10 Tips for managing creative people


A difficult client is actually a misnomer, because a “client” or a an ‘account’ (in our advertising parlance) cannot be difficult. It is only a person or persons on the client’s side who pose the difficulties. Mind you whatever people say on the internet (I am talking mostly about experts sharing from the Europe or the America) is almost not applicable in India. Why?

The communication business as we know it evolved in the West and because of phenomenal growth in industry

and economies, grew and flourished and became a worldwide feature. But we are getting away from the point – most important ‘brands’ or ‘clients’ in India are an elite segment who are educated, knowledgeable, responsive to new ideas, and willing to listen to professionals outside their own field (meaning us advertising and PR professionals). The bulk, however, are traders or people who happened to come upon a new product or a service and then made a killing in the market, became wealthy, and began to advertise – they are the ones who need convincing.

However there are certain ways that we can ‘woo’ such ornery people away from their mindset or mindlessness. Here’s how…

  1. Be patient and actively listen to what he/she wishes to tell you. You may know more, but the guy sitting in that chair made the money and he is the one who’s going to spend it, so show some respect and wait for him to come around
  2. Choose your words carefully and be cautious about exhibiting your language skills especially in English. Gauge the person’s abilities before you venture ahead. Consciously avoid jargon in early meetings – the client may feel intimidated if he is not familiar. If he pulls a fast one on you by using such terms, counter to simply demonstrate that you are a cut above; do not express your “superiority” be it in knowledge or in strategic thinking.
  3. In fact you should be a little submissive to begin with for example always tone down your counter statement by saying “…from my limited experience” – it will make you more tolerant and the increase client acceptability
  4. Try and get to the heart of the requirement – ask clients for specific examples of their problems, suggest specific remedies for that problem, set deadlines across the table if possible
  5. Don’t always agree – ready agreement with the clients viewpoint may irritate some of them, move away from the subject and take a round about route to suggesting a solution
  6. Keep your focus on what your client wants you to achieve – focus on the outcome; don’t waste your time with trivia or running round trying to analyze symptoms of the problem, try and work towards the end goal
  7. If possible persuade the client to sit-in on “Skype’ meetings – then you have a ‘visual document’ of what transpired and what was actually said; for important meetings or briefing sessions you can even think of video or audiography; later you can always point at a certain thing and say that “we have solved this and are moving on to the next”
  8. If you feel that you are setting off “sparks” every time you meet the client – then you are ‘conflict-prone’ (or the client is); best is to find another member of your team to assign to the client; If you can, ask the client who they’d prefer to handle their account, so they don’t feel slighted, but rather realize that you’re providing them with exemplary customer service.
  9. Part company – in other words resign the client, spend your time working with more productive clients, and one of your competitors gets your irrational client. That’s a win-win.
  10. It is not wrong to ‘repeat’ – Once he’s had time to explain why he’s upset, or what he wants, repeat his concerns so you’re sure that you’re addressing the right issue. If you need to, ask questions to make sure that you’ve identified the problem correctly.