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Thought Leadership

Finding the Right Fit


Several years ago, a new client walked into our first meeting and proudly announced to the group, “Let me be clear, I hire marketing people for the same reason I hire someone to cut my grass. It’s not that I can’t do it, I just don’t have the time.” We laughed politely, but deep down I couldn’t help but think that this relationship was going to be an uphill battle. We were a firm with seasoned professionals, deeply rooted in strategy, brand, creative, and measurement. We weren’t simply someone else’s hands. We weren’t set up to cut lawns for the busy homeowner. My gut was right, the relationship was a lot of “here’s what I want you to do” and not much of “here’s what we want to accomplish.” In the end, I’m not sure the client or us ever felt completely comfortable in the relationship and I think the work suffered.

The lesson learned was about fit. This client was a smart, successful businessman who knew what he wanted to grow his business. We were knowledgeable, smart, and hungry to show that we could make a difference. We simply weren’t what the other needed.

Finding the right fit when hiring outside experts can take some work. The easy route is to hire someone who was a good fit for someone else. Unfortunately, this often results in jumping from person to person, firm to firm recreating the wheel with each jump and losing time and money in the process.

When you’re ready to work with an outside expert, start with being honest about what you’re looking for. Are you looking for someone who can understand your challenge clearly and bring you innovative solutions or are you looking for someone to provide the detail to your already well-formed solution? Do you want strategy, mind-blowing creative, hands? Do you need someone to jump in and help when workload exceeds capacity, or do you need to fill a gap in experience or expertise?

Then determine how you want to work. Do you prefer to be hands-on throughout the process or presented to at the end? Do you have a “whatever it takes” attitude toward the cost of a project or do you prefer to operate within a firm budget? Do you need lightning fast turnarounds or carefully crafted timelines? Do you need face-to-face interaction or will email and video conferencing work best?

The final step is understanding what they’re looking for and how they work. Remember, this is about fit on both sides of the table. Schedule a casual meet and greet for your team and theirs. Get to know the people who will work on your business. Ask about process, timelines, billing, rounds of revisions, client engagement, what sets them apart, employee turnover, confidentiality, and what they hope to get out of the relationship short and long term. Ask to speak with one current customer they believe is most like you. Ask that customer the same questions.

Sure, the work is important, but if the fit isn’t there the work suffers, and ultimately so does everyone involved. Having respect for each other’s strengths and a clear understanding of how you will work together makes for a better and more effective team to move your business forward.

Comment: 1

Tammy Brzeczkowski

Agreed. Not everyone can be your client. And yes, sometimes we think we can help everyone, but not always the case.

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