Dear Marketing Clients: In the Event of My Death ...

Stick With the Agency -- or Expect a Haunting

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A short while back, I determined that I should probably pen a letter to clients that would be sent to them if I unexpectedly died. A morbid thought, I know. But it is true that , despite our best efforts to the contrary,100% of us will die. The only real question is when. While I am quite sure that I will not care one little bit about advertising when I am dead, I do have a desire to make sure that the agency I own has everything it needs to continue without me. My accountant, my CPA, my wife and my partner all know what I would like them to do. There is actually a solid plan outlined. The only group that does not know my expectations of them are our clients. And they are the group that most needs to be told all will be OK at Proof without me. At least most of them.

To that end, I thought it would be a good idea to draft a letter that announced my unplanned departure from this earth, my overall excitement about heaven and my hope that our clients continue to have the team at Proof be their agency. The last thing I want the team to deal with is unnecessary client concern and rapid client defection -- especially when everyone should be focused on grieving my death. (Side bar: I do have a couple of requests for the agency that are not documented. No car-pooling to the funeral. I want a long processional. And I certainly want some post-funeral mentions. Maybe even a monthly happy hour in my name.)

For some reason this untimely-departure-from-earth letter was on my mind as I boarded the final leg home after a four-city, three-night trip. I don't know why. I certainly am not worried about flying and spend close to 100 days a year in the air. So I don't know what was driving this line of thinking. I boarded, avoiding all eye contact with people sitting near me. I had my headphones on signaling that I did not want to be pitched for insurance or financial consulting services. The person next to me did not try to start an unnecessary conversation, so all was well. I had my iPad at the ready for 10,000 feet so I could get to work.

We took off. The bell chimed and before the flight attendant had finished, "You are now free to use approved electronic devices," I was on GoGo drafting my final letter to clients.

Dear Clients,

If you are receiving this letter, my day must not have gone as planned. While I would like to say I regret not being with you any longer, I have to admit I am more excited by what awaits in heaven than remorseful of what I am leaving behind. Faith is an amazing thing at a time like this. So don't worry about me.

And don't worry about Proof. Your business is in good hands. I have made it a priority to hire great talent across the agency, and they know exactly what to do. I appreciate how good they have made me look over time. While I would like to think that I have made some solid contributions to the success we achieve for our clients, for the most part I try to stay out of their way. The heavy lifting has been and will continue to be done by the team I have assembled.

Plans are in place to transition leadership and ownership to a hand-picked and highly capable team. While you might be tempted to look to other resources, I ask....

BAM! The landing gear abruptly dropped. The smell of an electric fire filled the cabin. We quickly decelerated, turned around and descended at the same time. Everyone had a worried look on his face, and the captain came on and said, "Folks, we have an unidentifiable odor that seems to be electrical in nature. We will be returning to the airport immediately."

After saying a quick prayer for my family, all I could think of ws my horrible sense of timing. After months of procrastination, I finally decide to write this client letter, and we are heading back to DFW with an unknown odor and nervous flight attendants. I quickly copied and pasted the unedited text into an email and sent it to myself figuring that someone on the team would see it if this flight did not end the way we all hoped. And I knew they would finish it and send it for me.

As I pressed send, the captain said, "We ask you to turn off all electronic devices immediately as we are still not sure what the odor is and do not want anything to spark a fire." Message sent. Device off. We land shortly after to a team of fire trucks and men in shiny silver fire suits. They took us to the farthest corner of the airport and the army of firemen circled the plane. Fifteen minutes later, we had three of them come on board in their full suits. Another twenty minutes and we were at the gate. Another two hours and we were on a new plane headed home. I ordered a cocktail and finished my letter.

...that you give this team a full six months to prove that they truly are the driving force behind our efforts on your behalf. I am sure they will quickly bring on resources to backfill their time so they can take on initiatives I was leading. Certainly if they do not deliver, you should look elsewhere. But I have no doubt that Proof will remain your agency well beyond this event. I simply ask that you give them a real chance.

Should you not honor this last request, please know I plan on haunting you in my spare time. Nothing crazy, just appearing in unexpected places every now and then. In meetings. In the car. In hotels. At conferences. Corrupting your new agency's files. Crashing their servers over weekends. Nothing drastic. Just a reminder that you did not give the team at Proof the chance they deserve.

OK. There it is . Thank you for giving me the chance to work with you. Thank you for trusting Proof with your business. And thank you for trusting the team at Proof in my absence. I wish you all a profitable and happy career together.


Whew. I am glad that 's behind me. I sent the final draft to my inbox just to be safe. Then I sat back and noticed that person in the row in front of me across the aisle making kissy face with her significant other on Skype. I looked to my left and a 60-ish year old man was reading "50 Shades of Grey " trying to cover the title with his hand. Everything was back to normal.

Bryan Christian is president/principal of Proof Advertising in Austin, Texas.

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