Keep the Big Guys Involved

When the Client Chiefs Aren't Engaged, You're Bound to Fail

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Here is a story of failure. Not total failure; but failure to really live up to expectations.

Lorenzo Romero Lorenzo Romero
We recently created an entire brand campaign for a new product in the high-tech industry. The overall branding effort was very successful in reaching its goals: the identity, the packaging, the naming, the collateral. Everyone loved it.

There were, however, a couple of projects within the scope of work that went astray.

What happened? We started off strongly. We were having weekly meetings with the company's president, the marketing staff, engineers -- you name it, they were there. When we presented our offering, they were impressed. The message was exact. The format was precise. This was exactly the brand they were born to be. We were hailed on lifted shoulders as the next Heisman. What a rush.

Fast forward two months. Now there are comments like, "That's not what I thought it would look like" and "What exactly are you trying to say here?"

Talk about fickle. What happened? How do you go from being the hottest thing since sliced bread, to yesterday's meatloaf?

As I look back on this project. I can see that we got a little too confident. Not in our ability to produce, but in our ability to engage. You see, once we had the brand identity in place, the president and other big decision makers took more of a hands-off approach. This left us to work with the marketing director and others. The "big guy" was no longer in on all of our discussions. Thus, when it was time to present, he had no buy-in. There was a real disconnect. To make matters worse, on some occasions the marketing director, rather than our team, presented to the president after our meetings took place. Bad move.

I think this phenomenon occurs more in marketing with smaller clients. Perhaps because the chief officers have to wear so many hats, they are used to having their hands in most decisions. But if they're not involved from the beginning, they have no buy-in.

I do think, though, that we can take something from this situation with regard to all of our clients. It is vitally important to create a sense of investment within the group. When your marketing is a process that involves many decision makers, from the top down, there is inherently more ownership. It cannot be enough to build the foundation of a brand with the team of clients and designers, and then run in your own direction, confident that they will be running right along behind you, urging you on.

So the take-away message here? Three important things to remember:
  • It is vital to engage the decision makers all the way through the process.
  • Be specific about your requirements for each meeting. Who needs to be there? What will we accomplish? If key people are not available, reschedule.
  • Never allow marketing directors or others to present in your stead.
The story ends well. We were able to salvage our relationship with our client, get everyone involved again in the process, and in the end, put out an entire campaign that everyone is pleased with. Effective, emotive, creative marketing that gives the type of results we and our clients can be proud of.

As a matter of fact, this same campaign went on to win the "Advertising Works" award from our local Advertising Federation Chapter.
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