Dealing with the curse of client suggestion.
Have you ever found yourself in this situation?
A client suggests to you, their social media or marketing manager, an idea for a post or strategy that is, frankly, terrible.
Sometimes the idea will be something that goes completely against the strategy you’ve both agreed upon.
For example, let’s say you manage the social accounts for a brand that has a very structured social media strategy. Videos must have a high-production quality, photos professionally shot and the order in which you post content is on a specific cycle.
But then your client asks you to quickly post something one of their customers or sales people has done on their phone. You know what comes next: a blurry photo, a vertically shot video with terrible sound, etc. Not an ideal representation of the client’s brand.
So, what do you do?
Use it because, after all, they’re the client — even if their brand is being damaged by such shoddy content? Do you try to have a polite conversation about how this piece of content goes against the client’s own strategy? There usually isn’t time for that. Or do you flat-out refuse, potential causing tension between you and your client?
So, how do you navigate the tricky waters of bad client suggestions? A few pointers might help when this situation comes up:
- Try to communicate why their idea is not good for their brand. A lot of the time, this will work. We’ve had clients that just want to hear an explanation and understand we have a reason for what we’re doing. Once we’ve explained it, they’ll go, ‘Cool, just wanted to understand.’ Putting it in terms of how it might affect their brand or business will help them to understand that you’re both on the same side and you want to act in your client’s best interest.
- Advocate for your point of view. How forceful should you be when presenting your argument for why something is good or bad? Be polite but steady in your opinion, and reiterate that it’s something that has guided your strategy in the past. And if it’s something you and the client have discussed in the past, remind them of that fact. Sometimes it’s just a case of reminding them; other times they might not grasp the strategy.
- If you get pushback, cool. It’s on them. If they don’t relent but come back to you in a few months saying such and such doesn’t work, you can point to this moment when they rejected your advice and remind them about it. From then, maybe they’ll come around and maybe they won’t. As long as you’ve done your due diligence and tried to express why you believe this or that is bad for your client, it’s up to them whether they take your advice.
- You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Social media management is about devising a strategy with a client and executing it. At the end of the day, it’s up to the client to decide whether they want to abide by it or not. It’s their business, after all, not yours. If the client doesn’t let you execute the strategy, more fool them.
- Be open to the idea that you might be wrong. Maybe your strategy does need some flexibility. Be open to your client’s needs for their own customers and clients. They are, after all, paying your bills. For example, we had a client that we had developed a very particular Instagram strategy with (order of posts etc). However, we realised it was better to be a little more reactive on Instagram so that we can repost fans and do live updates at events, which our previous strategy would not let us do. A more elastic approach to strategy might benefit your clients— and it might be how they prefer to work. It can be the best of both worlds: you get a strategy you can follow and plan ahead for — but also the ability to be ‘in the moment’ and responsive on a platform that suits that kind of content.
Client management might seem like a hurdle on the way to doing the job. But it actually is the job, to a large extent. Having clear and open lines of communication between you and your clients is the best way to keep them on the books. And the best way to continue to do great work that enriches both your businesses.
If you need social media, content or communications solutions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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