s difficult for must of us to understand the “what” without an explanation of the “why” and “how”.