When “No” Can Mean “Yes”…No Zen Here

Newson August 24th, 2010No Comments

Or, how to talk a client out of wasting money.

Sometimes the best thing you can do when a client (current or new) approaches you with a new assignment is to, as clearly but respectfully as you can, let them know it’s not a good idea. This can be especially hard to do when you make money by selling your time. But I am convinced that, rather than just being the right thing to do, it’s also a smart thing to do. Helping a client make a good decision turns vendors into partners by building trust. Instead of just being an ad or web ‘mechanic’, you or your agency become someone they look to to help them reach their goals—whether that’s building brand, helping to sell, or just putting some polish on the old image.

Being seen as a vendor makes price the most significant (and sometimes the only) deciding factor on getting new work. When you’re only as good as the lowest price there are no points given for how long you’ve worked for someone, nothing earned for the last award-winning assignment—you’re only as good as the deal you can cut today. And there will always be someone willing to do the work for less. That seems like a very sharp edge to be on. But when you elect to share the client’s risk, however small it may be, you begin to change the relationship dynamic, earning your way from vendor toward partner and, in the process moving the discussion from being just about the money and the deadline to  the value of the work.

Most agency types I know simply loathe the idea of being a vendor yet every time we drop our pants and make the work only about the money we reinforce the vendor image in the mind of everyone we deal with—client, service providers, and the people we work with. Price as a sole deciding factor is a pernicious and noxious weed that invades our creative garden and chokes out our growth. It is tough in these economically challenging times to remind ourselves that value is the combination of price and utility. Abandoning our creative value at the altar of price today is going to make it difficult to reclaim when the financial ship rights itself.

Can turning down new work be the right thing to do? You bet. Smart thing to do. Yep. And if you want to feel good about making an ethical choice that’s okay too. Good clients are hard to find, harder to keep. We shouldn’t short sell ourselves or their loyalty by taking the easy way out. Maintain your integrity, support your true value and your business will benefit.

That’s my stand. You?

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