“He doesn’t get it”.

“He’ll never buy great work”.

“He does not understand how advertising works”.

If any of these phrases are heard around your Agency, you have a problem. You do not understand what your Client wants and, chances are, you are not delivering it. And if you are not delivering it, you are probably on the way to losing the Account.

The good news is that it not at all difficult to understand Clients, and how to sell to them, once you identify the four typical profiles. 

They first one is-

The Classical Package Goods Marketer

These Clients typically are trained in package goods companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever who tend to hire marketing trainees straight out of university.

These trainees tend to be very smart and highly motivated. They graduate from the best universities and tend to be high achievers. They are accustomed to competing academically and have a proven record of excellence. As such, they are confident that they will make an impact at any company that hires them.

Once they arrive at P&G or Unilever, they are made to understand that they are the future General Managers and they firmly believe it. They carefully map out their career so that in X number of years they will make it to Marketing Director, and a few years after that will be in a General Manager position. This is the overriding goal and will drive their actions and their decision-making. If for some reason they do not get to the position they want at this company, they will find it at another one, but they will get there.

As soon as this Client starts on his first project he is made to understand that he is Line Management and will be held accountable. He will start out managing the promotions budget and will be asked to deliver results within that budget. As his level of experience grows, and if he consistently delivers results, he will increase his level of responsibility and be assigned other elements of the Profit & Loss statement. If he does not deliver results he will not move up the ladder, and in these environments, if you are not moving up, you will soon be moved out, and the General Management dream will suffer a terrible blow.

This Client is expected to work effectively with the Agency. However, nothing that he learned at school prepared him for it. The most prestigious business schools in the world do not have courses on writing inspiring briefs or in evaluating creative work. So he has to figure it out on the fly, relying on what he can observe from more senior members of his team and from whatever internal training programs exist in the company. Unfortunately, with three or four exceptions, most companies do not have state of the art advertising training programs, so our Client has to figure it out on his own.

What makes this experience especially difficult for our Client is the fact that, as the “future General Manager”, he is constantly in the spotlight. He is expected to have a smart opinion in every copy presentation and he is the first one called to speak. He does not have the benefit of listening to other people shape the discussion. He will have to make the first comment on the work in the presence of two or three of his bosses. And he is aware that they are watching and evaluating him. Therefore, it is not surprising when his comments sound smart but are, from the Agency’s perspective, hard to decipher and often on the fence. As he gains more experience, he will hopefully improve his ability to evaluate work. 

So what is the best way to sell to him?

His key motivator is his career. His career will move ahead if he is able to produce results and, importantly, show that the results were due to his foresight, guidance and leadership. He is averse to taking risks and is looking for the option that provides the highest upside combined with the lowest downside. Trying to challenge him and goad him into taking risks does not work. It only makes him lose trust in the Agency as a partner.

To successfully sell to him, the Agency must understand what he is trying to achieve. Is it about accelerating the curve of a growing brand? Does he need to turn the business around to make his mark? The Agency must also understand which direction the Client’s bosses are pushing. Our Client will seldom ignore guidance from the people he depends on for career advancement.

Once the Agency has done its homework, they will be able to sell their great Ideaif they serve it up as the safest way to help the Client achieve his objectives. Not as a risk but as the no brainer way to continue his upward progress.

This will come with the added benefit that the Client will regard the Agency as a partner in building his brand and career, and not some irresponsible group of people who are playing with his money and his reputation.

In the next installment of this series, I will be looking at another typical Client profile-The Marketing Communications person in a non-marketing driven corporation.

Stay tuned.

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