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4 Roles Client Service Should Play in Serving Business with Chris Wallen, BAREFOOT: Show Notes & Transcript

Post | Jan 24, 2023

Welcome back to Marketing Smarts! From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini (that’s us) comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. We deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from our combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. We tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

In this episode, we’re talking client service with guest Chris Wallen, Director, Client Partnership at BAREFOOT. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and your other favorite podcast spots – follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re exercising your Marketing Smarts!

  • Episode Summary & Player
  • Show Notes
  • Marketing Smarts Summary
  • Transcript

Marketing Smarts: 4 Roles Client Service Should Play in Serving Business with Chris Wallen, BAREFOOT

It should go without saying that client service is important for your clients and your business. And we’ve seen a looooooot of good and bad execution. Client service should play the role of keeping the client in the room at all times, challenging the client’s beliefs and perspective, having a clear understanding of the business and its goals, and seeking opportunities to make the business stronger. But lots of issues can arise. What if client service leans in too much to what the client wants? They feel they’re being minimized? They keep getting asked to do only what the client wants? We wanted to resolve your worries with a thought leader in the space, so we welcomed on Chris Wallen. He’s the Director, Client Partnership at BAREFOOT, a marketing and advertising agency in Cincinnati that serves clients ranging from Fortune 10 companies to local nonprofits. This episode covers everything from clients to business goals. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • What roles should client service play in serving business?
  • How do you handle client service feeling like they’re being minimized?
  • What should you do if client service leans in too much to what the client wants?
  • How do you navigate client service continually getting asked to do only what the client wants?
  • Why should you keep the client in the room at all times?
  • What goes into challenging the client’s beliefs and perspectives?
  • How much should business goals play into client service?
  • What is psychological safety?

And as always, if you need help in building your Marketing Smarts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at:

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below:

Show Notes

  • 4 Roles Client Service Should Play in Serving Business with Chris Wallen, BAREFOOT
    • [0:00] Welcome to Marketing Smarts
    • [0:30] Anne Candido, April Martini
    • [0:36] What roles should client service (CS) play in serving business?
    • [1:17] P&G (Procter & Gamble)
    • [1:52] Agency
    • [2:06] Learn more about Chris on LinkedIn and at
    • [2:50] Keeping the client in the room at all times
    • [4:25] “4 Components of a Results-Driven Brief
    • [4:55] Creative Director (CD)
    • [10:11] Challenging the client’s beliefs and perspective
    • [13:35] ForthRight People
    • [16:02] Catch-22
    • [19:40] Having a clear understanding of the business and its goals
    • [24:31] Psychological Safety
    • [30:29] Seeking opportunities to make the business stronger
    • [39:09] Social Media (SM)
    • [44:43] Recap: What roles should client service play in serving business?
    • [45:35] Marketing Smarts is sponsored by Scott Mautz is a popular keynote speaker and #1 bestselling author whose latest book and talk Leading from the Middle helps middle managers dramatically increase their influence up, down, and across their organization. Want your company’s middle managers and leaders equipped to foster a high-performing organization? Want them inspired to drive the change and transformation that’s a challenging necessity moving forward? Go to to check out Leading from the Middle and all of Scott’s keynotes, trainings, courses, and books
    • In-the-Trenches
    • [46:28] We are currently having some issues with Client Service leaning too much into what the client wants and it is getting in the way of the work. What do you suggest?
    • [50:03] ABM (Assistant/Associate Brand Manager)
    • [55:23] We are having internal struggles with creative, strategy, and client service working together. It feels like the CS team perspective is being minimized. What do you suggest?
    • [59:36] Working From Home (WFH)
    • [1:01:44] We have tried everything to get the client to step back and let us do the work, but they continue to push the CS team to just “do what they are asking.” Help!
    • Final Thoughts
    • [1:11:11] What are Chris’s final thoughts? 
    • [1:12:37] Learn more about Chris on LinkedIn and at
    • [1:12:57] Recap: What roles should client service play in serving business?
    • [1:13:51] Make sure to follow Marketing Smarts on your favorite podcast spot and leave us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts
    • [1:13:57] Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
    • [1:14:08] Sign up to view all the ForthRight worksheets & tips for FREE!
    • [1:14:12] Shop our Virtual Consultancy

What is Marketing Smarts?

From brand-building and marketing veterans Anne Candido and April Martini comes a podcast committed to cutting through all the confusing marketing BS so you can actually understand how to take action and change your business today. They deep-dive into topics most would gloss-over, infusing real-world examples from their combined 35+ years of corporate and agency experience. They tell it how it is so whether you are just starting out or have been in business awhile, you have the Marketing Smarts to immediately impact your business.

How do I exercise my Marketing Smarts?

Thanks for listening to Marketing Smarts. Get in touch here to become a savvier marketer. 


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Anne Candido 0:02
This is Marketing Smarts – a podcast committed to helping you become a savvier marketing leader, no matter your level. In each episode, we will dive into a relevant topic or challenge that marketing leaders are currently facing. We will also give you practical tools and applications that will help you put what you learn into practice today. And if you missed anything, don’t worry, we put worksheets on our website that summarize the key points. Now, let’s get to it.

April Martini 0:29
Welcome to Marketing Smarts.

Anne Candido 0:31
I am Anne Candido

April Martini 0:32
and I am April martini, and today we’re going to talk about the four roles client service should play in best serving the businesses that they work on. And this is a really interesting one for me personally, because I’ve worked in many different agencies, as all of you have heard. And I’ve seen the good and the bad of this role, as well as just simply many different iterations based on each agency, and the evolution of the role over the years and how it’s looked over the course of time. And in my mind, it’s an essential role that bridges the client and agency relationship, but that’s only one and operates in accordance with what we’re going to discuss today on this episode.

Anne Candido 1:09
Yeah, and when this worked well, when I was at P&G, my client service team was an extension of me, which was extremely helpful in helping us get amount of capacity, as well as expertise. So we might not have had in our Lean teams and became the rallying cry at p&g to do more with less. Now I know that’s like a rallying cry a lot. But just remember, it started at P&G. But anyway, oh, here we go. That being the case. And it was that was when it actually was extremely beneficial. But when it was it, it was a lot of work for me to have to then manage my agency, which was supposed to be of service to me. But the whole intent here is to get really, really good work. And you get really, really good work when your client service team and your client themselves are working in collaboration against the same playbook. That’s what delivers really good work. Yes, I

April Martini 2:04
think that’s fair. All right. And that’s what we often like to do we have a special guest to join us in the discussion of this topic today. A friend of ours and a former coworker of mine, and that is Chris Wallen of barefoot. And, Chris, we would love if you would introduce yourself.

Chris Wallen 2:20
Yeah. Thank you. Hi, guys. It’s great to be here. I really appreciate the opportunity to join the podcast episode today. I’m Chris Wallen, Director of Client Partnership at BAREFOOT in Cincinnati.

April Martini 2:30
Awesome. All right. And like I said, Chris, well, I didn’t actually say this overtly, we both worked at lots of different agencies. So I think between that and and naysaying throughout this episode, we’ll have a good discussion,

Anne Candido 2:41
you know, you could count on me for that.

