Following on from looking at assumptions around presentations, selling and pitching I look at some of the assumptions designers make about client relationships.
If you recognise any of them, you may wish to ask yourself the following questions: What if this were not true? What difference would that make? What small thing can I do to start to change it?
- Our clients don’t understand us: What we do can’t be understood. We don’t particularly want it to be. If it is understood, what we do will lose its magic. To keep things mysterious, we create a TM process to make what we do more complex. As long as we maintain this assumption it makes it ok for us to not understand our clients. We can both coexist, finding each other sometimes intriguing, sometimes baffling and frustrating.
- We’re in an inherently short-term industry: Pitch, win/lose, pitch win/lose. Clients are here today, move tomorrow. Staff are here today, leave tomorrow. This is just a given. We invest cautiously in building relationships beyond the pitch stage as we know clients will leave. And we invest cautiously in our people, because we know they will leave too. And we keep our options open when it comes to new relationships, steering clear of specialisation for fear of missing out on an opportunity.
- The relationship is only when we’re working together: We invest a lot of time in our clients when we have an agreement to work together. And we stay in touch with them, asking them regularly whether there is a project on the horizon. Other than that, we need to keep hunting for work and they don’t want to hear from us if there’s no project. They’ve got other things to do if they don’t need us for a project.
- We don’t have time to follow our own recommendations: We don’t treat our own business like we treat our clients. We find reasons for this. We’re too busy doing what we do for our clients, or pitching. ‘Innovation’, ‘segmentation’, ‘differentiation’, these are all important, but we haven’t got time to do them for ourselves. We can’t afford to take our eyes off of work and onto ourselves.
- We understand as much as we need to about our client’s business but no more: We haven’t got time to get into our individual client’s world. We’re too busy. What we see on the surface ‘delay’ ‘risk aversion’ is what ‘is’. The reason behind it, we haven’t got time for.
- My client knows what they want and we’re here to deliver it: My client holds the balance of power in the relationship. They’re paying us for our creativity and we’re supplying it. In challenging them we would be questioning their understanding of their own business, which feels wrong. We wait to be approached rather than go to our clients for a conversation. They know when they need us.
If you think your assumptions might be getting in your way, I could be of use. Why not drop me a line to start a conversation.