Clients who don’t know what they want

Likely impact…

…on you:

Obviously this is frustrating, and can often be confidence-sapping, when you can’t be sure you’re doing the right thing. And, unless you get really lucky, it’ll also mean it takes you longer to produce your work, partly because you may well waste a lot of time staring at a blank screen (and possibly chewing the back of your knuckles) while you try to work out what to do. And that’s before you even get to the almost inevitable revisions you’ll need to do when your client realises they want something quite different. So it all adds needless pressure to meet deadlines, and may result in longer days.

…on your client:

Inevitably this issue is almost certainly going to be costing them time. And probably confidence (in themselves and – perhaps unfairly – in you or members of your team). And if the end result ends up arriving late, or being a bit of a fudge, their reputation may end up taking a hit too.

…on your organisation

This is going to depend on how successful you and your team are in retrieving the situation. But late or fudged communications (if they really are needed) will leave employees groping in the dark, and possibly somewhat unhappy. So their performance is almost bound to suffer. Of course, if the communication isn’t needed, it’ll simply be wasting their time – even if it’s crystal clear and arrives bang on time.

All in all, then, this is pretty rubbish.

Likely causes:

  1. Sometimes people just have a responsibility dumped on them and are floundering
  2. Or often it’s that the briefing process itself doesn’t yet provide them with clear enough guidance to be able to define what they need.
  3. Or possibly the process is fine, but maybe some of your team aren’t as skilful as they need to be at eliciting valuable answers from their clients, or being able to sort the wheat from the chaff
  4. Another possibility is that the process is fine, and your team have all the necessary skills, but they don’t have a mandate to make their clients follow it.

Potential solutions

If you have floundering clients, it could be that they don’t have the skills to think through what they need. In that case you need a watertight briefing process, your people need the skills to use that process effectively, and of course they also need a mandate to use those skills and that process.

An alternative possibility is that the client can’t answer the necessary questions because they’re effectively in the role of a go-between, and you need to be dealing with the real client. And if you can’t get access to them, you again have an issue with your team’s mandate.

Things to consider for your wish-list

A potential role for training

There are two roles training could play here. It can teach you and your team a series of DFVP:

  • processes for taking IC briefs and for planning campaigns
  • techniques for getting all the information they need from their clients, while using those processes.

Beyond training you’ll also need

  1. Time to practise this learning, so you and your team can deliver maximum ROI.
  2. A mandate to use these practices in all relevant circumstances.

Where these solutions could take you

These solutions should mean:

  • you and your team are being briefed only by people who are capable of knowing what they want,
  • you and your people have the skills and mandate to take these clients by the hand and lead them through a process which enables them to know this before they see it.

Business benefits…

…for you and the others involved

  1. Saving huge amounts of time for yourself, your clients, approval groups and audiences.
  2. The confidence of everyone involved gets a boost
  3. Everyone has less frustration and stress.
  4. Your work is more fulfilling
  5. You get to go home at a reasonable hour and feel safe to switch off at the end of the day.

…for your organisation

It will likely also save you some budget, not least because:

  • pointless projects never get started,
  • there may well be fewer reworks and rush jobs…

…so your organisation saves money.

And employees are that little bit better informed, and more able to work well. So your organisation can deliver better results for the people it serves.