I got a note from a former client the other day; it was chock full of details about her recent remodeling project, her dogs, her parents’ on-going health challenges…in short, it was a chatty letter from an old friend.
I haven’t seen TS in over three years, and haven’t worked with her since she retired in 2006. But our friendship endures. It came about through our close working relationship over a ten to twelve year period; we fought a lot wars together and always had each other’s back.
That’s the way we thought about it anyway…trying to shepherd effective marketing strategies and great creative ideas through an organization of naysayers and CYA-types is combat of the highest order.
TS is my best example of a great client…and probably my favorite client ever. What made her so exceptional?
- She knew her business inside out… a true expert by both training and experience. At the same time, she didn’t try to tell us ours.
- She knew who to go to into her organization for the information and answers she couldn’t provide off the top of her head. Her ego wasn’t so big it kept her from doing the little things
- She had a clear understanding of the goals of her organization; she was in “the inner circle.
- She had “smack”… real power. She was authorized to pull the trigger on plans, budgets, timelines, ideas. And she wasn’t afraid to stand up for the decisions she made.
- She loved the craft of communications. She was interested in all aspects of it. She appreciated the ability of good work “to move the needle.”
- She didn’t micromanage our process or our work product.
- She fought to make sure we were well-compensated for our efforts. Our bills were paid promptly, in full.
- She always appreciated our point-of-view…even if she killed our ideas, she did it with respect. More often than not, she approved the nervy idea…and made sure to compliment us at every turn.
Lest you think this lady was all sweetness and light, lollipops and butterflies, let me say that I have never seen anybody else so effectively manage a meeting with an ear-splitting, two-finger whistle or a string of polysyllable expletives worthy of the saltiest sailor.
Her former boss, acknowledging her youthful appearance and her steel-fist-in-a-velvet-glove approach to her responsibilities once called her “his Baby Faced Assassin.”
In fact, one of the most memorable moments in my career came as I watched TS nuke a consultant who tried to escape blame for a series of unethical behavior. If you remember the scene of flesh melting off the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you have some idea of being there.
In short, TS was savvy, visionary, audacious, generous, and gracious. Most of all, she was unflinchingly honest, trustworthy, and loyal. As result, she got all of our best efforts…and then some…on every task. We made each other look good.
It’s common practice in our industry to bitch about the client. Walk the halls of any professional service firm anywhere and listen to the chorus of “This client is nuts! They don’t know what they want! They don’t know why they want it! All they can say is ‘DO IT FASTER!’ and ‘DO IT CHEAPER!’ I hate them!!!!!!!!”
So, when we come across a true Brand Champion, it’s time to pay homage: TS, thanks for hiring us. Teaching us. Sharing your insights. Having an open mind. Patting us on the back when we deserved it. Inspiring us to try harder when we were settling. Thanks for being a great, great client for a very long time….you set the bar really high.