When you’re a working mom, you realize that having a child waiting for you at home makes you feel like work never stops. This is especially true for me, because my job involves managing clients while also running multiple campaigns for them. At home, I have to deal with another VIP client—only she’s much smaller, more delicate, and happens to look so much like my husband.
I have been in the advertising industry for 12 years, and a mom for almost 7 years now. You would think that working in Client Management and taking care of a small human being at the same time can make someone go crazy. Well, that is 75% true. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around it and many working moms feel exhausted day in and day out because of this set up. Luckily for me, being a mom in our industry only made me better at what I do.
I’ll be sharing some Client Management tips I have learned from dealing with my bossiest client to date, who also happens to be my daughter, Lily.
Always give them the right amount of attention. The more you do, the less demanding they get.
Whenever my daughter would throw a fit, I’d always think it was about something completely random. It turns out, she’s doing these noises to grab my attention. When I started making time for small bonding moments throughout the day, like daily “hug-athons” where we just hug, or talk about our day so far, she would nag me less and less.
Similarly, clients get worried when they feel that they’re not being heard or attended to. When they feel that their project is being mishandled, they tend to be more demanding, and rightly so. You may be the most efficient Client Manager, but if you don’t update them regularly, they’ll think otherwise. The key is constant communication. When you send out project lists every Monday, give a heads up on a deliverable due in the afternoon, or simply check if they have additional requirements, it shows that you’re on top of things and have things under control.
Negotiate with the intent of winning with them, not over them.
I used to think that being able to convince my daughter to eat vegetable puree instead of fast food chicken, or choose an educational toy over a pretty doll were big wins as a parent. The truth is, those were my daughter’s wins too. She got to eat healthier, and learn through play. When I told her that, she felt happier listening to me and even told me we made a good “girl team” at home.
The same logic applies when negotiating with clients. It’s not about one-upping the other, because you both should always win. I tell my Client Managers that when they negotiate for something, they should also have the client’s best interests in mind. For example, when you ask for a longer deadline, it’s not just about giving Creatives more time to execute. Clients should know how it also benefits them. Hence, you should inform them that you’ll use the extra day or two to polish two campaign routes instead of just one. Most of the time, they’ll like this idea better and won’t mind you buying more time. In this deal, both the agency and the client win.
Be accountable and defuse negative situations fast.
When my daughter would tell me she’s sad about something I did, like forgetting to kiss her goodbye before leaving for work, I’d learned that ignoring her complaint will only make her feel worse. Instead, I needed to understand what I did wrong, apologize and tell her how I’ll do things differently next time.
Similarly, I’d do this when defusing tensions with clients, or when someone from the agency commits a mistake. Even a minor typo in a social media post that got published can irk a client to no end, and can affect their business. The first and most crucial step is to take responsibility for the team’s mistakes. The second step is to propose a solution to assure them that it won’t happen again. Sure, it may sting for a while, but it’s faster to rebuild the relationship and client’s trust when they see that you always hold yourself accountable.
Lastly, you don’t always have to say YES to their requests.
I had realized early on that giving our child everything she wanted was as impossible as it was impractical. At first, we weren’t sure if we could bear to hear her cry if she didn’t get what she wanted without giving in or feeling guilty, but we soon found out that saying “No/not yet, but here’s a deal…” is a good compromise.
When I was starting out, there was a notion that good Client Managers should always go out of their way, bend over backwards if they must, to make it happen for clients. While I don’t fully discourage this mantra, I believe that there’s certainly more to it. Clients actually appreciate it when you say no to them, provided you have a good reason and data to back it up. As their partner, they expect you to give them sound advice and offer alternative solutions for them to consider. This shows that not only are you knowledgeable about the brand, but that you genuinely care about the success of their campaign.
These are just some of the things that I learned while working in the industry as a mom. I hope you find them insightful and relevant, no matter what our current “normal” is. And to non-parents, I say this: if you can handle the toughest and most demanding clients, then you’re well-equipped to handle and raise a kid if and when you decide to.