How to make sure you hear your clients ask for help

19 Sep How to make sure you hear your clients ask for help

We media folks think we are so highly evolved.

Do you ever wonder how your clients really see you?

Frequently I get the privilege of sitting in on presentations by media companies to their clients. At one such presentation recently the client had asked the media company to:

  1. Recommend what they should do.
  2. Show them how they would know the recommendations were working (measurement).

The door was wide open for this media company to suggest a full blown media plan for 2017. What the client got instead was a list of 45 different products the media company offers.

In fairness, there were recommendations. Unfortunately, they appeared on the 45th PowerPoint slide only to be hastily explained as the allotted time had expired.

Maybe we need to listen to our clients

How could such a thing happen?

Don’t kid yourself. It’s probably happening right now at your company. Why?

For all of the talk of innovation, breaking down silos and customer-centric thinking, most media companies still sell products, just a lot more of them than ever before. For example, a newspaper might sell:

  • The daily newspaper
  • Various community newspapers
  • Free-standing magazines
  • Special sections
  • Events
  • Various digital products
  • Direct mail
  • Content marketing
  • Video
  • More…

Now how is your sales team organized? Most likely there are different reps for each of the product platforms listed above. After all isn’t that what the experts told us to do? Have digital reps and print reps, magazine reps and event specialists, etc.

As a result, every presentation must represent every product in the portfolio. Otherwise somebody’s commission doesn’t happen.

This is inward thinking at its worst. The pitch is all about us and our own internal competition. Unfortunately, all the client cares about is achieving their goals.

In the presentation I observed, the client gave the media company carte blanche to tell them how to spend their considerable (six-figure) budget. Yet, the media company utterly failed to take advantage of the opportunity.

A wholly different approach

Some of the 45 products presented were absolutely right for the client. Many were just plain wrong. A Football Preview for a target audience of young, affluent women might be a stretch.

We need to think about the problem from the client’s perspective. Doing so will make us platform agnostic. We would present only the very best solutions — video, newspaper, magazine, digital — to accomplish the client’s goals.

Ideally, we also would plot ALL of our recommendations on a calendar as a recipe for the client. In January you should do this, in February try a dash of this and in March add a pinch of that.

By the time April rolls around, we will sit down to analyze the results together. Based on the data we will adjustment the program to build on what worked well and jettison what was less effective.

Yes. We would be doing the client’s job for them, and that is precisely what they asked us to do.

There is no doubt that we would increase the client’s spend on our products by taking this approach.

Alternatively, imagine that a competitor comes in to the client with a well thought out, 12-month plan instead of your list of 45 options. Would the competitor take dollars out your pocket? You bet they would, and rightly so.

Listen. Put the client first. Stop selling products. Stop thinking about what works internally for us and start thinking about what works for the client.

Master negotiator and author, William Ury, on the importance of listening: