Subtleties of working with a competent customer

    Hello, Habr! As part of a series of materials about the life of studios / agencies, I decided to talk about such an interesting moment, as the organization of work with a competent customer. Fortunately, now this phenomenon is becoming more and more common.

    I myself worked for almost ten years on the agent market, but then at some point I found myself on the client side - and this made it possible to look at the situation from a completely different angle. We had many tasks in the field of digital, decent budgets - and therefore there was a lot of communication and interaction with different agencies and studios. The material, of course, was written largely from my own bell tower and I use my personal experience in it.

    First, we will determine who in the framework of this material I refer to competent customers. So, the main characteristics:

    • Good understanding of the specifics of the business of your own company, business processes, KPI;
    • Full possession of analytical data in their industry;
    • Excellent understanding of the specifics of the work of web studios and digital agencies;
    • Understanding of all aspects of the digital environment, knowledge of numbers;
    • Often: qualifications are higher than those of an agency manager.

    It would seem that such a customer is the dream of any agency, "your own, sane client." But often, everything turns out to be not so wonderful. I tried to give a number of practical recommendations on how the agency should work with such a manager on the client side to avoid standard problems.

    Probably, the main thing here is to understand - that the greater the competence on the side of the customer, the greater his exactingness to the agency with which he works.

    Presale - preparing for the meeting

    Probably the first of the facts that struck me in the new capacity as a client representative was that in 90% of cases the agency representatives came to the first meeting without learning anything about my company. It is clear that in a short time it is impossible to dive deep into the specifics of a particular industry, to become a pro, but we are talking about commonplace things - what products the company produces, who the target audience is, what has already been done in the digital field.

    The typical situation was as follows - the first meeting (after sending some request / task), the studio comes for a briefing. Representatives get into the meeting room, settle down more conveniently - and say: "tell us what your company is doing." It looks weird. You ask, but you at least visited our site to see what is written about us? No, why? You’ll tell us everything now.

    To me, as a person who worked for a long time on the other side of the barricades, it was somehow wild - since one of the most important prerequisites for successful participation in the tender is to find out the most detailed information about the client's company and the manager with whom it will be necessary to communicate.

    Knowledge of market averages

    Another point about the presale. A competent customer, as a rule, is well oriented in the average values ​​for the industry, KPI for digital channels, price segments. And therefore, when an agency overestimates certain indicators in a proposal, it hits the eyes especially painfully.
    A representative of a large online media of a general theme arrives. Brings a media plan for a special project. It indicates the announcement of standard banners 240x400, and the CTR value is indicated at the level of 3%. And you immediately think that they want to deceive you, and by an order of magnitude. Since it cannot take a CTR of 3 percent out of the blue like this - for such an audience, this is one case out of a hundred, with some kind of crazy creative. And since they want to cheat here, you think, then, probably, in other areas in which you do not know the average market values, too.

    When working with a competent customer, it is especially important to pay attention to the places of “re-mortgage” when calculating the effectiveness of a project or advertising campaign, even if they are insignificant.

    Using professional terminology

    Here, probably, the reader may have a question - how to determine the level of competence of the customer in general, so as not to make typical mistakes? My experience says that one should not rush to extremes, and that at first glance it is deceiving.

    I will give a simple example. One of the first meetings with the agency, literally the first 5 minutes of the conversation. The manager spills out terms, and at some point I ask the meaning of one of their narrowly specialized abbreviations. After that, representatives of the agency immediately concluded that they were a newcomer. Then for an hour they explain to me what SEO is, how contextual advertising is arranged, and that there is such a cool thing - Google Analytics. To my timid attempts to argue that I don’t need to explain all this, that I’ve been on the market for a long time - zero reaction and the continuation of educational program. Needless to say, no one loves when his time is wasted? Accordingly, cooperation with these guys did not work out right away.

    Do not make hasty conclusions. Finding out the level of professionalism of the interlocutor should be built on iterations - they cast a bait here, applied a professional term here, looked at the reaction, adjusted behavior - and for the next iterations.

    Honesty in pricing

    Since a qualified customer understands the specifics of the agency, he understands how pricing is built. Therefore, careful attention is paid to estimates. And here one of the common "selling" tricks can play a cruel joke with the agency. It often happens like this - the initial price is overstated, and then, when the client asks for a discount, in the form of a favor and a demonstration of loyalty - it is immediately provided by the seller.

    The problem is that the competent customer immediately sees the re-mortgage and thinks: “Guys, the estimate is too high, we remember these tricks. So I asked about the discount - you immediately gave it to me. And if you hadn’t asked? Would you be deceived? ”

    At the same time, for example, I was always normal when the studio laid down its risks in the iteration of improvements. I did not consider myself the best customer in the world, and understood that I would have many amendments, including even “move the logo”. Therefore, sometimes I even asked the agency to put in the estimate the item “possible improvements” - with a reserve of budget and time. It’s always easier for me to make a cheaper plan than to then knock out an additional budget within the company and disrupt the deadlines.

    Ideas on the knee

    Another technique that often helped me out in “agent life” was the inclusion in the proposal of some ideas, unexpected approaches, new-fangled things that were quickly thrown as part of an hour of brainstorm with the project team. Such "calls." Almost always for an inexperienced customer, this worked perfectly.

