If You Want Your Audience to Love Your Work, You Have to Love Your Client

By February 28, 2016Leadership, Strategy

When I talk with new or prospective clients, I am often asked to describe my creative philosophy. [OK, full disclosure here: the clients don’t typically make this request. They don’t say, “Please Jeff, the meeting can’t go on until you allow us to partake in your unexpected and perspective-changing creative philosophy.” No, the truth is, someone on our team usually asks me. Thanks for doing that, Heather.] But no matter who asks – or who listens – my philosophy is simple. You have to love your client.

I’m not talking about that Don Draper kind of love, of course. That’s not the shortcut to advertising greatness. Notoriety, perhaps, but not greatness.

Loving your client requires a deeper relationship that what Don offers up. When I was in college, it seemed easy. “I love Budweiser!” Yeah, well, not many of us get the chance to do a Bud ad. I certainly haven’t. And those who do soon realize that it’s not nearly as easy as they thought it was.

To love your client, you can’t just drink their beer, or their Kool-Aid. The courtship is more intense. See, to love your client, you have to get to know their customers. And that doesn’t mean “male, 25-54.” That’s not the way you’d describe your parents, or kids or best friends. And if that’s all you can say about your audience, then your work is going to fall short.

You have to dig deep. You have to understand what makes your audience tick. What are they afraid of? What makes them mad? What are their hopes and dreams? What’s standing in their way? How do they feel when they overcome it?

I know what you’re thinking. “Jeff, you changed the subject. You said you have to love your clients. But you’re just talking about customers. It’s the old bait and switch.” Well, you didn’t let me finish. I’m getting there. Geez.

Once you know your customer – and ONLY when you truly know your customer – you can see how it all comes together. You can see where the client’s product or service meets those customer needs along a long, winding path from need to purchase. That intersection is where insight lives. That’s a love connection.

It’s the way an entire community has come to feel Forever Royal, and how Olathe Medical Center provides cancer expertise, answers and a clear path forward. It’s the way Elanco supports producers as they provide food for a hungry world. Every client has a story to tell. And you have to love that story if you want to tell it in a way that moves people.

So that’s my creative philosophy. But it shouldn’t just be embraced by the creative department. When we all embrace the customer, when we all see how the client solves their problems and helps those customers soar, then we can all love the client. Not just because they pay us. But because they touch lives in a meaningful way.