April Martini 2:44
Alright, and with that, let’s get into the four roles client service should play in serving business. And the first one is keeping the client in the room at all times. So in the intro, I referenced that bridge, right. So client service should play that bridge between the client and the agency. And this point is a direct result of that statement, the client cannot nor should they ever be physically in the room with the agency team at all times. Because this is counterproductive for everyone, that client has a day job outside of anything they’re doing with the agency and a whole host of responsibilities beyond that. So therefore, it is the role of the client service representative to be the client service representative in the room. And this really is a unique role, because it ensures that the client voice is loud and clear. But it also is appropriate to the expected scope of the work. And then in balance and consideration of that agency team. Can that be a tenuous balance? Does this get to be a tricky role? Absolutely. This is not just what you say it’s also very much in the finesse of how you say it. And really what it comes down to is that client service team is responsible for translating what the client says to them into what does that mean for the work and then holding everyone accountable to the expectations that are set. I will pause here for one second and say remember the episode on the brief. If you don’t go and find that episode, we’re not going to focus on that here. But this is really the crux of where we can hold everyone accountable. So really important that you can deliver a strong brief. And then also, it’s really comes down to whether the client service team has a strength and being able to sift through all the various conversations because they’re on the front lines with that client right, and bring back what is applicable in a clear, concise and relevant way. Being traceable is super clear. I always have this one creative director in my head who would say, April, what is the one thing what is the one thing that you need us to deliver on and Chris knows who that person is? as well, and he would be so happy to hear his his mantras still in my mind today. But really, it’s about getting to that conciseness that allows everyone to be marching toward the same thing. And the client service team will know if they’re doing their job, when they get some pushback from creative and strategy on being too restrictive. That means they’re probably putting the right parameters in place to get what the client is looking for out of this work when the client is not in the room. Chris, what do you think

Chris Wallen 5:28
I couldn’t agree more. The role of keeper of relationship here is such a balance of its art and science and a lot of ways. And it’s a lot of what keeps me coming back to my role at various agencies in Cincinnati, or just even from a day to day standpoint, because it truly makes every day different. You mentioned it earlier client keeping clients in the room, they’d love to be in the room, I think more often than they are they find their agency meetings to differ. Ideally, the number of meetings that I’ve been a part of that have been have been dubbed the best part of their day, right, the most creative exercise or the most strategic discussions may be from some of the more fun activities that they get to do is kind of an honor to represent in a lot of ways. But it’s also quite a responsibility that other agency members don’t really share the same burden, if you will, or expectation to really manage that.

Anne Candido 6:30
Yeah, I agree with everything except for that the client actually wants to be in the room more often.

Chris Wallen 6:36
This may be an an thing, and we’ll see and

Anne Candido 6:38
and but you know, I think the point is well taken though that it can be the creative exercises can be fun, right? And a lot of people like to participate in those and like, I tell April, and she rolls her eyes at me, it’s like I didn’t realize I was actually a creative to actually left P&G

April Martini 6:54
Yeah, I’m rolling my eyes again, you can’t see me but okay, yes,

Anne Candido 6:56
yeah, got one. But I, that’s the part of my work that we do that I really, really enjoy. And so I can understand why people would be drawn to that. But I also really understand how tenuous it is, and the discipline that needs to be put in place in order to be able to manage both sides of that and keep everybody happy, because I’ve seen it skew both ways. And I think that people who do this role really, really well had certain characteristics. And I feel like this was thematic across the board, which is they had business savvy, so they could really understand the business needs, they could think highly strategically. So it wasn’t just about doing the work was what was the role and the impact of the work, they had a ton of integrity, like you could always count on them does say what they were going to go do and do what they were gonna go that they said that they’re gonna go do. They were learners by nature, they’re curious by nature, they wanted to understand how people tick, tell people, what motivated people and how to put those things together and in ways that like, drove those relationships that you you mentioned. And I think the most important part is that they actually like people. And I think that’s like a funny thing that surveys like, well done, it’s like, but I can’t tell you how many people were put in this role of Client Services that actually I don’t think actually really even like people. So I would say, you know, for as a first line of defense, I would think that your person that you’re putting to face to your clients should probably be someone who actually likes people.

April Martini 8:26
Yeah, I mean, I think you bring up some really good points there. But I do think there’s a profile of person and having worked with Chris several different times in the past. I feel like if I had to choose between client service and strategy work, I pick the work. I like the work I and all the characteristics that you said here are spot on. And actually I like I like most people, let’s just leave it at that it was different. People like you, April, not all the time. But I think where the magic would happen, and part of the reason that I wanted Chris to be on this episode is because we had the same personality characteristics or personal brand characteristics and who we were. But it was very clear that I was chasing what was exactly right for the work in my mind. And Chris was always the one that was chasing what was right for the client and that relationship. And when we could find the crux of that together. That was where the beauty would happen in the work. I don’t know, Chris, what do you think? keep me honest. Yeah,

Chris Wallen 9:27
I think that that’s fair. And there’s a certain balance between like, expectations, I think and follow through and delivery. And from a client service standpoint, having that having that be the focus, like being driven by the right thing is always like the right thing to do. Having a counterpart or you know, like collaborators on both sides that can be focusing on different areas of the work to allow for success across across all the work on behalf of your client. Like you said, it takes Client Service to a whole new level when you talk about a team approach to it, and having somebody that can be kind of out as that spearhead,

April Martini 10:06
yeah, totally agree. All right. And that brings us to our next point, which this one gets a little sticky, but we’ll chat through it here. So number two for the four roles client service should play in serving business is challenging the client’s beliefs and perspective. So we talk a ton about respectful debate on this show. And we would be remiss not to start here, because challenging client beliefs and perspectives is definitely an art form. Chris has already talked about the art and the science of this role. This, the art comes into play in a really big way here, because you have to do it in a really considered way. And you have to make sure that on the onset, you’re able to have some vulnerable, but respectful relationships, conversations rather, with the client, because you have a relationship established with them. But with that said, and that is sort of the foundation, this is hugely important. And you cannot shy away from this. And the reason I like what you just said, Chris, about kind of the higher level, that’s what we’re talking about here. So what the client provides, you’ve already said has to be interpreted by client service, and then distill down to what the agency team needs to meet the objectives of the work successfully. Right. The other aspect, though, is being able to push back on the client when the agency has a different point of view, or ideas for what should be accomplished. We always say clients no more about their business than us as an agency or agency folks could ever dream of knowing the agency or the good ones at least know a little about a lot of different things. And that complementary knowledge is what gets to the very best solutions because the client and their business every day and US agency folks, and Chris, you said it every day is different, right? So we see tons of different industries and tons of different trends and various degrees of clients. And so it’s the idea of bringing that collective knowledge and those learnings into the conversation. And then leveraging what the client knows about their business. And Chris and I actually had a client and I referenced them all the time where we were sitting, and we were presenting work to him at the local coffee Emporium downtown. And he was kind of like nodding along and whatever. And he kind of looked up and he was like, you know, the beauty of this is that I know so much about my business. But it’s such a limited space. Right? And I do hand motions. And I don’t know why I do this. I’ve referenced this before on the podcast, you can’t see me, right? What are you saying? Like I have an in depth understanding about the ins and outs of my business. But I only know my business. Whereas you know, a little bit about my business, but also a little bit about a lot of other things. And so he was seeing the value of the work in that moment. Because what we were bringing forward, they would have never gotten to on their own. But we were able to collectively get there because we learned enough, but we respected their business. We did debate with them on things. And we actually had to change course a couple of times from a client service perspective, you know about who was in the room? And were we there was he helping to sell it in and there were all these nuances to the relationship. But at the end of the day coming together and having that respectful debate with each other. And what we’re bringing to the table is what got to really good work. And I’ll say one more thing, and then I’ll pass it on to Chris. But the truth of the matter is, is that there are some clients that don’t like to be challenged. And at fourth rate people, we’re in a position now where we just decline. Yeah, because it’s just not worth it at the end of the day, because they don’t want to be pushed back on. They want us to deliver whatever the thing is they want delivered at the end of the day. And we just say if we can’t make it better than it currently is, by bringing our branding and marketing expertise to the table, we’re just not going to do it. Exactly. So over to you, Chris.

