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This is a blog about Truth, Justice and the American Way. The stories are true. No names have been changed to protect anyone's identity, including my own. If the story is about me, then I'll say so right up front. If I don't use a name to identify whom the story is about, then it's because it's not relevant. So please do not call me or e-mail me with your kind condolences or unwarranted congratulations about something that you believe is a cleverly disguised bio from my alter ego. These stories, like my photo, are unretouched.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Using Mom’s Hairdresser as Your Focus Group

To write about my husband’s clients would be indiscreet and highly inappropriate and we certainly wouldn’t want that. So let’s just say that I know this certain guy (let’s call him “Bob”) who has a number of small business clients (let’s just call them “clients” because calling them Dumbo, although tempting, would be inappropriate).

In earlier times, “Bob” worked at a fairly major Chicago ad agency and so he understands the etiquette of how a marketing plan and its accompanying creative product are handled. He knows that there is a creative director through whom all creative product passes before going to the client. He knows that marketing is not the same as advertising, not all cost savings are a good thing, and you don’t “rebrand” your business by changing the logo.

But small business clients don’t always know this stuff and trying to get them to understand it is like trying to teach a pig to sing – it’s not only futile but it annoys the pig.

“Hey Bob, I know that you told me not to be passing your confidential marketing notes around the office because it’s just a rough draft and all, but I was so excited about the concept and so thrilled about the work I thought I should share it with just a couple of key people. Twelve people within the company (including an intern and the third-floor janitor) loved it but the lady who does my mother’s hair doesn’t like it and now I’ve decided that maybe we should rethink this whole thing.”

And:

“You know that new logo that the professional graphic designer who specializes in creating logos designed for us? The one we spent two months, seven meetings, 56 phone calls and 1,146 emails about? Well, after I dropped it off at Bubba’s Auto Emporium on Monday to have it painted on the company vans, Bubba Jr. decided to take it to his high school art class and these kids have come up with something entirely different that is kind of cute.”

And:

“Bob, you can take that professional film production money out of the budget because I met this retired welder at my cousin Blanche’s wedding last weekend. He just started a wedding video business and he’s going to shoot the whole package – the commercials and the training film – on his iPhone for a fraction of the cost. Can you have the script ready by Friday? We’re going to save even more money with the on-camera talent because Blanche offered to do it for free and she looks so nice now that she’s got most of the weight off.”

I’ll bet you think that I’m kidding. I’ll bet you think that I’m exaggerating. I will admit that these examples are a compilation of the kinds of things that several different clients have come up with over the past year. Nonetheless, this weekend “Bob” has to try to break the latest news to the art director. I’d tell you more, but that would be inappropriate.

Are we having fun yet?

23 comments:

  1. Ahhh, I feel your pain, Kay! Clients are like kids. They need to learn the hard way.

    My own personal favorite was when a company president paid $75,000 to his grandmother's plumber's ex-wife's nanny's godfather's step-brother (a few relationships may have been inadvertently left out) with no design experience whatsoever to design an electronics equipment trade booth. It looked like a bad 1970s kitchen. I couldn't help but laugh.

    LizZ
    Sleep-Typing

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  2. If I were in Bob's shoes, this where I would say, "Enough is enough. I do not need the headaches that go with the changes plus you are not paying me enough. You seem to have everything covered, do it yourself but don't come to me when things go wrong and you want everything fixed for the same price. It will cost what I originally quoted plus extra to sort out the mess and my time."

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    1. Haha good luck with that!

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  3. I think I've seen Blanche on a couple of car commercials. All I can say is that I hope the client got lucky that day. LOL

    I hope these clients are paying Bob very well because life's too short to have to put up with this kind of stuff.

    Caroline
    New York

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  4. Oh, you ain't seen nothing yet. Maybe I can spill a few beans:

    A client who is an ardent believer in astrology: I want my tax return uploaded on the server of the treasury at 2.07.37 hours. He meant 2 am, not 2pm. And which the server always up to tricks, even if we locked a poor intern in the office to do the needful, perhaps we would not be able to upload it at 0.37 seconds. Finally we send the return on a CD to the client so that he could upload it himself. He missed by a few minutes, no wonder then his tax matters are under litigation.

    Another client who shudders at the thought of Friday the 13th: He wanted to expand overseas and was all set to fly down and meet the overseas regulatory authorities. Perhaps his secretary reminded him that it was Friday the 13th. He cancelled at the last minute.

    And yet another, a meeting before the VC: So what is your business plan? I have a dream.
    Fine, what dream? I can't tell you about it. It is still a dream, just the awesome logo and mission statement is ready. (I ain't kidding!)

    Kay, I think you should write a book.

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    1. Dear Readers:

      Lubna is a writer and tax consultant in India. I am somewhat comforted by the thought that there are idiot clients in India, too.

      Canceling a major meeting with the overseas regulatory authorities because you realize that it is Friday the 13th is just as stupid as all of these American buildings that don't have a 13th floor. The numbers go from 12 to 14 -- as if the 13th floor isn't really the 13th floor just because it has a different number on it.

