Client Advocate

Episode 101: The Client Advocate

You sit in the eye of the storm, pulled in a hundred different directions. How do you stay focused on the right outcomes? How do you turn the chaos and energy to your advantage? You do it by remembering who you work for. You do it by being the client advocate.

Digital media and marketing often feels like the embodiment of chaos. You never quite know what you’re going to deal with from one day to the next. The feeling is especially acute for those working in an agency. As a strategist, you are often pulled in a variety of directions by opposing but equally formidable forces. Among the most powerful are the client interests and the agency interests. Part of your responsibility as a strategist is to reconcile these forces in a way that is of benefit to all parties. So how do you do that?

It begins by understanding who you work for. The purpose of the agency is to provide exceptional services and solutions to the brand in order that they deliver exceptional experiences to their customers. In other words, you work for the customer. Your responsibility is to them. The customer journey and the experiences they encounter along that journey should be your North Star and guide the decisions you make.

As such, it is your role to provide your client with the best possible advice to help them create these exceptional customer experiences. This can mean challenging them on their ideas or assumptions, telling them that they are wrong or asking for things that are the opposite to the ideal customer experience. This is what they hired you for, your ideas, experience and expertise. To do otherwise is to do your client a disservice.

Once you are clear on the direction with your client, it is your role to advocate on their behalf in your organization. Typically, this shouldn’t be difficult. Client demands and agency capabilities typically clash when the agency is not really set up for the client. This happens because either the agency mis-represented its capabilities in order to win the business, or the client changed their requirements. Sadly, this is a common occurrence.

If the client is being unreasonable, you are still working in the client’s best interests by pushing back or challenging them. The alternative is that the client gets their way and the agency team grudgingly execute the work. This is not a way to get their best work. A smart client understands that it is in their interests for an agency to be profitable. This motivates them to deliver above and beyond expectations and to hire the best talent to service the business. Again, you are advocating on their behalf by explaining this.

Finally, work as the client advocate to remove bureaucracy from the agency team. Clients hire agencies not only for their ideas, but also their ability to execute quickly. It is normal that those that are furthest from the client and deepest within the machine of the agency are most likely to resent client requirements. Be firm in these instances and advocate vigorously on your client’s behalf. Because it’s a funny business without clients.

Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.

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