Monday, October 20, 2008

Is the Client Always Right?

Recently I wrote copy for a small postcard flyer. The company was quite technical, but I came up with a snappy concept and covered all the required benefits and bullets in concise, attention-grabbing professional prose. Proud of myself? You bet. The client loved it--but wanted it more wordy and "busy."

Wordiness is definitely not always a good thing--especially in a short promotion that needs to capture attention and get info across quickly. As I've matured in my business, I've found myself coming up against clients who have disagreed with me on what's effective much more often. And I'm starting to suspect that it's not that there are just more of these clients around--but that I'm more clued in to what works and what doesn't.

When I first started out, the client always knew best. Lately, however, I've begun to respectfully disagree when I've suspected I might know more about something than the client does. That's why I was hired, presumably--because I bring to the table an expertise that the client lacks. So I make suggestions. I point things out. Sometimes the client sees my point and is happy for the feedback. Other times I get more polite versions of "just shut up and do what you're told."

What's your experience with disagreeing with clients? Do you speak up when you feel it's warranted, or is the client always right?


Unknown said...

You did the right thing, Jen. We can give them our educated opinion. They're free to ignore it. What I do is give them my feedback and then print out the email after they dismiss it. When it comes back to bite them in the arse, I want proof that they were warned. And yes, I've had to defend against that in at least one instance.

It's okay for them to disagree and do what they like. It's not okay for us to take the heat for it when we were careful to give them our advice and they ignored it.

Jennifer Williamson said...

That's a really good point--it never occurred to me that you can be blamed for a client's faulty decision after the fact. One more thing to protect yourself against!

Star Lawrence said...

In a postcard, the pitch would have to be punchy. In a letter, long outpulls short, even if the client says, "But I don't like to read long stuff." Anyone will read long stuff if it's done right and they have a reason to want the product. How often do I give advice...One time, maybe two, then it's their call. I have seen "busy" long-form pitch letters with hand-written margin notes outpull the artistic, elegant note...Direct response ain't pretty.

Mark Wiehenstroer said...

Hi Jennifer,

I just saw the following link over at Rebecca Thorman's blog (Modite) in the comment section which addresses the question "Is the Client Always Right?" very well in my opinion.


Jennifer Williamson said...

@Star: Very true. It doesn't really matter what it looks like as long as it works. (At least in our world. Tell that to a designer...)

@Mark: Great article. Thanks for putting that link up!