      Kay

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  5. I agree, a book would be mahhhvelous!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Susan.....uhmmm, I mean Anonymous.

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  6. I agree with Lubna. You ain't seen nothing yet. I love the clients who give you unrealistic deadlines, force you to work over the weekend and then the a**h***s (note the plural) don't pay you for months and months. Sometimes you have to threaten to sue them and then they want to settle for pennies on the dollar. I notice that when they wanted the work done they didn't want you to do part of the work. They want it all and they want it yesterday. Getting people to pay their bills is getting harder all the time.

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  7. This wasn't my client, but my partner had a doozy. This guy would call about 5 minutes before the stock market closed and demanded to buy apple. He was totally abusive to the assistant who took the call, and since my partner wasn't there. It went to the manager. The next day I told my partner to dump him, he was trouble. He finally did, but another person in the office asked for the account.

    now I smile when he is called away at all hours to handle this account.

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  8. My goodness!! I am wondering how Bob can be in the business...
    Your blog is really fun to read. Love it.Hope, your husband won't fight hard to take this down. May be he will decide to keep his clients out of your sight and out of your ears now on.

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  9. oh i believe you. small local business established 15 years wants to rebrand and asks "can't we hire someone on fiverr to draw us up a new logo?"

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    1. Vanita,

      A "fiver?" They're really paying THAT MUCH in New York City these days? Around here they want everything for free.

      P.S. I love your blog profile line: "mom of 4 & seducer of hottie husband"

      Delete
  10. Unfortunately I totally get this from first-hand experience. I also agree that you should write a book. It would be a best seller without a doubt. I love your style of writing. :)

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  11. Kay,
    Let us know when your book comes out! . . . or maybe you could become a syndicated columnist. (Do they even still have syndicated columnists any more?) You bring back memories of Erma Bombeck. (Yes, I'm old enough to remember her.)

    These were hilarious and even though I've had my own run-ins with clients who decide to hire their paperboy to build their website, my stories pale in comparison to these.

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    1. Sherryl (in Boston),
      The fact that we are both old enough to remember Erma Bombeck is probably something that we should keep to ourselves. LOL
      Kay

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  12. You do tell these stories well! And as Caroline noted, hope these clients are paying Bob well. Sometimes one just has to grit one's teeth and move on.

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  13. That is hilarious. I very much enjoyed your post and could relate to everything in your (true) story. Human nature can be the most incredible entertainment.

    When I worked in investments a few years ago I had a client move their entire investment portfolio at the suggestion of their plumber, no joke. Then these same people couldn't understand why their investments was declining ... DUH!

    :-), Susan Cooper

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    1. They moved their investment portfolio at the suggestion of their plumber?!! That is way too funny..... or not. I laughed right out loud.

      I gotta send that story to "Bob." It's every bit as good as the "former welder/wedding videographer" which is not nearly as thinly veiled as it probably should be. LOL

      Delete
    2. Susan, Some plumbers can be 'plumbers cum investment advisers' too.
      There is a popular book in Canada, "The wealthy Barber". The barber is the one giving great financial tips in the book.Just remember about the book now.

      Delete
  14. Number one... I think the name of this blog is perfect and I had to giggle to myself when I got here, read this particular post and like your other readers thought to myself...yep Erma Bombeck for the business world!

    I find it amazing in a way how much clients are the same off line as well as online in many many ways, to the point that you need to continually count to 100 and have the patience of a saint.

    What makes otherwise very smart men and women act so incredibly silly, when it comes to business, I have no idea, but they do and will seemingly do all they can to sabotage their own success and yet they keep on going and in cases become even more successful...it floors me - that's human nature for you!

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  15. Please tell Bob that he is not alone. We beg our clients not to run around showing the ad mock up to their neighbors, the girls in accounting and their pals at bridge club. They do it anyway. Then they are surprised to find that 15 people have 15 different ideas about what it should look like We try to tell them that a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

    We want to tell them, "If your wife is such a fountain of knowledge about advertising and marketing, why don't you hire her to do the d**m product introduction campaign for you?" But we don't. Instead we just try to find a way to work with their stupidity.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that clients are all bad people or that if they disagree about a concept or an execution style they are idiots. But when they hire you to do a job because you are trained and experienced and specialize in doing that type of job, then it's stupid to sabotage that work with the opinions of amateurs.

    I wish I didn't have to post this anonymously but my boss would kill me if he knew that I was telling this stuff about our clients. Thank you for having the guts to say out loud what the rest of us cannot. Also for saying it in such a funny manner.

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  16. Kay,

    I am in total agreement with those individuals who are encouraging you to write a book. I love how you write. Someone once told me that I write like I talk. With you, I can actually hear you saying these words (even though I've never actually heard you talk). It's like reading Harry Potter, it's just too much fun.

    Since I'm here, let me respond to the post.

    By day, I work in a web development team and we get this all the time. One coworker often complains that WE are the experts and we'd very much like to be treated as such. Cancelling our work together so you can hire a first year college student with no real experience is insulting. No, building a site in Microsoft Word does not count. :)

    Ok, I'm telling on myself.

    Thanks for just being awesome.

    I will be back.

    Damond

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