Anyone who’s ever worked at an agency knows how difficult it is to work with several different clients and manage their needs. There are different types of clients in marketing; each has their own personalities, priorities, brand strategies, creative tastes, and budgetary restrictions. And if you manage them all the same way, you’re going to find yourself in a world of trouble.
There are two big factors where these distinctions are critical: the development of trust and communication. Effective communication is a critical aspect of building trust. It’s just that the word effective means different things to different people.
Fortunately, you can often anticipate the best way to manage a client based on their personality. Below I’ve listed some of the more common types of clients you’ll encounter. Keeping in mind that oftentimes clients are a combination of more than one archetype.
The 4 Different Types of Clients in Marketing Agencies
1. The Lawyer
The lawyer likes things nice and predictable. Your marketing campaign plan has to be laid out in advance, documented, and submitted for review before you start on anything. They do not respond well to surprises (except good ones) and will call you out on any deviations from the plan or your predicted results. Oh, and they’ll probably remember details from conversations you’ve long since forgotten.
Strategy: The lawyer will force you to step up your game. Never over-promise, because they’re guaranteed to call you on it if you under-deliver. Document everything and have somebody take notes during meetings.
Over-communicate and seek approval as much as is reasonable so that the lawyer feels like they’re in the loop, but also reference your timeline. Make sure they know any delay on their part will also delay the campaign.
2. The Scatterbrain
This person wants to be heavily involved in your process but is unfortunately too busy or too distracted to be effective as a stakeholder. Any assignments or deliverables this person is responsible for will either be late or wrong. If this delay causes the project to stumble or fail, the Scatterbrain might throw you under the bus and blame you for it, but chances are the rest of the company already knows this person’s tendencies and will be skeptical.
Strategy: If they’re ineffective in dealing with you, then they’re probably ineffective at other parts of their job, too. Seize this opportunity to make the person look good. The more you overperform and raise the person’s standing within the company, the more indebted they’ll be to you and the more stock you’ll have within the organization.
For quick and effective client coordination, set up a process where the client sets general strategy and goals at the start, but in execution requires as little input from them as possible. Trust is essential in this arrangement, so make sure the client is entirely on board and gets frequent updates – even if they don’t read it immediately.
3. The Skeptic
The Skeptic only works with you because they have to. They either don’t believe in what you’re doing or think they can do a much better job themselves. They’ll try to downplay your successes and will be the first to poke holes in anything you propose. Nothing will make them happier than dropping you as an agency.
Strategy: Don’t fall into this trap of hostility. Remember that they’re not the only people in your client’s company. Find someone else more likely to be your champion and focus on winning them over instead. When speaking to the client’s team, promote all of your successes and emphasize how tightly you’re aligning to their business objectives.
4. The Star
A rising star in the organization. They’ve advanced by merit and have caught management’s eye. The Star is hyper-effective but can be a Type-A personality. They expect much from the people and agencies they work with because they expect the same of themselves. They don’t want an agency, they want a partner.
Strategy: Don’t be intimidated! Face the challenge head on and keep up. If you impress them, they’ll take you with them wherever they go. A recommendation from the Star carries much more weight than anyone else on this list and pays off enormous dividends.
Focus on climbing the ladder of trust: co-planning a project is fine, but you know you’ve made it big when the Star pre-approves everything that you do.
Clients want to trust you. Help them do so by speaking their language. Communicate in a way that makes sense to them, lead them down the right path, and they’ll grow to rely on your judgment.
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