To many, the responsibilities of a creative or a designer may appear to be ‘what is says on the tin’. We are the creative catalyst in between a project brief and delivering a beautiful final result. Largely, they would be correct in their thinking, however one mustn’t see this as a limitation. Developing a direct connection with the client, past that of the client servicing team, can be substantially beneficial in working towards a long-term, collaborative working relationship.
Below I shall elaborate on how best to go about this, although it is worth prefixing this with the fact that this is a general guide formed through personal experience. No two clients are ever the same. Each new relationship must be treated and handled uniquely with a blank slate.
Client Relationships – Creative Edition
Whether you are joining an ongoing project or welcoming a new client into the building, I find it best to learn as much as you can about both the company and the values of the individuals on the client-side that are involved in the brief. The client servicing team are a great source of information in gaining a detailed background knowledge of the business and any project history. Find out what recent projects have gone well and the reasons why some may not have.
Bear in mind that the interpretation of a successful project may occasionally differ between our view as an agency and that of the clients. Use these learnings to not only inform your work, but also how to approach discussions with the client. Referencing past prosperous creative in a meeting will both benefit the ongoing brief as well as signifying that you have taken a keen interest in the creative archives of that individual client.
To take it a step further, it is worth noting that there will occasionally be differences in approach based on the individuals involved on the client side of the project. To give a generic example, some may prefer a more straightforward approach to a creative presentation, getting to the point fairly quickly (their time is valuable!) – while another might want to hear and see the thought process that took you to the final result, giving rationale to the journey you endeavoured upon. These personal learnings are far more difficult to establish and inevitably take time to gauge. Don’t be afraid to be a ‘listener’ when you are first introduced to a client.
Of course respond to any questions posed to you, however keep in mind that these are valuable minutes for you to learn the core values of the person(s) on the other end of the call; how they structure the discussion, if they take the lead or prefer to be lead, the pace at which the meeting takes place, if they are open to a more personal chat at the top of the call or if they’d rather get straight into the topic of discussion… you can learn a lot when you observe! Whether they be mental notes or physical notes, the previously mentioned values will be bountiful in forming a long-lasting understanding with this particular vein of the client.
Be yourself. It is so blindingly obvious when someones charming characteristics are masked by a robotic, copy paste ‘business’ veil. Nobody likes to be spoken to like a sales number. It goes without saying that this must be taken with a pinch of salt, as you have to remain professional at all times – however this doesn’t stop you from communicating with someone on a more personal level and allowing the mannerisms and attributes that brought you into bbd to shine through.
Above all else, be confident in yourself. It doesn’t serve the client in any way when a creative is afraid to voice their opinion or shout when they notice something that could be enhanced from its current state. Of course, know what you’re talking about before you accidentally dig yourself into a hole – but more often than not you are more knowledgeable than you think. Being part of a creative agency means we often spot what others can’t. Therefore when a solution, suggestion or doubt may be staring you in the face, it could simultaneously be overlooked by someone else. In addition to this, if you ever jump the gun or are told that your proposal simply won’t work, don’t think negatively of yourself for it. It is far more valuable to speak up and be told no than to not speak at all.
Over the last couple of years at Bright Blue Day, I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to form close relationships with some of our clients and to take on increasing levels of responsibility when working on long-running projects. From observing my peers in how they talk to clients as well as putting the previously mentioned learnings into place, I can say with certainty that my people skills and confidence towards clients has increased tremendously during my time here at bbd.
These skills were put to the test in February, when I had the chance to visit the Cohesity head office in San Jose, California as part of a team of three bbd’ers. Here we met several members of the Cohesity team, whom I’d already established strong foundations with. Not only did we discuss exciting opportunities within existing and upcoming projects, but we also managed to find time to talk on a much more personal level at client dinners and drinks. None of which I would’ve ever seen myself having the confidence to do in my life pre-agency! In conclusion… be confident, be inquisitive, and above all else let your character shine through!