Last time I wrote about the importance of face-to-face meetings with clients. This time, it’s about being careful when a client asks for your opinion on their current (but not your) marketing efforts.
This comes to mind because a team of students who are working on a campaign were asked by their client for some feedback on a few logo and slogan ideas. The students didn’t really like the concepts, and asked me what to say. I advised them to tread a little carefully until they knew more. It’s always tricky to share an opinion in these situations – you shouldn’t lie and say you like something if you don’t, but need to be careful you don’t screw up a good client relationship. (This sounds a lot like dating, doesn’t it?)
It reminds of the time I met with the president of a small company who showed me some design ideas that I thought sucked – thankfully he shared that it was wife who drew the illustrations before I told him what I really thought.
One time I wasn’t so careful though. I was doing a direct mail campaign for an insurance company and the client insisted on using a customer testimonial with a picture. A really, really bad picture. It made me laugh out loud when I saw it; it was like something from awkwardfamilyphotos.com. I joked about it and said we absolutely had to find a different customer. That’s when I learned the customer was a relative of the person I was working with. Ouch!
So what was my advice to the students? What do you say when a client asks for an opinion? A few tips:
- Never offer up suggestions or comments on the spot. Tell the client you appreciate being asked, but you need some time to consider all the angles. They’ll usually appreciate your diligence, and it gives you more time to think it through.
- Try to find out more. Ask why the client is seeking feedback, if they’ve had success with similar approaches in the past, if they’ve shared the idea with others, and more. You might also have a chance to gather info from others in the organization too: “Hey Tom, Sally asked me for some feedback on this, do you have any background?”
- Remember that marketing is both an art and a science. Just because you don’t personally like something (the art) doesn’t mean it won’t be effective (the more measurable science). Think about goals, do some research, and make sure you’re evaluating things objectively. This can then be used to explain why you like or don’t like something. And, it shows you base your advice on facts.
I’m not saying be wishy-washy, or that you should nod and say you like things you don’t. Marketers are hired for their advice and counsel, not to be “yes” people. But my point is to be careful how you do it. If a client asks your opinion, that’s a good thing — it means they trust and value your expertise.
When my wife asks my thoughts on something, I know I can blurt out exactly how I feel and she’ll still love me anyway. With clients, you can’t always be so sure.