Chris Wallen 13:52
Yeah, I think olden days are when client services not really like operating at its best, you’re starting to think about things like having a yes man or a paper passer, that kind of thing. The art that you mentioned of client service, I think is really being able to sit can be really found in this one and being able to sit with your clients think critically, and push back on behalf of not just your team who wants to do what they want to do what they’ve set out to hopefully do. But also to really consider the client’s goals and the outcome that like is right for them. I talk a lot about with my teams connecting dots, and ideally playing chess while others are playing checkers. So there is a balance I think there there is a give and take and there’s a long list, right? This is a relationship, business or relationship. It’s people working together. So having that sort of long term view and like goal for success for your client is number one, but also recognizing like you said that that sometimes they don’t have the answers. There’s a reason they’re coming to the partner with you and with your team. I also feel that it’s it’s crucial and a client service role to be able to recognize and understand when to tap others on your team for subject matter expertise. When do you fold? When do you go all in like to continue with that metaphor on something that is truly meaningful or different or really feeling strongly about it being the right thing for them that they haven’t gotten to yet on their own?

Anne Candido 15:23
Yeah. And I think that’s really, really important. And I think it comes down to knowing your client and what motivates them. Like, it might come as a surprise, but I’d love to be challenged. I mean, I did. I mean, because I was always wanting to push the status quo. And if you could think about the brands I was working on me tell you to like what they were saying. Not necessarily the only time I did not like what they’re saying is when they I thought they were playing it too safe. Yeah, right. And so when I get the same thing that I expected, I might, and that’s where it gets to the point where it’s like, if I could have done this, what do I need you for? Right. And so it becomes like that kind of like that catch 22. And so it there’s a constant demand for the agency to add value. And here’s where I think an agency can add a ton of value is by thinking above and beyond what they’re being asked to deliver. But I what I used to see a lot was that they would just deliver what was asked, because that was the path of least resistance in order to make the client happy, right? So I say yes, make the client happy. You need to listen to the client, you need to give them what they want. But then also give them something that you feel would be a value that maybe they haven’t thought about. Again, this might be something that you actually have to invest in, you may not get paid for it. But like, you have to think about what kind of relationship you want to have with your client, is there going to be something that’s like, Alright, I’m in and out, I got I gave you your thing. You know, now, what’s the next thing? Or is it be like, I need you because you’re bringing value to my business that I can’t deliver on my own?

April Martini 16:50
Yeah, I mean, I think that all of that is really true. And we’ve talked, we’ve used tenuous balance throughout this conversation. I think we’re gonna keep coming back to that, probably. But I do think that, you know, jokes aside, Procter and Gamble is one of the most difficult clients to work on for a lot of agencies. And I think what you would see where clients are, where agencies rather, would start to look like they were phoning it in is because they felt like, well, there’s a formula we’ve tried, we’ve taken a run at it, it’s never going to work, they’re never going to buy it. And I understand that point. I think that’s fair, too. But I also on the other side of that, however, I think that there can be fault on the agency for that as well, because I think, to Chris’s point about the olden days, which I chuckled at that expression. Because we’re not exactly 100. But anyway, the idea of the olden days was that the role of client service and this is what I meant at the beginning, where it has evolved considerably, and it is elevated considerably, is that if you had just a paper pusher on the side of the agency, then that’s when you did get that work that just checked the box, but it never really inspired. And I think the key thing you said in that in your commentary is, if I could have done this myself, what am I hiring you for? And I think that is the danger of what both of you talked about when we don’t have an elevated client service experience.

Chris Wallen 18:17
Okay. Yeah, I would just also like to underscore relationship development along the way during this process is crucial for that right for talking about pushing back on client beliefs or, or challenges in general, having the ability to clearly communicate and kind of that equity built up to say, like, you know, put her foot down very often, or we don’t like, go this direction, very often, we feel strongly and here’s why the less transactional that relationship has been in the past, the more likely you are to be able to have a productive and intentional conversation about about a different outcome. And that can make all the difference in the world between, in my experience between just a like, Yeah, we did exactly what you said, or, actually, we completely disagree with it, we interpreted the brief a different way. And now we’re in this like uncomfortable situation. And unwinding. That is an even tougher thing that is probably for a different episode about tough conversations.

Anne Candido 19:14
We have

Chris Wallen 19:16
not that we grieve setting expectations and that sort of thing, but but expectation management and just and just truly building that relationship along the way through the work and through like, human interaction is crucial in this process.

April Martini 19:31
Yeah, I think all of that is fantastic point. And I think what both of you said leads nicely to the next point, which is having a clear understanding of the business and its goals. So it doesn’t come out of left field when it is brought up. And you have the credibility as the client service person to be able to have those conversations and build a meaningful relationship. And then on the other side of that, if we are bringing work that’s quote, unquote, out of left field, but it’s grounded in something Then Anne and her team, I’m just going to keep making her the client in the conversation. Even if they don’t go for it, they can respect how you got there. And I think that’s the point of this point, right. So where I think it falls apart, and what I think is an agency misstep that I actually still see happen is when the client service person does not have a strong understanding of the business and its goals. And they’re working at an agency because they love the creative solutions. And so therefore, when these things come up, and they’re supposed to be the client representative in the room, they get too caught up in the excitement of the work. And it becomes at the sacrifice of understanding the client’s business or keeping those goals in the room. And so then when the work gets presented back, it’s seen as tone deaf by the client, and then the client service person doesn’t have any footing to fight back, because they haven’t done the work to be able to have that strong understanding of the business goals, because those goals should be the success criteria or evaluation criteria for any work. I mean, I’ll mention the brief one more time here, it’s those things need to be outlined, it’s, we can have a creative solution. Absolutely. That is what we’re being hired to do. However, if we’re not going to be able to to use your words, Chris, connect the dots and tell the client the narrative or the story of how we got from where we are to where we want to go based on those goals, then it’s not even really worth presenting that work. Because then it becomes an objective conversation of I like this, I don’t like this, or the client can’t make it there with you, because you’re not giving them the foundation of that storyline so that they clearly understand. And I have to say, I always think about it as kind of a three prong stool. And we started on this path a little bit before Chris. But the very best teams I’ve worked on have highly strategic business minded individuals on the client service team, on the brand strategy team, and on the Creative Design Thinking team. And that magic happens when those three individuals have put in the work, have the savvy and the acumen, and to use your some of your criteria, the the curiosity and the lifelong learning and the desire to do the right thing. And all of that is working together. But they also understand their roles on the team and respect the roles of each other. And that’s where I think you get to really outstanding work and where you can keep those relationships going and building on them. Because the client is delighted every time because what you come back is elevating on itself and connecting between other things you have done, and it makes their lives easier and more fun, like we were saying before, because they’re excited for those meetings, because they know that what’s going to come back is going to be something that couldn’t have done on their own. Do you think Chris?

Chris Wallen 23:00
Yeah, the thing you touched on there at the end, that true magic along alongside with with the client allows you to really accelerate progress, right, accelerate, like, what they set out to do faster than they probably were going to be able to do it on their own, whether it be organizational change, that they’re working against a significant rebrand, a brand new market entry, any any significant project and even little wins as well stacking things up, right to help make them look good. On their side. The other thing that I noted, it really allows for is anticipation. And when you can anticipate what the feedback is going to be, you can plan for it right? You can prepare for what your next steps are, you can prepare for step 234 response? Should the client want to go down that path? And if not, you’ve been bettered by the preparation that you have there. Again, knowing your client and developing relationship for how they’re going to respond. when’s the right time to play the big card versus play it more conservatively, perhaps. But having that Headstart allows for a different level, I think of comfort on both sides of the table, and a different level of transparency in your conversation. And that’s really what helps drive the work forward, I think day to day between clients and agencies.

