Understanding the Requirements of your Clients
Okay, recently you have mastered the art of Understanding the Requirements of your Organization: delivering great work, asking for feedback, finding a couple of mentors, and really showing some passion for your work. Now let’s say that you have finally been hired by a stellar boutique marketing agency, who’s largest client at $18,500 per month, is the Oregon Dairy Council (ODC), and you are on the Cheese Team. It’s time to understand the Requirements of your Client(s).
Seems easy, doesn’t it? It’s cheese. Nothing more than acidified milk coagulated by rennet and pressed into forms. Sometimes it has a bacterial culture; sometimes it’s colored. But it’s still cheese.
Since you are a fantastic account coordinator, you do your daily research and you have your Google Alerts set for “cheese” and derivatives of cheesiness.
You voraciously read all the industry trade publications like: Cutting the Cheese, Whey Culture, and Today’s Cheesemonger. You know there are varieties and sub-types of cheese and you are familiar with what cheese pairs best with which fruit or wine. You know the finer points of a white Gouda and blanco Emmentaler, and you know they are very, very different. You recently tried your first sample of illegal casu marzu, smuggled in from Sardinia.
You are a Cheese Whiz.
But is this really all you need to know about your clients? They are already cheese experts. Do they need to pay you a monthly retainer so you can learn all about soft-ripened Camembert or virulent Stilton bacteria? We hardly think so.
More to the point: your major client, ODC, is very concerned about some recent legislation, which will increase taxes on organic milk. However, because you were busy trying to produce value everyday by knowing the subtle differentiation between cheese types, you totally missed the legislative brief. In fact, you don’t even know who or how many sponsors are for this law (which already looks like it has enough votes to easily pass).
Your client will, in no uncertain terms, let you know about their dissatisfaction with your ability to understand their requirements. After a new RFP, they’ve decided to move their account to a new firm with a better understanding of the industry.
“…But, but, but,” you stammer, trying to regain some sort of composure, “I didn’t know it was relevant?!”
The key is that you must understand and anticipate those vague performance expectations. The marketplace is constantly changing, like those fantastic purple plasma lamps from The Sharper Image ($59.95), that make *all* your hairs stand up when you lick it.
Are you good at meeting expectations that are not directly communicated to you? Not all of us are. Do you possess the resolve, moxie and cunning to be able to figure out what needs to happen when an unexpected change takes place?
The trick here is: client anticipation.
You have to know what is important to your client from a global perspective, not just a small slice of life’s cheese wheel. You know what might be important? Government tariffs, regulations, competition, international disputes, rennet prices, milk yields, protein counts, and of course, negative publicity, brand infringement and food critics. And there is still more.
You should be learning constantly. Both external and internal learning. Learn about their financing. Learn about cheese technology. Learn about dairy farming. Do you think and act like a Cheese Ninja? Because that is exactly what your client is expecting. That is what they are paying for. It might be different from your reality, but reality is all about perspective. If the client perceives you to be a weak link then that is your reality. Be a ninja.
Ask questions. Ask your mentor. Ask what are the three most important things your client would like you to focus on. Ask your client, what do they really want to gain from your team. You might be surprised.
It would be even worse if you were surprised you lost your job because you didn’t anticipate this scenario.
Be nimble. Be quick. Anticipate.
…Oh and try Trader Joe’s Goat’s Milk Cheddar, it’s godly.