Managing a Client’s Expectations Upfront See the Light. Updated for 2017

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Wake up and see the light.  Sometimes you and clients just don’t match.  It feels like you can’t both see the same light in front of you.  You see clearly and they see orange haze. Managing a client’s expectations upfront has always been key in the public relations and marketing service field, as well as, most fields including real estate. Having worked on the client side, the agency side and consulting side I’ve seen the 360 degree view of the marketing playing field. When you clash with a client, or agency, over goals and expectations within the first two weeks of working with them somebody missed the boat.  Who is at fault? When writing proposals most goals are clearly written and agreed to before any work takes place.  This is necessary before any contract is even written.  But, when clients blatantly can’t see the value in your work (they hired you because you know more than they do) what do you do?  Sometimes the best thing is to walk away.

Goal Setting is Key for any Proposal.  Almost every client I’ve worked with or talked to initially wants to be on the Today Show and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  Some clients have shied away from that saying “they only want trades.”  I have had clients who in the past would want me to seek out media opportunities, as many as I could, just to approve or disapprove the opportunity – and nine times out of ten they turned them down. You know the scary ones where you get millions of media impressions in one minute like CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg radio or TV.  You know the really easy placements to get that take no time at all securing. Snicker, snicker. The funny thing is that it is within their target audience and on message. What do they know that you don’t know?  I had one client say after turning down a media placement on a national broadcast television news show that they didn’t want the world to see their soft underbelly.  What?  Having worked with them for three months I didn’t realize they had a soft underbelly – and no amount of Pilates and or, yoga would help firm that up.  In retrospect the client wasn’t allowing us – the agency – full disclosure.  About a year after that media opp the company filed for bankruptcy protection and was later bought out. Goal setting needs to be objective, attainable and on message, but if the client isn’t disclosing to you their real self at the beginning, you may achieve the initial goals only to have them deflate before seeing them executed.  In other arenas when clients aren’t upfront about all of their goals, whether its financial, a particular number or a media outlet you aren’t servicing them well and they aren’t allowing you to. Honesty goes a long way in communication. If someone isn’t putting all their cards on the table can you really be at fault when something goes awry?  Ethics, values, that plays into consideration as well.  If dialogue after dialogue leaves you feeling awkward or annoyed its easy to see you don’t share the same views.  Not always a deal breaker but if the client doesn’t respect you than that is a deal breaker.

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