Jason Falls

A Client Can Be Wrong; Help Set Them Straight

By: Jason Falls | June 4, 2014 | 
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clientBy Jason Falls

In 2009, I had a very cool client.

The company had a cool product and a neat story, but not much of an online presence.

Building an audience and exciting that audience around the company and its product wasn’t going to be incredibly hard, but the CEO of the company thought the key to social success was the number of Facebook fans they had.

Every Friday at noon, he would call and ask me what the new fan tally was. He wasn’t the type who would look it up himself, so I humored him.

Eventually, I learned that he called that time every week because he had a Friday afternoon golf outing with two or three fellow executive types and he liked to brag about the brand’s Facebook growth.

The project got to the point that I needed more support for measurement tools and some landing page development work, but the CEO was happy with the rate of fan growth and didn’t want to spend more money. So I had to find a way to illustrate that his thinking was wrong.

The next Friday at noon, he called and asked how many fans he had now.

I answered, “I don’t really know and don’t have time to look it up. I’m too busy trying to figure out how to make them buy from you.”

The CEO immediately got it. He stopped asking about how many fans he had and started approving more resources to build out a more sophisticated approach to Facebook marketing.

Certainly, this is a softball compared to most confrontations with a client that doesn’t get it, is mistaken in his or her thinking, or is flat-out wrong. But it offers a good idea in dealing with them. 

Never Assume the Client Knows What is Best

Or that they understand the point of social media, public relations, or your field of focus. 

For this example, the CEO didn’t realize you could monetize Facebook audiences. Of course, you could deal with a client who wants to do nothing but monetize Facebook audiences and doesn’t want to invest the time and energy to lay that organic foundation and brand presence.

For him or her, I’d find a way to illustrate the fact that fed cows produce more milk. Or fat pigs make better bacon. Or how you (usually) ask a woman on a date before asking her to marry you. Or {insert your own lather them up first analogy here}.

The same philosophy applies to public relations or even more broad marketing communications.

If your client is hyper-focused on one outcome to the detriment of others, your job becomes part execution, part education. How can the client know what they can accomplish through your efforts if he or she don’t clearly understand what the possibilities are?

You will deal with clients who are wrong. Some you will educate. Others won’t let go of an outdated perspective. For those clients, all you can do is provide counsel and document your advice and objections. Eventually, the client will see what’s wrong. 

Of course, how the client swallows that pill? Your experiences may vary.

About Jason Falls


Jason Falls is a public relations professional by trade, a writer by craft, and a smart butt by calling. He leads digital strategy for Cafepress, one of the world’s top Internet retailers, is the co-author of two books on the social and digital space, and the founder of Social Media Explorer.

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