Anne Candido 24:19
Yeah, and I’ll just build on that by saying I think it’s so super critical to establish a culture of psychological safety. For feedback. This

April Martini 24:26
is your buzzword lately.

Anne Candido 24:27
It is I just read Adam. But I think it’s really I think the reason why I keep using it is because I find it such a struggle in so many situations where if this was there, it would make things go so much easier, and produce so much, like better progress to use Chris’s words. I mean, the thing is, is and I lived this many, many, many times where the agency would be like, we just want direct feedback. Just give it to us out Don’t put it in the Shi T sandwich, don’t say shy, don’t like, you know, tell us you like the work, but then, you know, leave all these options open and let’s work these options, but he actually didn’t really like it. But then when you were direct, and you were told him, this didn’t meet my expectations, I don’t I mean, the work isn’t good enough, you would get this whole emotional dynamic going on, which usually meant, and I’m not saying this is all agencies, but it happened on more than one occasion, or different agencies, where that would travel up, and it would come back down and to be like, you’re not facilitating collaboration. I’m like, What do you mean, I gave feedback? Isn’t it my business? Aren’t they working for me. And so I think from my standpoint, or from a client standpoint, when I was at PNG, I, it was really important to be able to provide that direct feedback, because that is the way that you get to the result quicker, that works for everybody and makes everybody successful. Now, the feedback has to begin in a respectful way. But then on the agency side, I think it’s really, really important that they feel like they can give feedback to I mean, it’s so that you can they can tell you listen, you now told us and told us to go back five times, five times, and you’re still not happy. What is it? What is what are we missing instead of having to dance around and go back and waste your time about trying to find another rock that was one of my colleagues said that’s like, No Go Fund is a rock? No, no, that that that rock a different rock, you know, and you but you still have no idea what the heck the rock is, because it’s such an obscure thing, right? So it’s kind of like the I know what I’ll know when I see I know what I see it. Yeah, that’s my other favorite wine, right? Or like, Well, we were really expecting a lot of creativity in this and we just weren’t getting it like, well, we gave you creativity. But now you don’t want to buy it because it doesn’t meet these other goals. Right. So what is the priority here? So I think if you can establish a level psychological safety, you can have the more honest conversations that allow you to progress the work in a much more productive way. Does best on both sides. And that doesn’t, not at the detriment of the relationship by any stretch. I mean, I think it can be done in a very respectful way. If you have that respect established, which I think is the core of the relationship that you need to build.

April Martini 27:13
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s I mean, I joke because I’ve heard you say psychological.

Anne Candido 27:16
I’ve said it doesn’t it is my thing right now.

April Martini 27:19
So yeah, so does your thing. But I mean, I think the idea of it is exactly right. And you know, we engaged Chris recently for some feedback on some things we were working on, I’m because again, had the client service person around to look at what’s going on, right. And he got to see how the sausage was made between the two of us. And the reaction was kind of like, holy cow. First of all, I can see the value of the partnership, right. But I think what you just articulated is, we are so direct with each other in the feedback on the work, we’ve reached the point of what you’re, you’re making the point of here, right? Because

Anne Candido 27:54
on both sides, logical safety, it’s Sophie,

April Martini 27:57
no, I’m not saying it again, on both sides, the relationship is so respectful. And we know that we’re just trying to get to the best work. And when we first started operating as quick as we can, and that’s where we make our margins. We’re small, we’re nimble, you know, but we are bringing our brains and our experience to the table in the most objective way possible, knowing that we’re aligned on what is best for the client. So I mean, you know, Chris, got to see some of our back and forth, and I’ll let you comment on this. But my take away from your commentary to me was kind of like how that was awfully direct, but I see how it works. But anyway, I’ll let you talk. But the point is, you know, when you can get there, you really do you get there faster, and it’s so much better.

Chris Wallen 28:40
Yeah, you guys do get there faster and better. And the faster thing is real, like getting to see how that sausage was made. You cut through a lot of that swirl, which inadvertently is on behalf of your clients, right, which at the end of the day, helps progress their goals and objectives. Even more. So something that you guys are also talking about, maybe just think client service can really elevate this process, right, by having a clear understanding of the business and their goals. Client Service doesn’t have to just sit at their desk and wait until an email pops in right or wait until their phone rings. There are things that they can be doing that that we are doing, that may go unseen largely, while the team is doing the work on behalf of the client and on behalf of the team. You can be out there engaging your client about what’s new, different changing right to help continue inform the work, resting your laurels on when and where and how the project was briefed and expecting that nothing is happening moving, shifting changing, or before you get to a client review is is foolish, silly and unnecessary. treating them like a human and like they sat in the meeting that talked about their latest forecast or their latest goals that are not being hit can really impact some of the ideas that you’re putting forward as an agency or as You know, just to solve their their challenge, developing that relationship, and understanding what their business is going through what their goals are the team as an organization can only further that work together at the same time. So it is an always on sort of function in that way as well.

April Martini 30:19
I think that is amazingly well said, and you’re doing our job for us here because it marries quite well to the fourth point, which is seeking opportunities to make the business stronger. And I love what you said about the always on. And I think that that is where client service done right can pay for their themselves in spades, right, because I think we still in the agency world are working against the paper pusher, the project manager, the all facilitate the meetings and bring the agendas and the bagels and whatever. I think that role was that and sometimes it was the agency, and sometimes it was the moment in time. But I think the Always On aspect allows the client service team to meaningfully participate on both sides and be perceived to be highly, highly capable and savvy. And also, I think it when it’s done through this lens of this point about making the business stronger, it’s bringing all the pieces together in the most meaningful way. And so I think you’re exactly right. I mean, part of what we were always fighting against, and I know Ian has a perspective on this, too, was getting all the knowledge, we needed to do the work. And so asking for a seat at the table, right? But even if you’re just allowed to be on the shareholder phone calls, or whatever and you’re listening in, you should always absolutely be thinking about how am I going to take what I’m hearing here through the lens, I hear it as the representative on the agency side, and bringing that forward or bringing that back or, you know, bringing that to my team. So they understand, like you said, the shift that has happened, you know, our clients can be super stressed out because they’re down X points or the market has done whatever or, you know, I heard that this brand is going to be under fire. So we know there’s going to be some tension and then on the other side, going back to the client and saying I heard X, Y and Z. And we’re concerned and so therefore we’ve proactively done some digging based on our expertise to bring something back to you. And I think that idea of being that liaison and also bringing back to the client things that they wouldn’t think about not that are like so pie in the sky and insane that they’re like, are you on crack? How many drinks did you have when you brought this back to us right or thought this was great. But really through that lens of being able to see the business where it is keep track of where it is and where it’s going and what those needs really look like. And Chris, I know you and I had a partnership on a local financial company for several years when we were at the last agency. And that relationship, quite frankly, before we got there was in danger of being lost. And what we were able to do and to build in partnership with the client, to me was the very best of understanding and I’ll use your card analogy of you know when to go all in and when to pull back and when to tutor both the client and our teams on why it was the right time, or it was not the right time. And when I think about where that client was when I got there and the work we were doing and where it was when we left. I mean, we were doing installations in the building, and it’s a super conservative company, right to hang things from their ceiling before we built that trust. And it seems like a silly thing, right? But it extended the campaign. It got people excited. It built savvy and swagger. It got visibility for that team, it showed that they were doing new things and proving their worth in the organization, all the things that we’re talking about here. And you know, maybe we didn’t always get the credit, right? And maybe it wasn’t like, Oh, hey, Chris, and April and team brought this forward for us. But it wasn’t about that because we were doing the right thing for the business and doing it in a way that the business in the team was able to come along and feel comfortable while also being willing to be pushed where needed.

