It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right—A Tale of Two Clients

By Diane Anselmo | @diane_anselmo | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

So perhaps not ALL good PPC advice can come from a hip-hop song from the 80’s, but I think it certainly applies in this case. As account managers, we are given accounts and told to make them grow, make them more efficient, and make them more profitable, among other things. And we want to do exactly that. We really want to. But it can’t be a one-sided story.


We need clients to provide us with some tools and knowledge to help get us there. Some clients are fabulous at that. They work side-by-side with us and give us everything we need to hit our goals. But other clients miss the mark and fail to work cooperatively with us as we strive to achieve success. How do we handle these clients? How do we get them to understand that their role in the account’s success doesn’t end the moment they sign their contract with an agency?


I’ve identified two particular client types: the “Collaborator” and the “Silent Client”. I will explain how I’ve determined these client types and what you can do to foster account success.


The Collaborator


The Collaborator is by far my favorite type of client. The Collaborator is the type of client who:


  • Responds to all of your questions
  • Attends every call (and reschedules when they can’t)
  • Listens to your ideas
  • Takes time to share valuable information about their company


They don’t expect you to single-handedly make their PPC campaign a success. Rather, they entered the relationship with an understanding that the communication needs to be two-way in order for it to be successful. This type of clients values the investment that they have made with your agency and is dedicated to making the relationship work.


I’ve worked with several clients who fall into this category and they have always made me feel as if I was sitting right beside them in the office. This type of client tends to gather their team together when it’s time for weekly calls and they also bring in team members from other departments to add another perspective when necessary. The beauty of a client who functions in this way is that we are always on the same page. Regardless of account performance, we never have conversations that start with, “Oh, I thought you wanted this, not that.”


Another bonus to working with a client like this is that they always have a clear understanding of why you’re doing the things you’re doing in the account. You’re not pulling levers in the account and discussing them later in a call. You’re making decisions about what levers to pull together, as you collaborate on strategies and ideas.


When we have a client like this on our roster, it’s important to let them know how much we appreciate their collaborative approach. Let the client know that their participation is making a difference in account performance and strategy. Once the client realizes that their efforts are making a difference, they will be motivated to continue the communication.


The Silent Client


Now, as much as I love working with the Collaborators, not every client is going to have that much enthusiasm or interest in working closely with their agency. Unfortunately, sometimes we find that we have a “Silent Client” on our hands.


If you’re wondering what I mean by “silent,” this client gives us the bare minimum of their time and attention. They tend to cancel weekly calls and, when they do attend, they typically respond to long discourses about plans and strategies with abbreviated answers that pretty much translate to “OK.” While it certainly makes those weekly calls go by pretty quickly, it definitely leaves the account manager in the dark about how the client feels the account is progressing. It also creates an awkward distance between the client and the account manager that sometimes leaves the account manager feeling apprehensive to press the client for more information.


Many times, relationships like these tend to end quickly, as the client feels that the agency isn’t bringing them any significant value. And perhaps they might be right. But the reason the value is missing can sometimes be attributed to the fact that the client hasn’t invested the time to ensure that their commitment to an agency is going to be money well spent.


It would be nice if a client could simply sign on with an agency and assume that everything will be perfect moving forward, but that’s certainly not the reality. The bottom line is that if a client isn’t willing to collaborate on strategy, then the account manager will most likely be resolved to completing smaller tasks within the account.


Does having a Silent Client mean that you’ll never succeed with the account? Certainly not. However, it’s up to the account manager to recognize that there is an issue and work to resolve it. If the client doesn’t communicate well in phone conversations, then perhaps try sending some questions via email. Don’t be afraid to ask the important questions again and again until you get an answer.


Speak to others on your team and ask them how they’ve handled similar clients. Perhaps they’ve found a strategy that has worked for them in the past that you can try. Even if the relationship ends, you will know that you did all that you could on your end to make it work effectively.


Final Thoughts


Whether we’re dealing with the Collaborator, the Silent Client, or someone in-between, one thing remains the same – our purpose is to work closely with our clients to make their accounts grow and perform more efficiently. Even though it is a two-way street, we may not always be able to get our clients to interact with us on the level that we need. But, whatever the case may be, don’t ever give up on the account. Keep plugging along and doing the things that we have all invested so much time learning. Keep reaching out to the client and let them know that your eyes are on the account and that you are dedicated to taking it as far as you can possibly take it. Once they see how engaged you are, you might just start getting responses to those questions you asked the client so very long ago.