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In Focus

The Best Compliment a Client Ever Gave Me

Sep 6, 2018 4:33:54 PM


A few months ago, I was up to my eyeballs in a demanding project for a historic retailer. I was pouring myself into it, staying up late, bringing my kids to after-hours meetings, racing to meet weekly deadlines—and honestly, I figured I was failing.

I just couldn’t shake the idea that I was doing it wrong. If only I were smarter, thicker-skinned, or more creative, the project would be easier. Worst of all, I believed someone else could do it better.

99.9% of the creative process involves feeling bad

This is not uncommon for creative types, of course. We pretty much always feel like we’re failing. When you have completely unrealistic standards, almost nothing is good enough.

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But then I heard some feedback from the client that I never expected.

“Your passion helps us make decisions faster.”

Say what? My passion led to quicker decisions? I hadn’t considered that my enthusiasm for the work was actually pushing their team to become more efficient.

I know this is going to sound like I haven’t been paying attention, but until that point, I hadn’t considered the impact creative work has on all kinds of other business decisions. (Please don’t ask how long I’ve been in this business; suffice it to say that sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees). And I guess I always assumed that creative work speaks for itself. But it doesn’t.

I speak for it.

You speak for it. We are the translators. The believers. It starts with us, and it influences them. Not the other way around. 

Do your clients a favor: get attached to your work

The 2016 SoDa Digital Marketing Outlook Report posed the question: What do you value most in agency relationships? Out of eight options, marketing creativity was ranked number two. 

You see? Creative work matters. Words. Art. Imagination. It’s so much more than a deliverable. It’s an impetus to change. 

How you present that work also matters, more than you think. So I’m asking you to be a believer. 

Because your clients want to be believers, too. They want to hear an enthusiastic new perspective on the goods or services they sell every day. They want to be inspired, and not just by a hip concept, beautiful ad, or gorgeous photography.

Your clients want to know their work is worth it to their customers, to themselves, and to you.

You know that saying, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”? It’s actually true in this case: when you’re passionate about your presentation, you’re persuasive without even trying. So don’t hold back. Do your homework, deliver work that honors the ask, and when you get the privilege to share it with your clients, be their biggest advocate. 

To use an overused marketing term, the takeaway is that there are many ways to measure success, and ROI is only one of them. Positive reactions to your ideas and a relationship built on trust are two more. So are quicker decisions spurred by a passionate agency partner.

It’s time to change your definition of creative success. And ditch that nagging feeling of failure once and for all...or just most of the time.

Melissa Simmerman

Written by Melissa Simmerman

Melissa Simmerman is a brand fangirl, quintessential Virgo, and writer with 20 years' experience in marketing. As the Director of Creative Strategy for Kreber, she does a lot of research, makes a lot of presentations, and views a lot of situations as character-building exercises. Trolls make her sad; her kids make her happy.

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