Chris Wallen 34:19
You talked about it earlier. Also, this idea of clients really knowing their business really, really, really well. Right. And the expectation is you understand my business. Also. They’re in it in a different way than their agency partners are. At the end of the day, you can get very close you can read all the things you can have the conversations you can do the customer research, the stakeholder interviews, all of that. Your clients will always know the ins and the outs of their organization at a different level. However, that means they don’t have time for something else. Right, and finding what those things are and then connecting them not an age Just like, Hey, we’re selling widgets today, which one do you want to buy, but figuring out which one probably is pre fit, and makes the most sense, and why is something that can allow, I think, agency teams to feel really confident in what they’re doing or to to explore breakthrough ideas, but also clients to feel be included and feel really successful about where they can go. There’s also this kind of like, Give and Take dynamic to a relationship where the clients can lead and follow, I think you’ve guys talked quite a bit about it. That forthright in terms of bringing their teams along training their teams and their people, helping them understand why you’re doing, what you’re doing choices that are being made, and where it can go, implications all of that. It translates to them. I think, in a very an end, you should confirm or deny this, maybe, but it translates them that, like you do care about it. And you are worthy and able to be trusted in a different way, not just as a delivery mechanism for like what the brief said, or not just in a like, yeah, you’re gonna do exactly the steps one through three, just the way we talked about. But in a way that like the outcome is in my best interest. My team’s best interest in my company or brand’s best interest.

Anne Candido 36:18
I love what you just said. And I think it first starts with psychological safety. Oh, my giddy Just kidding. Just kidding. People should

April Martini 36:24
be starting a drinking game. Yeah.

Chris Wallen 36:26
keeping a tally.

Anne Candido 36:28
Tally? Because yeah, it’ll definitely benefit you later. So no, I in all seriousness, I love what you just said. And yes, I totally agree. And that goes back to what I was saying in the intro is like, what else works really well, you see your client service team as an extension of yourself? Yep. Right, they become a trusted adviser, they become the person who can see around corners or become the person who could be more proactive because you’re in it every day. And a lot of times, when you’re in it every day, it’s really hard to come out of the weeds and see the forest through the trees. So you have somebody who has kind of being that extra eyes and ears and, and brain that you just don’t have time to be or maybe that’s not where your focus is. And then that very moment. So when they add capacity, they’re added capacity in a meaningful way, in a way that’s going to be able to provide a complete purview of your business and, and help your business. Now, I’ll give a couple caveats to that one is can’t help yourself? Well, no. And I think when I say this, you’re going to agree, so

April Martini 37:25
I always do, that’s why I have to get my dig in before we can go there. That’s totally

Anne Candido 37:29
fair. So I’ll say two things. Two caveats. One is, is that when you’re bringing these proactive, you call them like pie in the sky, but like, call it like, you know, a trend report, or here’s, here’s how we’re seeing around corners, or your what’s going on in the market, or what’s going on in your industry or what your competition is doing. You need to make it actionable for your client. Totally fair, this is the biggest issue I always have is like it wasn’t in the thinking it I haven’t personally, I really appreciate to think and like I said, I love to be challenged, I’d love to have that perspective. I just didn’t know what to go do with it. Yeah, at that point. And at that point, it became a proposal, well, we’ll go think about it more, if you give us money to go think about it more. And I’m like, I don’t know what to do with that. Like, I don’t even know how to go scope that I don’t have budget for that. So it became kind of like a holding, you know, holding the knowledge hostage until we kind of quote unquote, got more money kind of thing. And so that’s the thing that would just be very, very careful that if you’re going to play that role, I’m not saying you need to do all the work, and you need to invest all your time and all your agency resources and flushing the whole thing out and giving them it in like a little bow. But you have to give enough that says, here’s how we would action it, this is what we would go do with it. And this is how it connects back to your business. And this is what we think the impact could be. And here’s kind of like what we think the work might kind of look like so given enough for your client to be able to say, Oh, got it. I see what we can potentially do. And sometimes it’s new work. And sometimes it’s just shifting the current work. Yeah. Or like, you know, if especially like you’re talking about maybe a social strategy, it’s just like, Well, we were kind of doing these pillars, but now based on this, you might want to do these pillars, it’s a shift. So make sure your recommendations are actionable to the extent that your client could actually take action because they don’t have enough time to figure that out for themselves. And I’ll say the other thing is like, I like what you said about the fact of your agency partners, kind of being in the know and I think it’s really important that you give them some level of access so they can be in the know whether it’s on a stakeholder call or whether it’s in some sort of weekly meeting that you have with them. The thing that I started to get really I saw this coming irritated by isn’t when my agency was start charging me for that opportunity. Right there is some level of expectation that is like okay, if we’re going to have a weekly call or set up a bi weekly call, I expect that to be part of the fee. Sure. That’s part of doing the work. If you want to be more in the know that is your productivity in that you should be investing in order to be a better part. They’re just like on a client site, even though it doesn’t seem necessarily like that all the time, I’m investing additional time energy to pre work, a lot of things that are going on or you’re going to share, getting alignment, getting ambassadorship for what’s going on before you share in order to make the work actually be more conducive to if there’s any kind of conflicts or any kind of like, hesitation, I might, you know, people’s hot button. So doing a lot of pre work. So there’s a level of investment on both sides, I think needs to happen in order for this piece to work. I also do caution that the agency needs to also manage how much they actually need to be involved, because there is an element where it’s just like, You know what, maybe I don’t need to be involved that much, like knowing too much is almost as dangerous is knowing too little. So you need to balance that. So alright, I’m done.

April Martini 40:51
No, I mean, I think that’s all fair. Like I said, I have to get my dig in first, I could call that being on your Tide box a little bit there. But my type,

Anne Candido 40:57
I had to pick a different box

Chris Wallen 41:00
of soap to pick from.

Anne Candido 41:03
And not a big competitor, you have to pick a different kind of soap.

April Martini 41:05
Oh, okay. Anyway, but no, I mean, I think that that is really fair. And you know, we’ve talked a lot about when to invest. I mean, one thing I will say is, it’s tricky, because depending on how their agency is run at the top sort of sometimes dictates what level of investment you can give, or or do. I mean, I was a big ask for forgiveness, not permission, because I felt like if I came back and showed the results, instead of asking for something that maybe they didn’t totally have their head around, that was not a good approach. But the other thing I was thinking, as both of you were talking was this idea of as an extension of the team, the agency is still a vendor. And I know that that is a word that we don’t like on the agency side. But my point of saying that is we’re supposed to be making our clients lives easier. And, Chris, I appreciate what you said about forthright people in the way that we operate, because a lot of what we’ve built on our side is very much with that front and center. And it’s not only this is the most fun they have in the day, or this is you know, a creative exercise or those types of things. But it struck a chord with me when you said, you know, we’re really about helping them understand not only what we’re presenting, but what it can mean for them. And then also and like you said, What to go and do with it. All of that is so important. And I think that there has to be a little bit of grace allowed on both sides. And if you have the relationship, I think it does exist of all go to bat for you agency on this side. And you know, client will go to bat and will invest here. And I also think if you can have those transparent conversations along the way, then you stop getting into those situations where it’s like, I’m gonna bring you this thinking, but I’m not going to tell you what to do with it. I mean, that’s the opposite of what we’re talking about with psychological safety, or really strong relationships.

