7-Second Thoughts February 10, 2024

Symptoms of future unhappy clients

Know the signs ahead of time so you can put in the work to avoid them.

When a client asks you to produce any kind of creative that has any expectation of ROI

Is there any other kind?

Often the most important part of the relationship is the one that’s the most glossed over:

Marketing agencies tend to call it Intake

Ad agencies call it The Brief

Everyone does it differently, but regardless of how you conduct that initial stage, if your client should say anything with regard to the creative that’s phrased anything like:

We’ll know it when we see it.

Just show us something we can react to.

We need to see what we don’t want first.

You’ve got yourself a future unhappy client

And here’s why:

These phrases are a sign that you the provider are going to guess what your client wants, what they need, and how they make money. And guessing invariably drives clients to say things like:

This is not what we wanted!

We wanted something like what these people are doing!

(Their competitor)

And finally,

You should’ve known that!

And they’re right. You should’ve known that. Which is exactly how to avoid crazy notions of guessing, mind-reading, and general clairvoyance. By putting in the time to know your client.

See if this helps:

Be pushy, sales-y, marketing-y, gentle, firm, nudge-y, persistent, over the top, understated

Tell jokes if you have to!

Whatever it takes to persuade your client to spend enough time with you so you can find out what they want, need, expect and understand about their business. And their clients.

So much so that by the time you’ve completed your intake, which can – and probably should – last 4 or more weeks.

Long, careful, thoughtful and collaborative enough that whatever creative you deliver should come with a simple approval process that sounds something like:

Love it, what’s next?

I’m here,


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