Principles of marketing 14: How to be a good client

As a marketer, there will be times when you’ll need to engage suppliers. Don’t sully your personal or company reputation by being a bad client.

As Seth Godin wrote on his blog http://sethgodin.typepad.com/sethsblog on 2 December, a client’s job is to foster innovation but not actually be innovative.

There is indeed a big difference between the two. Here’s my take on how to be a good client from fifteen years experience of working with good, bad and indifferent ones:

1. Write down what you want. Agency partners will go the extra mile for clients that are fair and know what they want. Don’t expect your agency to fathom what you want from a sketchy brief. This results in unclear ground, unchecked expectations and problems in your relationship.

2. Review and dumb down what you want, so what you get is categorically what you want. Nobody wants to spend time working on the wrong thing.

3. Make yourself available. Don’t assume you’ve done your bit in briefing. Good partners will have a ton of questions regardless of how thorough you think your brief is – and you should encourage it and answer them all.

4. Hire someone with a track record. If you can’t settle on one, select two but do the decent thing and give them both a paying gig so they have something to invest in. You’ll get better end deliverable. Agencies rightly despise pitches as a necessary evil giving time/resource and creative ideas away for free with no guarantee and no protection of their intellectual property.

5. Be prepared to pay the going rate, or a rate relative to the service, resource and value on offer.

6. Don’t make unreasonable ‘creatively stifling’ demands on your agency partner. Remember why you are outsourcing this specialist requirement in the first place.

7. Celebrate milestones throughout the course of the project and don’t just wait for the end result. Doing this brings the team closer together and encourages everyone to work harder and smarter.

8. Manage the internal communication of what you are doing externally. This ensures everyone from your sales teams right the way to the guys who answer the phones and make deliveries understand who you are, what you stand for and what you are trying to communicate. Too many companies fall at this critical hurdle.

9. Support your agency with recommendations, testimonials and referrals if they have done an excellent job for your brand, and personally for you. All good agencies work on the maxim of only being as good as their last job so this is very important to them.

10. Above all, be positive and enjoy what you’re creating.

Principles of marketing 12: Control

If you were to look at the time most marketing functions spent on pulling together a marketing plan, they might spend 10% on planning, 80% on implementation, and 10% on control and evaluation.

But what is the point in bothering if you don’t really monitor and analyse what is working and what is not. This split needs to be more like 25%-50%-25% on the part of the plan owner and here’s why.

Control is all about keeping things on track against objectives, removing and adding elements, reapportioning spend and resource as needed, and informing plans for the following year.

Control means keeping an eye on men (resource) money (budget) and minutes (time).  The expected and the unexpected can all have a major impact. And technology now exists to track performance against objectives and KPIs on an ongoing basis.

Electronic timesheet and project management systems like DataValley, Rebus or Filemaker can provide detailed reporting on costs, tasks/timelines, job status and invoicing.

Automating your website keeps staff overheads to a minimum, focusing resource to the right departments for example taking campaign specific calls, packing and despatch.

Programmes like Google Analytics and WordPress blogging provide incredible traffic statistics to allow you to immediately see what is working and what is not. Customer traffic flow, buying patterns, drop off and satisfaction rates can all monitored and modifications made instantly.

Database and CRM packages like Dotmailer, Salesforce, MailAgent, Constant Contact can all be used to keep your opt-in databases up to date and in the know.

And good old Microsoft Excel, together with an increasing number of compatible free open-source programs, can help you keep on top of your budget.

Plans are often built on a forecast for future trading conditions. But what happens if the recession deepens, the pubic purse contracts and greater pressure is placed on cost in your sector? Only a fool would continue on doggedly with a plan conceived 8 months previously.