Chris Wallen 43:05
I was almost forgetting what the what the term of the day was. But thank you for bringing that back. There is there is something here that you’re talking about, you’re talking about just increasing enhancing, how meaningful this experience this work can be right and, and the engagement of like two teams working together. That takes a lot of transparent conversation that takes a lot of consideration and being intentional with actions, scoping, behaviors, like delivery, all of that. It all works in concert, and it takes a lot of that discomfort. I think off the table. When you’re really humming and you nail that other side of it. With clients. It does make it I had jotted down right before you said it and being an extension of our team. If I had a dime for every time I heard that would be I’d have several times. If I had many dimes, if I had $100. For every time it was truly followed through on I would have maybe a couple $100 You know, I would Yeah, I think that’s fair. There’s a walk the walk on both sides of this thing that makes for just a different level of engagement. And then it’s less about dollars and deliverable and more about roadmaps towards a vision of success or you know, like solutions to really change or impact an organization.

April Martini 44:38
I think that’s extremely well said. Alright, so just to recap, four roles client service should play in serving your business one keeping the client in the room at all times. The client service team represents the client when they are not present and ensures that they have a voice when the agency is working on things internally. Number two, challenging the client’s beliefs and perspective where respectfully, of course, this is where we get at respectful debate. But this allows the agency to bring what they do best to the table to meet the client expertise and depth of knowledge of their business. Number three, having a clear understanding of the business and its goals, the client is the expert in their business. But that does not excuse the client service team from having a strong understanding to inform the work and the recommendations. And finally, number four seeking opportunities to make the business stronger, the client service team should be able to make relevant recommendations on ways to creatively improve the business and bring new thinking to the table. And in our next segment, which is in the trenches, this is where we give real world examples specific to industries and situations but with broad application, so any of you listening can digest and put them into action. Number one, we’re currently having some issues with client service, leaning too much into what the client wants, and it’s getting in the way of the work. We’ve talked about this a little bit already, or maybe a lot. What do you suggest? So first, we just want to make sure that this is actually the case versus the creative or strategy teams pushing back for the sake of wanting to do super creative work. And I say that in quotes. Remember, again, third time, I’m going to say the brief and everyone aligning to the brief during Yeah, I guess that’s a secondary drink. Maybe it’s shots versus sips. I don’t know. If you believe that this is not the case that there actually is an issue, then I would guess that the role of client service needs to be clarified. And this means that they under understand that while their role is to keep the client in the room, it is not to be an order taker, we’ve talked about that on this episode, and do just whatever the client wants. And this is why we bring it back to knowing the business and then mastering the art of pushing back or debating where appropriate, it can be super tricky, especially when you have a highly opinionated client on one side, or one that’s not super sophisticated on the other side, and both present unique problems. So on the opinionated side, and an RD said this, if you’re doing safe work, what do I need you for, you got to be able to remind the client that they hired the agency for reason number one, and that because of that reason, the agency has to be able to do their job to the conversation and commentary we just gave on that last point, right? Otherwise, it’s not worth hiring us or paying us now that can be a very tricky thing. For three people we do say things like that, at all agencies. And especially if you’re on a client service team and an agency owned by someone else, just be careful on how that comes out. Right. But what you’re trying to counteract is strong clients are tough, they are really, really hard. And when they get aggressive or even, you know, strong in their language, I’m trying to be politically correct here, it can be really hard, because you are a vendor, like I said, to push back, and especially if you’re working for someone else, but they’ve got to be reminded that they’re paying you money to do your job, and they’re paying you good money to do your job. So in some cases, they do need to back off and let the client service person manage that. On the lack of sophistication side. This requires the agency to do some education, and help the client get comfortable with the work and what it should entail and what it will mean for them. You can’t allow them to be too safe. Because every time I have seen that happen, the agency ends up shooting themselves in the foot. Because guess what, when said client is given that feedback by their organization, who do you think they’re going to blame for that if they’re in self preservation mode? You right? And so this is where that education becomes really important. And Anna and I have been through a lot of this lately and actually, to the positive side where the clients have come and said, We don’t know how to do this, can you help us, which means we’re finding our right matches, right. But it is wanting to understand and taking the consultation and education and understanding what needs to happen. Because in a lot of these cases, people are on marketing teams, and they’ve never had marketing experience. They’ve like happened into a role or they proactively said I want to do this, but there’s no one helping them along and helping them understand what that means. And say on the brand side. I mean, I remember working with Procter it was you know, they cut out a layer of folks. And so then the brand new ABMs would have no one to look to for like three levels. And do you think that person that just lost some of their support is going to spend their all their time with an ABM? No. So I remember one in particular, and I feel like now we’re talking about drinking this whole episode, when we would have him for happy hour on Fridays when we were in Interbrand and help him through so that he would understand what his role entailed, and how he could help us and how we could help him. So anyway, lots of commentary there. And, Chris, I’ll turn it over to you for your perspective on this one.

Chris Wallen 49:50
Yeah, I think there’s a certain level of agency teams knowing themselves first right and really knowing what they’re bringing to the table and who like a lot of times we’re finding ourselves mapping our clients, service people to clients. And ideally doing that with intention of how that fits going to work right personality types or type of work, right? Is it very executional? Is it very strategic Is it is it very innovative, who’s got the right communication style? To me, a lot of it goes back to like learning your client taking the time, not your clients business, but that human being, how they tick, how they operate, how they like to receive communication, how they’re using their channels, you know, like, we talk a lot about, like, I got a text, relationship with your clients, if you are like that might be really meaningful. If your clients are texting you during a meeting, like because you are, you know, in a Zoom meeting, or you know, not in person, that’s either a really good thing or a really bad thing, depending on what they’re delivering for you. However, you have arrived to a place where they feel comfortable sharing information with you lifetime in a way that is like one to one. And you have carved out a space for that. Getting to the other end. The other side of the spectrum, getting agency teams comfortable with the fact that this is your leader, this is your representative and your representation to build your reputation is something that everyone can help with and being considerate of that approach. How do we build any quick wins along the way to start to get people comfortable with progress that’s being made, versus you said it earlier, like the blackbox of how the work is done, and we’ll, we’ll go off in the room and won’t really tell you and we’ll come back and present it and just be done. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore. And I think we’re where it’s done really, really well. Back to that meaningful component on both sides. It changes what the outcomes can be in a really positive way. There are tough clients, you mentioned it and like it’s for sure, they tick to in a certain way. And really like spending some time to unlock that not just like grin and bear it is something that also matters, right? Like it, they can be your biggest advocates, if you can crack them, they might be tough nut to crack. And there’s a reason for that they’ve arrived or they’ve achieved what they’ve achieved for a reason. And spending spending your time and your attention. Like we were talking about earlier of investment, outside of the work itself, to bring tangible new thinking that maybe you’re not scoped for or that maybe will relate to something to them on a more personal note, really finding those connection points, I think can help in this area.

Anne Candido 52:38
Yeah, all that I definitely can agree with. And I sympathize with the position that the client service person is in because it’s like two different dances on both sides. I mean, you’re like at the tango with the you know, your your client, and you’re like somebody with your creative or your you know, strategy team and B they’re both Latin dances, but they’re very different, you know, and the way that you have to execute them. And so you have to be almost an expert and dancing on both sides. So I find when one side is feeling like they’re not being served, a big question I would ask is why do you feel that way? Right? What is it about the way that the client service person is behaving that is not jiving with what your expectations are. And usually what we see is it’s a breakdown in the communication piece. It’s like the agency side down in the in the trenches, if you will, doesn’t understand what’s going on the motivations, the business goals, what their client is, like, you know, all those things that you just mentioned, that could be a play, they just don’t get it or they don’t understand. So what I have seen its client service people do is like, you know, what, why don’t you join me in a meeting? Uh huh. Why don’t you see what it’s like. And that brings a whole new level of understanding. And I’m not saying that that solves every single problem. But I do sympathize with the fact that it can be very hard on either side, because I’ve said the same thing to my client service person. Like, I feel like you’re just serving your the work you want to go do you don’t feel like you’re serving our business. Right? And then if you have to choose, you have to serve the client? Yes, because it’s called service. So I think that’s a level of understanding. And I think that’s what you what you said in the very beginning, Chris is like, you need to know what kind of agency you are. But you also have to build in some of that level of principle based basically behavior, that this is how our client service group is going to act and behave. If you have questions, let us know. But don’t assume that what you are seeing is your is there like appropriate reality, I guess, is what I’m saying.

