Advanced Client Relations --- "I hate it!"

10 replies
“I kinda hate it, arrghh!”

That’s what a client said to me yesterday about some direct response graphic design work myself and a designer had been collaborating on for the prior couple hours.

The sales copy had been approved but the all-important design hung in the balance.

So what do you do when a client tells you “I hate it” or something similar?

(I'll tell you below how I avoid ever getting this reaction to my sales copy.)

The thought that runs through your head may be “Oh crap.” But let that thought pass. Because when a client expresses across-the-board displeasure... they often times are reacting to a few small things they notice right away that don’t hit ‘em right.

Things that are actually easily fixable with a little thought and collaboration.

So… respect their right to have strong opinions and give them full permission to vent…

“It’s fine that you hate it. This is all part of the process. Tell me what’s not quite right yet and we’ll come up with fixes so we can move forward.”

Then you shut up and let them go, asking for increasing clarity with each point raised.

(BTW… often clients raise extremely valid points about their marketing. They live and breathe their niche 24/7… you may just be dipping in and out.)

Now… if you come to any point of theirs you think will be a detriment to conversion, you enter the stage of “best reason why wins.”

You give your reason why you think your approach is best…

“Well, the thinking behind that is [reason why I think it will convert better]. Gimme your thoughts on that.”

And they might say “Oh okay”… or they may come back with a “reason why” you should go a different direction that trumps your own. (If you are humble enough to admit it to yourself for the good of the project.) In which case, their approach wins out. And you concede victory.

Compromise is not a dirty word. If you are sure you are right about your approach but your client won't accept your "reason why"... then you either offer a smart compromise... or you take ownership of your ineptitude in failing to convince your client why your approach is better.

I like working with smart folk who know their niche extremely well. We move towards success together with complementary skill sets. It’s not a traditional, at each other’s throat, client, vendor relationship. It’s a WE thing. If they have a great counter-idea to my own, I just celebrate that once again I’m working with a savvy cat.

In keeping with this, I frequently invite my clients to articulate their opinions as a project progresses. That way they are onboard with the finished product. And it makes them highly unlikely to change anything you write after the fact. And it's how you avoid "I hate this" moments when you send sales copy to clients.

Bottom-line: if a client ever expresses anything less than delight about your work… STAY CALM... don’t get defensive and precious about your words and effort. Politely clarify exactly what their concerns are (they're usually few if you're any good) and then collaborate to quickly find solutions.

WARNING: happy clients and consistent results may ensue!

--- Ross
#advanced #client #hate #it” #relations
  • Profile picture of the author shawnlebrun
    Great post.

    Taking things personally and having an ego in this biz will cause you to stroke out.

    Strive to strike a balance of keeping your client happy and writing copy you KNOW will work.

    But take offense to negative feedback... take everything personally... and you'll just pile on unnecessary stress.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    You can do this compromising thing with the client...but WHO is the project for? Really? Them? No. For their target market.

    I learned this in politics. An immigrant was telling me I needed to have the national symbol on my election pamphlet. I said it made me feel gross, wrapping myself in the flag. He shouted at me: "It's not for you--it's for THEM!" I got the point. My marketing material was not for me; it was for my target audience.

    Take the draft to your client's target market and learn THEIR responses to it. Then make adjustments. Clients are not experts and are often dead wrong. Yes, it's their money, but it's your expertise and your reputation. I am not going to let a loser go out that I know is a loser, just because my client likes it. That's how Madison Avenue made so many turkeys that are 'clever' and 'attention-getting'...but don't sell. Agreement on this is set up with a strong up front contract before money changes hands.
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    • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
      Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

      You can do this compromising thing with the client...but WHO is the project for? Really? Them? No. For their target market.

      I learned this in politics. An immigrant was telling me I needed to have the national symbol on my election pamphlet. I said it made me feel gross, wrapping myself in the flag. He shouted at me: "It's not for you--it's for THEM!" I got the point. My marketing material was not for me; it was for my target audience.

      Take the draft to your client's target market and learn THEIR responses to it. Then make adjustments. Clients are not experts and are often dead wrong. Yes, it's their money, but it's your expertise and your reputation. I am not going to let a loser go out that I know is a loser, just because my client likes it. That's how Madison Avenue made so many turkeys that are 'clever' and 'attention-getting'...but don't sell. Agreement on this is set up with a strong up front contract before money changes hands.
      Thanks for the reply Jason! Great to meet you in Raleigh not so long ago.

      The compromises I'm talking about are for non-critical aspects of a piece that are somewhat "fielder's choice."

      For example, my client I referenced above wanted a logo to be bigger and a headline not to overlap a photo. These are not life or death changes. So I'll compromise.

      Like you, I'll fight to the death (with killer reasoning) for the big all-important messaging and positioning side of things. And that's the stuff that I get clients to buy in on from the beginning. Before I even start writing.

      I've never had to go rouge and take a piece to a target market like you suggest because my clients and I work closely and collaboratively. So it's never come to that. And our on-going success, to me, bears out the benefits of that approach.

      --- Ross
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  • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
    Originally Posted by Ken_Caudill View Post

    "I kinda hate it."

    "It's ugly, alright. You'd be surprised at what sells, though. Why don't we test it and see what it does?"
    Don't worry, it's still ugly.

    --- Ross
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
    In my contract...

    It actually says something along the lines of, "It's not my job to appease you, but rather, appeal to your audience."

    Also...

    Sometimes a client simply needs a little explanation about the nuances involved in what you wrote for them.

    Sell them a little. You're the expert, right?

    Mark
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  • Profile picture of the author Rhino99
    It can be a fine line at times between doing our jobs properly and keeping the client happy. I wrote the copy for a website targeted at plumbers - friendly, conversational and helpful. Then the MD got hold of it and turned the website into a stiff corporate brochure. All I could do was explain the reasons why I'd written it the way, why writing for the web is different and the need to focus on what the customer wants to know and will respond to. Normally I try to avoid these situations by sending through the first few pages in advance so there are no surprises further down the road. In this instance, I think overconfidence on my part was to blame.
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    www.copywriterscrucible.com

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    • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
      Originally Posted by Rhino99 View Post

      It can be a fine line at times between doing our jobs properly and keeping the client happy. I wrote the copy for a website targeted at plumbers - friendly, conversational and helpful. Then the MD got hold of it and turned the website into a stiff corporate brochure. All I could do was explain the reasons why I'd written it the way, why writing for the web is different and the need to focus on what the customer wants to know and will respond to. Normally I try to avoid these situations by sending through the first few pages in advance so there are no surprises further down the road. In this instance, I think overconfidence on my part was to blame.
      Like in copy, you want to preempt objections before they arise. So anticipate, especially with offline businesses, that they may not be used to a more conversational approach.

      Bring that up with them before you start. Educate and get their "buy in".

      That may help you avoid this in the future.

      --- Ross
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