In every customer service job, you hear the same thing, “The customer is always right.” For agencies, it can be easy to fall back on this saying. You want the client to be happy, so you do things their way. The problem is that, despite what your old boss at Hollister says, the client isn’t always right.
The client hired your agency to produce results. They want to meet their marketing goals, and felt confident that you were the partner who could help them. Despite this, they often request projects that won’t get them there (and they don’t even know it!).
We’ve all seen it happen: the client’s goal is to increase website leads by 10%, but they want to allocate their budget to creating a print ad. You believe in this instance the client’s budget would be better spent on content marketing, but what should you do? When this occurs (and it will), your agency needs to be there to act as an adviser, even if that means saying “no.”
Saying “no” is never easy, but as the marketing expert, it’s your job to advise the client on what will produce the best results (and what won’t). This is especially important in retainer-based agencies in order to establish trust with the client and build the relationship. In the end, they’ll thank you for it.
How to push back while maintaining the relationship
Shooting down a client’s idea can be touchy. It’s important to approach the conversation from a place of respect and professionalism in order to avoid hurt feelings. Here are some tips for pushing back (in a nice way):
- If possible, have the conversation in person or over the phone. This way nothing can be taken out of context, and it doesn’t feel one-sided
- Review your client’s goals and explain why their idea won’t meet them
- Provide facts and figures that back up your reasoning
- Offer up a different solution that will meet the client’s needs (i.e. writing a whitepaper to increase website leads vs. a print ad)
- Listen to your client’s reasoning to better understand their point of view
- If they still want to proceed with the project, offer to take it on as an additional (billable) project to complete in conjunction with goal-oriented marketing efforts
As long as you provide solid reasoning and make the client feel heard, the conversation should go smoothly. Remember that you’re on the same team and want to accomplish the same goals. In order to hit it out of the park, you have to keep your eye on the ball.
It gets easier
Pushing back with clients is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. As you gain your client’s trust, they will grow to respect your recommendations. As the marketing expert, it’s important that you guide your client in the right direction instead of taking on projects that will make them happy in the short term. When they see a boost in their website leads, they’ll be much happier that they didn’t go forward with that print ad.