April Martini 54:35
i Yes, I think all of that is true. All right. Number two, in the trenches, we’re having internal struggles with creative strategy and client service working together. It feels like the client service teams perspective is being minimized. What do you suggest? Go back and listen to this whole episode a second time.

Chris Wallen 54:55
But really me in that client meeting?

April Martini 54:58
Yeah. che che che che. But likely, I mean, we’ve talked about the historical baggage with this role. We’ve also talked about where it falls apart and how diligent you have to be and how consistent and how on top of it the client service person needs to be. And then an made the really good point about serving two masters or doing dances that I don’t even I can’t repeat that park my analogy. So yeah, yeah. So anyway, I would guess that there needs to be an internal reorientation. So this is where I talked before about the magic happens when these three roles, understand what their roles are, and the impact that they can have. And then as part of that, they stay in their lanes, but they also play together nicely. So again, that three legged stool analogy. And I would also say this is a common problem. So don’t freak out. Creative and strategy owns the execution of the work. You know, I said in the beginning that Chris, and I found a really nice cadence in the way that we were striving to do the best and right work for the client, but I was the work lane, and he was the client service lane, right. That’s what we’re talking about here. And where I think it becomes imbalanced is because creative and strategy are doing the doing of the work. Sometimes the power shift, makes them think that like, well, we’re the ones producing client services and producing. So therefore, we should have the say, when finding that balance is actually what is more important. And this takes practice, it takes communication to Anne’s point, that’s usually where the breakdown is, it takes over communication until you get things back on track. And it necessitates tough conversations because that value isn’t reached easily. And if anybody at any given point in time on those teams feels like they’re in the driver’s seat alone, and they’re in charge, that’s where we start to see issues here.

Chris Wallen 56:42
Yeah, spoiler alert, we’re talking about relationship development. And some of the earlier topics and relationship development internally is crucial. Also, right for these agency teams to find that magic, show me one relationship that wakes up in the morning, and like comes together and just boom, it’s there. Right? That’s maybe in the movies, and like hardly even then, spending some time getting to know your peers, what makes them tick, and how you guys work together. works. And we haven’t talked to too much about it. Because we are, we have spent some time talking about kind of the staying in your lane peace. Finding a way to add value before it gets to your client builds credibility, it builds opportunity, it builds reputation. And like, I don’t know, expectations that your teams can count on you in a different way. There’s a difference between saying like, let me know when it’s done, and rolling up your sleeves and getting into it. And when I started in this business, it was far more like, well, the deliverable is is due by the end of the day today. And you guys are telling me you need all night. So I’ll be here all night. I’ll order your dinner team, and we’ll get it out the door, I’ll be the one to press send. And yes, there are components of that that still exist, right? Like, that’s the routine mentality. That’s the like, whatever you’re going through, I can’t do this work with you. But I can sit with you, I can empathize. And that means something, I think, to team members, but also helping improve what they’re doing building upon like simple, yes, and sorts of exercises. To further what everyone’s doing, shows that you’re invested in a different way. And quite honestly allows you to help share that back with the client in a different way. Right where you’re invested in it, you’re not scripted at that point, like you’ve been through the we tried it on, it didn’t work, and here’s why we’re not presenting it, or we’ve been, we’ve been down this other path. And this is where this could really go to think that it’s something that you can do just by emails and phone calls. And this role is is not the nature of of what really happens. It truly is. And every day is different in that way. I was joking with somebody recently that even working from home, when I wake up in the morning and get ready for work, I have to put on a pair of shoes and I have to tie them. Because like it’s just like locks me in in a different way. I can’t walk around my house and slippers if I’m working from home, I have to be ready to run I have to be ready to change direction, be ready to help whether that is my client calling with new or different challenge or my team calling and saying we’re running out of time we’re running into this challenge, like creative problem solving. And I don’t mean it in a creative deliverable. But just problem solving and critical thinking way is not something that has to be reserved solely for strategy, right. It’s not something that has to be reserved solely for the folks doing the work. But having the ability to like recognize when you can pitch in and help and then actually delivering on that like following through on it builds credibility, like I said earlier.

Anne Candido 59:46
Yeah. And I’ll extrapolate this to any team where you’re finding that the dynamic between critical team members isn’t quite working. And usually it’s one of three things that we’ve seen as either somebody doesn’t feel like they’re being heard, they don’t feel like they’re being understood or you don’t feel like they’re being valued. So it’s usually one of those three things are going on. So if you’re having that kind of a relationship breakdown, spend some time trying to investigate what that is. There’s also the other overarching part is who is the decision maker at the end of the day, and making sure somebody is making a decision to go and get to understand that too, because you may not like the decision that’s being made, but you need to at least respect it that the decision has been made, and you need to get on board. Yeah, I think

Chris Wallen 1:00:29
we talk a lot about that with our teams. I don’t have to have the first word. I don’t necessarily even have to have the last word, but I am definitely crucial in the tie break. Right for, for what’s going to be for the case that’s being made and where we think, where we think we should go. Right. You’re you’re taking in as much information as you can to make the best decision possible with the information that is available to then go not go. Like you said, I think that’s a great point.

April Martini 1:00:57
Yeah, I think yeah. All right. Our third and final in the trenches, we have tried everything to get the client to step back and let us do the work. But they continue to push the client service team to just do what they’re asking, help. And, Chris, I’m just going to turn this over to you as the final one. And we’ll we’ll chime in as applicable. This is your every day.

