Aligning for Client Satisfaction

IStock_000009613557XSmallNext Monday I am moderating a panel on “Entrepreneurship” at RSA Conference, the world’s largest IT Security tradeshow (and a long-time client).  In preparation for the session, I’ve been having some brief 1:1 meetings with the panelists, all of whom are successful company founders.

One theme has threaded across all these calls: the need for ongoing customer validation.

As an entrepreneur, it is easy to get “stuck in the weeds” of running the business.  For as many decisions you may need to make about the company’s strategy, there could easily be a dozen small-bore decisions, e.g., “We’re running out of offices — where are we going to put that new exec’s desk?”

It’s important to rise above all that.  You don’t become an entrepreneur to play small ball.

As an entrepreneur myself, I try to continually raise the question, “What do MOST clients care the MOST about?” Invariably, as a PR agency, the answer has been “Media Coverage” although in recent years the meaning of “media coverage” has morphed due to Social Media: for some clients, “tweets count as coverage.”

So if MOST clients care MOST about “coverage,” we must ask ourselves: are we providing stellar training to the SHIFTers responsible for garnering the coverage?  are we scheduling specific blocks of time for each of these employees to work the phones/email?  are our pitching practices consistent across all teams?  are our monitoring systems up to snuff?  are our measurement guidelines properly aligned across all programs?  etc.

It’s not enough to ask these questions once, or even once per year.  Because “coverage” is so important to our clients, these are questions we really need to ask ourselves every month.

IStock_000003039589XSmallAnd it gets pretty tactical (because it needs to).  For example, on a semi-regular basis, I will gather the junior staff in a conference room and have them “Pitch the Principal.” I act as a jerky reporter/blogger and challenge each person in the room to pitch me on one of their clients, in front of their peers.  Each account pro is then “coached in the moment” by me, and by their colleagues, about how they can be more relevant and impactful.

Such sessions can be harrowing for newbies, yet we keep it positive and by the end, most folks agree it’s been invaluable.  Everybody wins in the end — especially the clients, who can be confident that the SHIFTers charged with carrying their banner to the media have been through the wringer!

I offer this as just one example of how agencies must keep a pulse on what’s important to clients.  Just as we abhor it when clients chase after shiny objects, we can’t make the same mistake; we must stay focused on what counts most, to most clients, and align our processes towards successful outcomes.

Meanwhile, yea, I’ve got to find a place to put that desk…

Posted on: February 26, 2010 at 10:03 am By Todd Defren
3 Responses to “Aligning for Client Satisfaction”


  • Emily Heeb says:

    You have driven home the most important thing PR professionals must remember in order to be successful and keep clients happy: it’s all about what people want. What do they care about? Why do they want to know about this or see this? If you lose sight of this, then your doomed because your clients will begin to see that a majority of their target audience is not paying attention to the brochure you are distributing. The simple solution to that problem: make it brochure that they care about. As a entrepreneur in the PR world, you do get drawn into things that have nothing to do with your clients and more to do with your house of business. But like you said, you must rise above it and look past it in order to hone in on what’s really important. If you are not connecting with the people your clients want you to connect with, then you are not doing the job that is asked of you. Not good. The clients and their wants and needs are what are important. Balance is key in being successful as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs in the PR field must balance their clients’ needs with their own business needs.

  • It’s the whole reason a business continues to exist … especially in the current economic cycle.

    Christine Hueber

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