As 2016 winds down, I'm pausing for a moment to reflect on how fast the industry is moving. With deadlines coming quicker than ever, we creatives all too often forget this is a business built on relationships, not just ideas. We focus so hard on doing and selling great work that we tend to overlook our role of fostering common ground between agency and client.
Whether you need a friendly reminder or are just beginning to land yourself in rooms with the big guns, here's a compilation of what I've learned from 15 years in advertising.
Don't interrupt anyone. Don't interrupt the client or your co-workers. This can be increasingly difficult over the phone. If it happens, apologize and explain you might be on a delay.
Study up on the client's brand. Know how they're doing on the stock exchange, what relevant press they may be managing and, for god's sake, don't say "Google it" in a Microsoft meeting. (Full disclosure: I've done this; it was terrible.)
Ask clarifying questions. It lets the client know you really desire to understand their feedback.
Actually listen. This is important. Don't just wait for your chance to talk.
Don't be afraid to challenge them. If you know you're on brief, don't be afraid to challenge the client. And always leverage the data when doing so.
Always remember you and the client are both in service of the audience. It's not about the people sitting around the table. This is your North Star.
Don't bullshit. If you don't know the answer, say so. Then tell them how you're going to find it. And do not be afraid to test and learn. Sometimes neither of you know the answer.
It's OK to allow the client to have ideas, too. It doesn't make you less of a creative. And sometimes their ideas are really great building blocks.
Keep the energy high. Read the room, and match your personalities to theirs. If you're not excited, who will be? Clients look forward to seeing creative -- make it the best part of their day.
Be yourself. We are social beings. Make them buy you, not just your work.
Present as a unified team. Make the meeting conversational and participatory. There are exceptions, but most clients want to be a part of the work, not just the "approvers."
Don't pile on. If it doesn't absolutely need to be said, don't say it.
Don't correct your team members. Instead, take a "yes and" approach.
Clients always buy chemistry over work. No matter what we may tell ourselves, remember this.
In the world of advertising, we create reasons to believe in brands every day. And behind those brands are teams of people. Let's foster those connections and grow personal relationships. It's human nature. And it's good business.