If You’re Not Great At Client Service, You’re Not Great

Ian Lurie of Portent Interactive in Seattle believes you can’t always apply modern work strategies advocated by the likes of Jason Fried at 37 Signals in the agency environment.
In Fried’s world, efficient, uninterrupted sprints, team rotation, and projects finished in days instead of weeks are the norm. But that’s not the norm in Adlandia and it never will be.

37Signals builds their undeniably fantastic software and sells it to thousands of people. David Allen writes his great books and sells millions of copies. They both have a lot of customers. But they don’t have any clients.

It sounds like a semantic trick, but it’s not.

Customers can’t interrupt production, unless a product defect gets them all screaming at once. Clients, on the other hand, have to interrupt production. Their happiness is an issue long before product/campaign launch.
Clients are entitled. They shoulder 100% of the cost of a specific project or outcome.

I’ve thought a lot about why some agencies are able to sell great work, while others are not. Great work by design implies a degree of risk. To mitigate risk, be it monetary or reputation-based risk, the client in question must trust their gut and their agency partners. Trust is an intangible, and it’s something that takes time to develop, like the agency-client relationship itself.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.