What Kind of Client are You?


I was having an early morning coffee with a client the other day. Today clients often have very early morning Starbucks because they have a lot to do with fewer resources to accomplish them.

He was sharing with me a story about one of his clients. Yes clients have clients if they have channels of distribution and they want to sell their products. He described a meeting he recently had. He said the room was full of people who could not approve anything but everyone could veto everything. Been there?  I have.

Welcome to the New Normal. Consensus decision making and often consensus indecision.

I had an early morning coffee with an agency friend the other day. He shared his story of working on a large multinational client. We all know their name and have all purchased their products. Because they are large they have numerous agencies for various specialties. Too many for one client to handle or even get to know if you are a marketer that works at a company that rotates you every 15 to 18 months. They had an ideation session that I am sure that every agency jumped to attention to attend. All present and accounted for Sir!  At the end of the day there were 50 plus ideas on the whiteboard.

How did the client decide which one was best? Let’s have a vote. Very democratic but not exactly fact based decision making that was drilled into my brain.

Are marketers still stewards of their brands? What is a client’s top priority today?  Managing the brand or managing their careers?

I do know that many clients that I meet today are looking for their next job. Riding the wave of their company, their title to the next big break. Many are not happy at work.

I hear from another type of client from time to time. They reach out to me when their things go awry at work and they may feel a little threatened. They want to want to have a Starbucks with Hank Blank because they know I am very connected. Then things settle down for them and all is good again at work. No more networking needed. When I reach out to them because I may have some opportunity to present to them many respond with silence. Silence is golden but my eyes still see.

I was checking in with a client that I think is very compassionate about her people especially when she has to let them go because she is told to do so.  I can feel her heart.  She shared that everything was extremely hectic in her world.  Lots of trade shows, a new acquisition, a challenging CEO.  She wished me calm in my life.

As a consultant who has to create a job for himself each and every day there is little calm in my life but I somehow offered the promise of that island. I wish I was there.

I had a chance to be a client once.  When I was 30 I was offered a job as the VP of Marketing for a major QSR chain in Canada. I agonized over it. I did a Robert Frost on it but I didn’t take it.  Was I wrong?  What do I know?  I am just writing this blog and watching the way the wind blows. In the end I know we are all clients.

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Watch: Why It’s Time to Change the RFP Process.

Read: Graduation Time.

Should Marketers Conduct their Own Agency Searches?


4 thoughts on “What Kind of Client are You?

  1. Thank you Hank, keep up the insightful and highly relevant commentary. While I have not been a “client” — as an agency president — I continue to enjoy leading a talent group of associates in the way that I know they expect clients to perform. Giving them enough guidance to provide structure and strategic clarity. Yet, with enough trust and flexibility to allow their best work to shine through.
    Steve Kleber, Kleber & Associates / Atlanta

  2. Thank you Hank…
    Very thought provoking article. When I left the agency business a number of years ago, you could sense
    the change in client/agency relationships. I ,like you had a small stint on the client side, but found the agency life and its challenges more rewarding. Made it to the agency side and never looked back., Now , in my role as consultant to agencies ,I sense the client is taking a bit more of the reins and has a stronger voice than it was in the 70’s. 80’s 90’s and the early 2000’s.

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