Client Freak Out

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Yup. I said it. Client freak outs are a good thing. Sure, they feel really, really bad at the time, but I attribute many of our best practices and process improvements to some solid freak outs.

Regular Check-ins

Everyone is busy. We’re busy and clients are busy. And if clients are really busy we’re often the first to be told, “Yeah, yeah, just do what you think is best.” However, at TIV Branding we have always worked closely with clients to understand the nuances of their business. This doesn’t mean we don’t have strong opinions we voice regularly, but it does mean that we know our clients understand their business better than anyone else and they need to a part of the process.

Regular, scheduled check-ins give us the opportunity to present ideas, follow up on info or assets we’re missing, discuss proofs and most importantly find out how business is and whether we need to pivot slightly or stay the course. Even if the check-in is a “Things are great?” “Yes, things are great!” type of conversation, they are essential to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

In some cases, we even have a separate regular check-in for the owners/managers where we can discuss more high-level things without the whole team involved in the conversation. And face-to-face whenever possible makes these conversations even more fruitful without the filter of a phone or screen to hide physical queues.

Reporting and Timeline Updates

Digital marketing such as SEO has always relied heavily on reporting to help guide the approach. But a lot of brand building work we do doesn’t really have a lot of metrics to prove how effective it is. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be regularly reported to our clients with the strategy, the intended results and an explanation of how they help build the brand’s foundation. These brand building pieces are the ones that are often neglected because they don’t have an immediate ROI, so the concept of building a foundation needs to be reiterated consistently.

We’ve worked hard to develop systems to keep timelines on the forefront of everything we do. Missing deadlines is a great way to lose your best clients. However, we’ve learned, thanks to a couple of good client freak outs, that setting client timelines is as important, if not more important than setting our own. For the most part, the tasks we require our clients to complete such as providing information, sharing feedback, and searching out assets are piled on top of their normal daily tasks. So helping them manage those tasks not only supports them but shows them that we can’t do our thing without their involvement. A missed deadline on their part means we need to move back the timeline. That’s okay with a lot of clients, but only if they’re aware of the ramifications.

The Perspective of Our Clients

It’s easy to live in a vacuum when you’re focused on multiple clients and multiple projects at any given time. But lack of innovation is the death of a creative agency. We had a freak out recently that lead to a trip to see our clients face-to-face. We came into the meeting with our arms wide open because we knew we had done exactly what we had been hired to do and that the results were exactly what was intended, but for whatever reason, this wasn’t enough…there must be more to the story.

Rather than coming into the meeting frustrated because we were being admonished for getting good results, we took the time prior to the conversation to understand why the client was frustrated and how we could pivot the approach to better solve their problem. Regardless of whether we had done what they originally asked us to do, they were changing what they needed. And because we approached it with their perspective in mind, the proposed pivot helped not only save our relationship with the client but improve the impact of the campaign.

And Finally…Push to be Better

There always needs to be a bit of tension in a client relationship. Not the kind of tension that causes arguments, the kind tension that holds up bridges (paraphrasing a quote from “2Bobs,” one of my favorite podcasts). That desire to please clients is one of the motivations to always be better. There’s nothing like a client freak out to remind you that if you want to keep this account, you’ve got to push to be better.

Brandt Hoekenga is the Co-CEO and Creative Director for TIV Branding
TIV Branding is a boutique branding firm in Sonoma County, California. We specialize in building brands by using traditional, social and digital channels in unison. If you would like to discuss a project or find out more about how we do what we do, please email us at