Who’s fooling who?

A few years ago, I worked with a client who was a perfect case study for successful marketing communications: almost.

It was a small, local, business-to-business client with a well-defined, reachable audience.

  1. We did market research.
  2. We found cool opportunities for differentiation.
  3. We truthfully leveraged those opportunities in a highly targeted, creative, multi-faceted direct marketing effort.
  4. We created buzz.

When it came time to do the research a year later, he wouldn’t pay for it. He said he knew the effort worked and that if the agency wanted to see how it worked, then the agency should pay the bill.

I was shocked. Disappointed. Disheartened.

We worked with a lot of smaller clients that did a lot of project work, and rarely did they understand or approve audience research expense, so it was really exciting to see that this client got it. Or so I thought.

I know, you’re probably thinking that I should get different clients, which I try to do. In the past 10 years, I’ve worked with larger clients and often include audience research as a part of a thorough discernment process before the first word of copy or the first thumbnail is produced. We ask a lot of questions to help define and refine their story. And we’ve learned to include a reality check step when warranted because clients sometimes fool themselves. They’re sometimes in denial about the truth of their brand.

Today, that former client doesn’t really put a lot of stock in marketing communications. He’s a very nice guy, friendly, successful guy, but I don’t think he really believed what he said.

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