Chris Wallen 1:01:18
This is this is the everyday this, this is the art and the science, right. This is building cases for things that can be as objective as possible, right? It’s the art part that generally comes in I find to be the more challenging part. And having spent the time to develop a relationship with your client, ahead of this point, is very good. What is necessary to actually make that work? It’s incumbent for the client service person to really have the business objective. We haven’t talked about it a lot today, but the business objective of their team and their agency in mind as well, right? Do we expect this to be a quick turn and burn kind of relationship where we’re just making that thing? And we’re done? We’re on to the next thing? Or is this something that we see growth, potential interest opportunity with, because how we’re playing that situation, those those components all matter, in making that decision in that choice, I think it’s a lot also about tapping the right folks on on the agency team side to help develop what your response can be coming up, I started on on the strategy side of things, seeing how the work got done, and how the work works, and worked, wanting to be able to translate that meaningfully and sit with clients about how it, what that means for them. And like how it fits for their challenges was something that really, I sparked to pretty quickly, and made a transition into a client service role. Having an understanding of where they’re coming from. It’s almost like if you’ve gotten to that point, you’ve missed some opportunities along the way, I think I would expect those kinds of conversations to happen early in a relationship or in a project and engagement. And that’s where I think you look for opportunities to find quick wins for things to point to where you can say, Yeah, I think, How can we reorient this a bit differently to get you what you’re looking for, and still offer us some flexibility to explore. Having a good understanding of the vision of where that person wants to go. And like where they can go. And you mentioned earlier like, the so what kind of like, what does this mean for me versus just saying like, Yeah, but we could do great thinking on this, if you just let us like, sometimes you got to do it. And like having a gut instinct to say, Guys, now’s the time to do it. How fast can we do it? How quickly can we get to a certain level of finish? To be able to show why we should have a little more time, a little more opportunity? A little more money may be to go flush this out. Right? How can we pressure test this and a little bit, right? Testing learns, don’t just have to be in the marketplace, testing and learning can be with your clients finding a way that they receive. Yeah, finding the way that they receive information and respond to things is crucial. But like you’re only guessing until you’re actually trying and putting something out there to say, oh, that didn’t work, like failure is okay. Failure is generally not anything more than than like, No, thank you. Please just deliver on the brief. I don’t feel like you guys are delivering on the brief. Right? It’s, I had a really great piece of advice. One of my first agency jobs that was we are not doing heart surgery here every day, we are not saving lives. Like if we can start and finish with that in mind every meeting right no matter what the feedback no matter what the projects, like let’s keep that in mind. And like take a deep breath and how do we be productive? How do we get that person what they’re looking for? And also if it’s self serving, get what we’re looking for, or how do we get them To see more that there is more that there is other or there’s different. Sometimes it’s introducing to a new person on the team, you’ve talked about the relationships that we had in the past, knowing who to deliver what message is also a very important component, right? When I started in client service, I never wanted to be the note taker only. And the budget keeper, I wanted to be in the sandbox, like I wanted to be a valuable, like person to be able to contribute and play in those conversations, not the like, go away for a minute budget guy, we want to talk to the creatives sort of thing. But sometimes the creatives are the right ones to deliver the message because like, they’re cool. They’re cutting edge. They’re innovative. They’re outside the box thinking, right? And sometimes the clients just like want to cut it loose with those guys. It’s our job to recognize, like, shut your mouth. It’s somebody else up here, right? It’s a bit like, Coach mentality in that case, right? We’re like, how can I get my players in the right place, and running the right place at the right time to be successful? I am not doing it though. I am like helping orchestrate that.

April Martini 1:06:13
You know, you just said the word orchestrate. And that was exactly what I was gonna say when you are finished, because you are figuring out the right message. And then the tone by which that message is delivered. And who is giving that message. And I think that that is so huge. And I also want to go back to another thing you said which is, I mean, we have so many analogies On this episode, I can’t even keep track but cracking the nut right? And some, some nuts are just really hard to crack. And when, especially in the last job where we work together where we had a team that really hummed along, and everyone was like, how did that happen? And how do I get that your point about you, it should never reach this point is the answer there, right? Because you can anticipate their reactions, you know what things to push on and what things not to, you know, who never to put in front of them and who always to put in front of them, right. And then the same thing goes on the other side of the team where if you know that there’s someone who literally on the creative team cannot get in the sandbox to use another analogy on this project, then you ask for them to be off the project for the sake of them and you and the client. And so it is that orchestration that I think becomes so hugely important. And then the perspective piece, too. I mean, I use that expression all the time, we’re not saving lives. And it is one of those things that I’m so glad someone said to me early on, because every time things started to fall apart, and every time I was in the role of client service and having to try to put it all back together, when I could come back to that and take a deep breath and calm down. We could get back into your point, that productive space of okay, we’re in the situation, no one’s dying. So what are we going to do now? And what’s going to be the next step and the next step to step out of the situation and get us back on secure footing, so that we can do our job to the best of the ability and get this client to back off? And let us do the job we’ve been hired to do?

Anne Candido 1:08:14
Well, now we’ll just say that if your client is really all up in it, there’s usually a big, huge reason why that needs to be discovered. So I would say we’ve tried everything, I’m pretty sure if they’re still all up in it, not everything has been tried. Yeah, to the point that it’s diagnosing them the why. And I’ll tell you a few reasons why I was all up in it. One I mean, it’s not always for a bad reason. You You brought up the point earlier that it was like we disliked the creative process. So sometimes it’s just the fact that we have something that we feel like we can offer. So here’s my suggestion, their agency is like, let your client offer that find a form or find like some way that they can offer that so that it’s constructive to your process, and not really distracting you from your process. But you better let them cook if what they feel like that they have to offer there are other reasons I’ve been on the other side, which is like Miss deliverables. If we felt like, again, you’re off scope or you’re missing deliverables or the timing is like starting to get really delayed, then yes, you want to be open and you’re like what is going on on that side that we’re not getting the work that we asked for and the timeframe that we asked for it? Right. So that is another big why. And so I think you need to really kind of diagnose those things. And you know, make sure you guys are staying on the same page on a regular basis. Because I know to when my agency used to go a little Mia, I’d be like, now I’m going to be in it. Or if you have a big presentation or a big piece of creative and it’s going to a big hire up that the person your client wants to look really good for. That’s another reason why they’re all up in it. So try not to get too frustrated with your client until you actually find out the why not there continue perpetuating this like that, you know, they’re just a total distraction to the process. And, you know, that’s where the the feedback system needs to happen. But I would say make sure you diagnose it first. And if there’s usually a gazillion ways to solve for it.

April Martini 1:10:17
All right, well, that brings us home to our third and final segment, when we don’t have a guest. It’s a brand that’s doing things well or not so well based on our perspective and their space in the marketing space. But when we have a guest, we turn it over to them to wrap things up. So Chris, I would say, make any last remarks put a bow around our conversation today, we had plenty of different angles and different analogies and different discussion points. And also let people know where to find you if you want them to find you.

Chris Wallen 1:10:45
Yeah, I mean, first and foremost, I want to thank you guys for the opportunity to join today, it’s been a lot of fun, it’s always been enjoyable conversation with you guys. And it’s always degrees of enlightening and entertaining. And sometimes it’s like 10s, on both. That’s hard to come by. That’s right. I think just to wrap it up, we’ve talked a lot about good client service. And like the difference that it can make, it doesn’t look the way that it used to client service. In my mind, there’s there’s far less gatekeeping at this point in it. But it really can be something that makes or breaks the relationship. The business growth subsequent like organic growth with clients. And I often come back to I jotted it down just earlier today and circled it. When I came back to it, I Ted lassos, something that stands out to me and this one, doing the right thing is never the wrong thing. It’s possible to do that for your clients and your teams at the same time. And to do this role really well. You figure out how to do that.

April Martini 1:11:50
I think that that is amazing. And we will close on that except you have to tell people where to find you unless you just opted out of that. So

Chris Wallen 1:11:58
yeah, you can find me, like I mentioned at BAREFOOT and Cincinnati directing Client Partnership there with a team. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Chris Wallen, and I look forward to connecting with everyone a little bit more.

April Martini 1:12:15
Awesome. All right, so just to recap, four roles client service should play in serving business one, keeping the client in the room at all times. The client service team represents a client when they are not present, and ensures they have a voice when the agency is working internally. Number two, challenging the client’s beliefs and perspective respectfully, of course, that respectful debate that we talked about, but this allows the agency to bring what they do best to the table to meet the client expertise and their depth of knowledge on their business. Number three, having a clearer understanding of the business and its goals. The client is the expert in their business, but that does not excuse the client service team from having a strong understanding to inform the work and recommendations. And finally, number four, seeking opportunities to make the business stronger. The client service team should be able to make relevant recommendations on ways to creatively improve the business and bring new thinking to the table. And with that, we will say go and exercise your Marketing Smarts! Still need help in growing your Marketing Smarts? Contact us through our website: We can help you become a savvier marketer through coaching or training you and your team or doing the work on your behalf. Please also help us grow the podcast by rating and reviewing on your player of choice and sharing with at least one person. Now go show off your Marketing marts.