You're Just Not That Important

After you win your Dream Client and make a whole bunch of money, buy your team a 24k MacBook complete with diamond logo.

After you win your Dream Client and make a whole bunch of money, buy your team a 24k MacBook complete with diamond logo.

We all need clients to pay us for doing work. We all want good clients who appreciate us. So, as I read this little gem in AdAge, it gave me pause for thought.

I have worked on both sides – agency and client – and something is terribly wrong on both sides.

I’ve been on the client side:

Clients are jerks, they hold the purse strings, demand more faster, then ask you to cut the budget while they art direct the creative into a P.O.S., and run over the budget (of which you probably planned to give them more anyway).

Clients are disorganized.  They know when Christmas (every year), Memorial Day (name all the annual holidays) and CES 2014 is. They don’t get around to doing things until . . .

Whoa! It’s Thanksgiving! I need a holiday campaign!

There’s little planning coming from the Veeps who walk the halls of our hallowed clients marketing departments.

Even the big ones.

They’re too busy. Marketing.

I’ve been on the agency side:

Agencies are insecure. We have an RFP, all hands on deck! It’s due in (name your extremely stupid timeframe here). Each team must develop creative in a week, present internally, and one selection goes forward (or maybe two because the Creative Director wants to see how things play out).

We want this client on our roster! We’ll get more X business!

Nights, weekends and holidays are out. Move out (guaranteed, paid) client projects!

Work hard and fast so we can WIN!

Spend hard cash on prep and traveling to the pitch.

Be stupid.

Now, it was lovely to read that Shane Atchison, CEO of Possible chose to tell the prospective client NO – we won’t work over the holiday (and then still get the opportunity to pitch at a later date). But Shane has that giant holding company behind him – as well as other things (reputation, reach, or could it be creative?) that made the client rethink the RFP deadline.

Not all of us have that luxury. Especially when you’re a smaller, independent agency. Every dollar counts. Really.

So we must pick our battles – or RFPs – carefully.

Preparing to pitch a Dream Client quickly becomes a nightmare when – not only trying to cover the costs associated to the pitch, but what about the work in progress that’s set aside, coupled with working your teams until they’re bleary-eyed – you realize that that piece of business won’t pay for the time and effort you just “invested”.

And please, never say that giving work away for free is an investment.

You just did a whole bunch of stuff for free.

And I’ll bet you didn’t track how many employee hours went into the RFP either.

This is the cost of new business.  

Or a Dreamy New Client.

A client is truly dreamy when they appreciate your agency – for the creative and for the people who make it.

Otherwise, they just aren’t that important. They’re just . . . expensive.

Be smart in 2014. Evaluate what a client brings to your agency