How often do you present work to your clients – work that is entirely on target – work that you are incredibly proud of – only to be shut down by the client who “Hates It?”
Getting a client excited about an idea is a significant step in getting a concept accepted. But nearly all creative work will generate some observations or “opinions” from a client or prospect. How an account person handles that feedback goes a long way toward whether or not that concept will be accepted.
The chances are good that you have presented work you and your team are proud of, and then someone with none of your professional skill, knowledge, or expertise judges it in an instant – often based on vague or subjective criteria. They don’t know much about art, but they know what they don’t like.
It is only natural for criticism to sting. Agency staff can sound defensive or even argumentative when defending a concept which creates a divide between the agency and the client.
Account People are tasked with helping their clients articulate their response in an effective way they are able to move the project forward.
Client feedback can be very frustrating. However, it can be very helpful as they may present things that you haven’t considered. Work collaboratively and respectfully with them, and you may find that they become champions of great ideas. Often they just need more answers to be convinced.
Here are some tips on dealing with criticism of your Agency’s work.
- Take a deep breath and focus on getting what you want and need.
Remember that the end result is to get the best work from your Agency that will solve the Client’s Challenges. Don’t react defensively or aggressively – no matter how hurt, disappointed, or annoyed you feel. Taking a deep breath lets you pause and put the ‘feelings’ aside. Start by taking a deep breath, eliminate your emotional attachment and remind yourself of the overall goal.
- Clarify the feedback.
Before you explain, defend or offer to fix the work, it is important that you understand exactly what the client doesn’t like about it. This is not always easy, given that they may not express their initial reaction very clearly or constructively.
Some common traits of unhelpful feedback you may receive from your clients are:
- Vague – they reject the work with general terms such as ‘awful,’ terrible,’ ‘not good,’ ‘disappointing’) without specifiying what the judgement is based on.
- No examples – they don’t provide any back up of their judgment with specific examples.
- Exaggerated – black and white sweeping judgets with no acknowledgment of fine grades of quality or alternative points of view
- Disrespectul – they are rude or aggressive.
In order to clarify what they are talking about and have a meaningful discussion, you can ask to following questions:
- “What exactly don’t you like?”
- “Can you give me an example?”
- “Can you pont to the piece you don’t like?”
- “Is it the font itself or the size that is the problem?”
- “Are you saying you don’t like the story or the way it is being told?’
Your goal is to understand – and help your Client articulate the criteria for the judgment, and how exactly (in their opinion) the work fails to meet the criteria.
You are not agreeing with them, just clarifying what they mean.
- Ask solution-focused questions
Move the conversation forward to a positive conclusion by either:
(a) getting the work accepted in its current form or
(b) agreeing on what needs changing.
Solution-focused questions are powerful tools for doing this. To ask a solution-focused question, describe a potential solution and ask whether it would be acceptable to the client. For example, you may ask “If we change the colors and the tone of the headline, will you sign off on it?” The goal is to leave the meeting with a clearly agreed upon next step towards a solution. They may still be skeptical or unsure, but at least you know what you need to please the client.
At the end of the day, account people have been tasked with very vauge instructions of “Keep the Client Happy.” I don’t know what that means, and I have not found anyone who knows definitively what that means.
Agency ADvisor has been working with graphic and marketing agencies to improve the value their client/account people provide to the agency and its revenue growth. We are offering limited access to our first group workshop May 11th and 12th, 2016 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas Nevada. If you are an account person or know of one who could use honing in on account management skills, we invite you to join us on May 11th and 12th in Las Vegas, NV! You can find more information, a detailed agenda and how to register HERE.