Friday, January 8, 2010

The old adage "The customer is always right", is sometimes wrong

By Jennifer Spitzer

Every now and then I have to work with a client through their advertising agency. Most of the time, the collaboration is a good experience because sharing new ideas makes the campaign more successful. I’m reflecting on a recent experience where this wasn’t the case and I find that it’s a lot like what happens when two adult siblings disagree about how to care for a child.

If you and your siblings have children, you can probably think of at least one time when you said to yourself, “I cannot believe he’s going to let that child do that”. I usually say these thoughts out loud, which almost always causes trouble. I’m learning that there are times when it’s absolutely necessary to step up and call out what has the potential to be a mistake, and times when you just keep your mouth shut and walk away.

I think a different approach is necessary in business. As marketers, we’re responsible for helping our clients make the right choices in regard to how they invest their budgets. Now more than ever, campaigns must generate measurable results. To me, this means sometimes I have to tell a client they’re wasting their money, or that the strategy doesn’t make sense, or the creative is too weak to use for the program.

In the case of my recent agency collaboration, our opinions about the importance of response analysis couldn’t have been further apart. To me, regardless of whether a campaign is successful or performed poorly, there’s always a benefit to measuring exactly what happened. When you analyze the results of a campaign, you learn what worked or didn’t and you capture the information you need to refine the strategy. When you don’t analyze, you’re doomed to either repeat the same mistakes over again or, even worse, miss out on a great opportunity to increase sales in your business. This usually happens when programs with a smart strategy aren’t refined properly, which can leave response rates stagnant over time.

Despite my best effort, at the end of the day it wasn’t my child and the parent had made his decision.

Educate clients. Be willing to step up and influence your customer when you think they’re about to make a bad decision. It’s hard to tell customers things they don’t want to hear, but in the end they’ll know you’re more interested in their long-term success as opposed to this month’s billing. When you create that kind of trust in a relationship, you keep a customer for life.

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