I’ve lived by a few simple mottos. One of my favorites is: “put yourself in your client’s shoes.” Over my 28 years as sole proprietor of Baker, this motto has served me well. I am grateful for the many successful, long-term relationships that I have had with both companies and clients. However, equally valuable have been the blunders I have survived. Many times, those lessons have taught me even more. So with a little humility I thought I would share (as an on going series) — “The things I will never do again” or if I do just shoot me.

#1 Don’t deliver surprises.

Pretty basic, right? Yet, this one I never saw coming. We had won a Fortune 100 account because our insights and creative brief demonstrated we understood that the company’s new brand positioning was their main corporate story. Soon after, we presented creative concepts for their upcoming annual report. Everyone loved the creative and was enthusiastically on board. We had hit a home run and it felt great.

We flew back to our office, and sent meeting notes to our client confirming their comments. We began refinements for the next presentation to the C Suite. Our team worked diligently to build on the win from the initial concept presentation. A few weeks later, when we walked into a boardroom filled with the company’s senior management. We were confident that we had “polished” our initial concept “just right.” To my surprise, it bombed! I was devastated and shell-shocked. What had happened?

The answer was simple. Things got lost in visual translation. Although our client agreed, in theory, with the ideas of how we were going to evolve the initial concept, she was visualizing something very different than what we presented. She was greatly disappointed and ultimately embarrassed in front of her supervisor, the CFO. She never got over it. The following year we lost the account and she returned to her incumbent.

Lesson learned at Baker: Always build a preview with a first-time client into the project schedule. We must give clients an opportunity to make adjustments they deem necessary before proceeding to a design presentation that includes their superiors. Corporations are political animals; politics will always be in play. It’s our job to make our clients look good and to be 100-percent comfortable showing proposed solutions that best differentiate their company and facilitate getting their stories heard. Absolutely, deliver no surprises!

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