"Uh, OK," I responded, "What about him? I haven't met him."
"That's because we haven't hired the person yet. I want your opinion about what we should be looking for," said my client and the owner of the company.
That threw me off a little.
"You do realize that you called Derek, don't you?" I asked.
"Of course. I called you because I trust you. You always try to give us great advice, even when it is something you think we don't want to hear," she said. "I know you'll tell me what you really think."
We talked about her company's needs, her goals, how she wants her company to grow and what type of culture she wants to maintain. We compared all of the candidates to see how they fit into her vision for the company's future and created a list of those she will present to her board to consider for an interview.
Right before I hung up, she said, "See, I knew I could trust you to help."
Over the course of our relationship, my client and I have talked about anything and everything. The relationship between her company and my agency hasn't always been "comfortable," but it has always been about moving her company forward.
There was something about the comment "I trust you" that won't leave me alone. I keep coming back to the idea of a client trusting us this much, and what it really means. I wish I could say that our agency had planned for this to happen, but we didn't. We never sat around and asked, "How can we get the client to trust us?"
"We should have a plan for developing trust," I tell myself. But the more I think about it, the less I like the idea of having a plan. It doesn't feel sincere to plan to develop trust.
How did this client come to trust us if we didn't have a plan? We did our job.
I'm not bragging; this was unexpected and that bothers me because I should have had this on my radar. I've never communicated to my people the need for clients to trust us.
Here's my thought on how this happened: We were and are honest with the client. We asked them about their expectations of us and talked with them about our expectations of them. We talked about what we feel advertising is and what it can and cannot do for a client. We listened and learned their business and product. We agreed and we disagreed. We offered suggestions or expressed concerns. We've built a relationship based on something more than results, which we have also delivered.
Their trust in us is a by -product of our being honest with them. This is how I was trained a successful agency should conduct business. I realize this is why I bristle at the thought of advertising agencies being considered "vendors" or "suppliers;" we offer so much more than that when we do our jobs right.
Our job isn't just to create ads but to provide solutions that meet the clients' needs, to provide them with advice and counsel. Trust me on this -- having clients trust you makes this advertising thing a lot more fun and interesting.