How to pick your battles

June 18, 2015

Have you ever experienced a time when you and your client butt heads over creative or strategic direction? What about the time when you wanted to tell your client they should do X, but you know they will do Y just because they have always done Y? Tough to bite your tongue, isn't it?

There exists a fascinating dichotomy in the agency/client relationship. Your client enlists your agency's services because you are the "professionals". You conduct the research and analytics, know the mind of the customer, and know the tricks of effective marketing and promotion. BUT...your client knows their business better than you do, and your client is paying you to achieve their objectives - not yours. So what do you do when you and your client have a difference of opinion and are at an impasse?

What most clients don't want are "yes men". They want you to have an informed opinion. They want to feel like you have confidence and that you know what you are doing for their greater good. To that end you need to be assertive in your client dealings.

Along with being assertive, a key account management skill is knowing when to ease off the throttle, capitulate or even keep silent. There will be some "battles" that are worth fighting for - such as those where you know a course of action will fail if you don't correct it. There will be some "battles" you will have to concede - even if you know the decision is wrong.

One thing to consider is that your client's idea may well be better than yours. They know their business inside and out; and they know the marketing tactics have worked well in the past, and which ones have not. An opposing opinion can still be highly valid and should be considered - even if that means you have to change your strategy or creative. Sometimes we need to lower our agency-ego to embrace new options - the client may not always be right, but they're not always wrong either!

The client may not always be right, but they're not always wrong either! – Sarah Ritchie

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As we know, it's really our clients who pay our wages. Therefore you'll need to balance nailing the brief, hitting targets and ROI, and producing kick-as creative, with ensuring your client feels listened to and valued. As Kenny Rogers sang, "you gotta know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em". It's worth singing that to yourself next time you go head-to-head at the meeting table!

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