    When working with a competent customer for whom digital direction is key, such ideas often have the opposite effect. He is well versed in the digital environment - and this is his main job, to think about how and what can be done in a non-standard way.

    Therefore, ceteris paribus, all the ideas that you can sketch “on the knee” before the meeting will go to the trash, simply because the client side has thought through them for a long time, and either started to implement them or rejected them as ineffective. Just because they had more time to generate and evaluate them.

    Customer Service - Contact Reporting

    A local moment, which is often a stumbling block. At one time, I was used to writing a brief contact report on the machine after talking with the client - what they discussed, what they decided, what are the next steps. This is very convenient - on the one hand, you fix all the arrangements in hot pursuit, on the other, you show the client a normal level of service.

    90% of agencies, unfortunately, neglect this. Even after a reminder at the meeting that it would be nice to get such a document based on the results, only half a page - often this task is ignored.

    Once I could not stand it and after a big meeting I wrote such a contact report myself. I think, at least I will shame some colleagues, they will start doing it themselves. Think it worked out? There it was. Good, they say, a document, Andrey, very useful, could you write us such things after each meeting? =)

    I do not think that the client is always the main one, and the agency should “dance” around him, often the relationship can be completely equal and partner (and should), but at least the minimum level of client service should also be present . Do not repeat such mistakes.

    Failure of deadlines and deadlines

    Few things can just as effectively infuriate a customer as the silence of the studio at the time of the deadline. Timing, especially in the field of web development, is often shifted, often the agency is not to blame for this. I understand that very well. Warn in advance - and the normal customer will take it calmly (within reasonable limits, of course). And when the agency begins to play in silence and quickly and quickly tries to complete everything - and the client does not know what is happening - this is the worst. Because you don’t know whether the last minor bugs remained there, or whether it was some serious fakap with a global shift in terms. And you have no information. Including to answer the question of your superiors.

    It is always necessary to absolutely absolutely honestly and in advance warn the customer about any planned delays in the deadlines, because this is often seen even in the very early stages. There is nothing worse than an agency that says “we will be in time, we will be in time, we finish it, the minute is left”, when it is obvious to both the customer and the agency that they will not meet the deadline.

    Project Manager Role, Perfect PM

    For a competent client-side manager, the project manager plays a key role in the agency. Because it is with him that the main pool of communications and work will occur.

    And this reduces the role in the framework of the presale of both the sales manager and the "factor of the director." I understand very well that no matter what communication skills possessed by sales, then I should work not with him, but with PM. The same thing with the director - even if he came to a meeting, I perfectly understand that if the company has more than 30 people in the staff, then most likely he will not take operational part in the project.

    Accordingly, when planning meetings, you should try to allocate the maximum time in communication with the customer to your project manager.

    In due time, by the way, I made a short list of characteristics of the ideal PM for me on the contractor's side. Of course, this is completely individual, and this list cannot be considered a benchmark. So for me the perfect PM (or PM / Account):

    • Understood in my business. Spent time and immersed myself properly in the specifics of my field - and now I can communicate with him in one language.
    • Understood my tasks. He understands what is important to me and what is not, what I focus on and what can be ignored.
    • Very angry. In the sense that it always kicks me hard in terms of time, steps, it controls that I provide the information necessary for the agency on time.
    • Punctual. There are no comments =)

    “Hit me in the arms”

    Competence has a downside. Often it seems to such a customer that he knows better than the agency what to do and how. Therefore, sometimes it happens that he tries to contact the performers directly, try to “move them with his hands”, etc. It was always important for me that the agency be able to return me to the ground in a harsh manner. “ Andrei, you interfere. Andrey, don’t do our work for us . ”

    It is always sobering very quickly, because you remember very well how such customer behavior infuriated you. It’s just that you sometimes forget a little - and then the agency has to hit its hands on time.

    About disputes

    When communicating with a competent customer, you must be careful about disputes. Sometimes a dispute can become a losing agency for both options for the outcome of a dispute. Lost - the customer will think, “I better understand the agency than the agency, why do I need it at all?” Won - the customer may be offended, because he considers himself competent, and such a loss can hurt pride.

    Of course, it is very individual and depends on the specific person. I've always liked to argue =) But I met super-qualified clients who were always very sensitive to the situation when the agency won a particular professional dispute.


    With direct offers and hints, everything is clear - the counterparty immediately gets into the black list. But there is another point - mild paranoia may develop, when some kind of dirty trick begins to seem to you everywhere. At some point, I caught myself thinking that I was immediately sharply negative about the proposal of the studio representative "to meet in an informal setting." With my mind, I understand that this is most likely not what I think about, but the sediment often remains.

    This must be borne in mind. For example, after "catching" this fact, I began to recall my agent practice and understood why sometimes my own offers to meet with a client outside the office (in order to pull him a little out of the usual environment or to mess) were often immediately accepted with hostility.


    As usual, it’s impossible to list absolutely all the subtle points within one material, so I hope that you will give your examples in the discussion.

    By the way, you may be interested in our previous materials about the life of web studios and agencies:

    Terekhov Andrey, .

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