October 13, 2009

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Improving Client Service: 5 Client Archtypes Personality determines client behavior which is then magnified or minimized at any given moment by the individual’s status in the food chain, political clout, savvy, management air cover, P&L responsibility, intelligence, coping behaviors, industry insight, competitive pressures and stress from any number of sources. Baseline personality is to client behavior what gravity is to earth – a fundamental organizing principle. A smart, strong and confident client will treat an agency similarly. An anxious, scared, weak or worried client will drive an agency crazy. An ambivalent, chair-warming bureaucratic lifer will stall, misdirect and baffle an agency. A flighty, tentative, ADHD client will spin an agency in circles. In working effectively with clients it’s critical to identify and to understand each individual’s personality. And while its fun to play amateur psychiatrist and speculate about how and why they are they way they are; its much more important to zero-in on how they operate. Focus your powers of observation and your energy on interacting with them in productive and mutually beneficial ways. The myth of the “client from Hell” arises because agencies don’t identify and respond to the personality factors, which drive the agency-client relationship. Across industries and functional verticals several species of clients occur time and again. They might represent the dominant evolutionary mutations of personality types in organizational settings. They might also be standard behavioral pathways acted out over time and geography. In any case there is a very high probability that agencies will encounter these archetypical client types; each of which has unique operating and handling characteristics. The Mandarin. A senior client, usually a CMO or someone at or near the top of the food chain earning big bucks and big esteem. Mandarins can be fundamentally malevolent or benign based primarily on their sense of job security. In an environment where the average CMO lasts 23 months, there’s much less grace and much less psycho-demographic homogeneity at the top than there used to be. Mandarins manage upward. Their primary audience is C-level players who generally undervalue their contribution to both the organization and the bottom line. They live and die by serving the CEO, even though most are the designated fall guys for CEO-initiatives that fall flat or implode. And they frequently battle with the CFO and the head of sales, technically a counterpart, but frequently a rival. These clients focus on big stuff -- big ideas, big concepts, big scale and big rewards. They frequently operate in lavish environs and casually mention their perks, the number of corporate jet flights they’ve taken, their hectic luxury travel schedule, the tedium of gourmet dining with corporate leaders and their interaction with big names or boldface individuals. They rarely talk about marketing stuff and almost never discuss their own campaigns or plans choosing instead to sprinkle their conversation with stock price quotes, PE ratios and other financial slang, which they often barely understand. In many cases they are trying to convince themselves that they are bigger than marketing and play a broader role on a bigger stage, one more integral to the overall functioning of the organization, even if they just joined the organization last week. They depend on the senior agency people to know everything that’s going on within their organization and within the agency’s world. Many will ask for details about people in their organizations and programs in their pipelines with the expectation of complete candor. In the same breath, they’ll inquire about IPG’s balance sheet, John Wren’s latest acquisition tactics or Sir Martin’s personal foibles and expect their agency counterpart to dish on-demand. Mandarins rarely rock the boat. That’s both the reason they stay and the reason they go. But, they frequently want to know about and talk about best practices, big ideas, trends and campaigns garnering broad-based buzz. They see themselves as messengers and advocates of big ideas and they react viscerally and negatively when they get blind-sided or upstaged in this arena. They know and have the big ideas. You support them, feed them and remain unseen and unheard by the people they seek to impress. Agencies load the rabbits into the hat. Mandarins make the magic. The Know-it-All. Usually a mid-level executive, know-it-alls come in friendly and hostile flavors. Both demand massive amounts of attention and acknowledgment. A know-it-all without an audience is a potential serial killer. Agency people understand that like Wikipedia, what a know-it-all knows isn’t necessarily accurate, true or current. But that’s much less important than understanding this client’s need to control the...
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Gary Vaynerchuk's Gospel I always thought Gary Vaynerchuck, the video wine guy, was a media hot dog who graduated from doing goofy low-rent videos on wine to become an Internet business guru. Then I saw him the other night work a crowd of 100+ at Powell's Books in Portland, OR and changed my mind. Gary Vee is a hot dog. Glib, funny and focused he is relentless in selling himself and his brand. He took his family's mom and pop wine store in New Jersey and turned it into an online eComerce powerhouse using homemade social and new media. So it's not too surprising that he's become an advocate, a champion and an evangelist for others to follow his path. This is the thrust of his new 150-page book Crush It. Seeing Gary live reminded me that he is a modern day Horatio Alger; an immigrant kid who worked his ass off to succeed and who keeps doing it. Part techie, part smooth talking Internet guru, part Tony Robbins, Gary believes that the Internet changes everything, destroys the 200+ year old media model, sweeps away gatekeepers at every level and empowers anyone with passion and elbow grease to have a genuine shot at happiness and/or wealth. Pointing to the fact that the Internet eliminates cost barriers for the creation, distribution and promotion of content, his message of universal hope is ... "go for it." Here's the gospel according to Gary Vee synthesized and distilled as I understand it. Focus and work hard. If you work day and night and focus on the prize you'll be much happier and maybe much richer than working for the man. Gary is grateful for what he has been able to achieve but worried that Americans have become fat, happy and divorced from the fundamental energy that built this country. Content is King. Millions of people have strong interests and an insatiable appetite for content about the stuff they love. If you know something and care about it you can create and monetize this content. You don't necessarily have to be original, you can aggregate information or display it differently. Follow Your Star. Life is too short to do things you hate. Find your passion and follow it. Your gut will be your guide. Social Media multiplies promotion and distribution. YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter let you get the word out quickly and cheaply to targeted groups of people who might share your passion. If you can get something viral going you can build relationships sufficient to launch and grow a decent sized business. The Internet Levels the Playing Field. Everybody gets an "at bat" because everyone can put up a site, a blog or build a community of interest. Big media has fragmented and will continue to do so. No longer will editors and producers decide what gets seen, heard, read or talked about. You'd be surprised at the kind of critical mass you can achieve with an audience much smaller than a local newspaper or a middling TV show. Be Direct. Don't be afraid to talk to anyone and everyone. You never know what opportunities you'll turn up. Invite people to do business with you. Don't be bashful. Share your enthusiasm and your energy. Thank your customers and prospects early and often. The Internet widens your circle and offers you the potential to build a powerful network. Grab onto it.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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