Editor’s Note: After much cajoling, hectoring, pestering, and even attempted bribery I finally convinced that irascible speaker of Truth to Power, Angry MR Client, to post here on GreenBook Blog. With tongue firmly in cheek while not pulling any punches on telling the truth about the things that research suppliers do that just drive her up a wall, this first post is a shot across the bow for us all since I suspect she is far from the only client who feels this way.
So, MR suppliers hold your nose and take the medicine; it’s for your own good.
MR clients, feel free to add your own constructive criticism below.
And please, let’s all remember that this is delivered with a lot of honesty, a liberal dollop of humor, and a whole lot of love for our great industry.
By Angry MR Client
1. Be a stalker:
Start by calling the potential client several times a day, every day; leave them long voicemails and bombard them with never-ending emails and LinkedIn messages about the advantages of your services. If you can find the number, call them on their personal phone. Threaten to speak to their manager or even their CEO, if they don’t get back to you straight away. You know that guy at the bar, with the gold medallion and chest hair, that’s who you should be like when approaching clients.
2. Go for the “shotgun” pitch
Do not, under any circumstances, find out anything about the client before you meet them. Simply take an old presentation, and just update the client’s name. Feel free to share case studies from 7 years ago. Make sure you clearly show that you do everything for everyone: qualitative, quantitative, online, offline, MROCs, conjoint, eye tracking, etc. Being focused and showing off your competitive advantage when you meet a potential client might lead them to actually like you, so avoid this at all costs.
3. Make a generic proposal
Your client should be fairly angry by now, but if they still sent you an RFP, it might take a little bit of extra work to get them biting their pen in frustration, so hard that it squirts ink all over their poor intern’s face. When preparing a proposal, start by completely ignoring the context of the challenge they need to address (their company’s vision, its strategy or market environment). Push a one-size-fits-all approach without adapting it to fit the client’s specific project needs. During your pitch, spend 95% of the time on explaining the methodology, as opposed to the thinking behind choosing it or its role in addressing the brief.
In the unlikely event that the client still wants to work with you, here are some golden rules to follow. The right attitude to have throughout the whole project is one of you versus them and any attempt of thinking about your relationship as a partnership should be suppressed. Therefore, you should not even think about trying to become their strategic partner. Do not bother to ask what their preferred way of communication is, or what kind of deliverable they expect at the end. However, make sure you let them know that you have other clients you’re working with and you cannot offer VIP treatment to all of them. Don’t proactively keep the client informed on how their project is running and whenever something goes wrong, ask the client what to do, without offering any possible solutions. Be reactive, not proactive and become passive aggressive whenever you’re challenged. Last but not least, ensure you do not waste any time briefing the project team on your conversations with the client, as this might lead to a successful project and making your client Happy.
5. Write long
Throughout your communication with the client, write loooong: long emails, long explanations, long reports. Needless to say, the proposal should compete in length with the actual report, so the longer, the better. If the client asked you to include some gamification elements in the research, what better way to do that than by hiding the Great Insight somewhere on the bottom of slide 132 of your never-ending report? Are you considering adding a one slide summary? I know what you’re thinking: your two months’ work cannot be summarized into ONE single slide. The results need at least 187 slides to be explained.
6. Make slides no one wants to read
Here are some tips for creating dreadful slides, guaranteed to turn even the calmest client into a pubescent Gordon Ramsay. Make sure you cram as much text, tables and graphs as you can on each slide, aiming for as little white space as possible. If you cannot help yourself and you include some visuals, place them behind the text in such a way that it makes it impossible to read. Don’t surprise the client by creating a video or an infographic (or, God Forbid, an app!) to bring the findings to life. Also, do not double check for data or spelling errors before sending the report out. Leave that for the client, since they were the ones to call this a “partnership” in the first place. Do not forget to include some buzzwords (the best ones are leverage, synergize, and contextualize).
7. Forget about the Big Picture
When it comes to disappointing your client, there’s nothing better than a terrible report. Do not make any recommendations and simply stick to describing the data. Which you should describe in the order of the questionnaire/discussion guide, rather than as a story (no one likes stories!). Make sure that any findings from previous projects with the client are excluded from your report. Last but not least, once the report is done, don’t waste any time checking if all the points from the brief have been covered. This is especially important, since forgetting to address objectives from the brief is one of the fastest and most certain ways to annoy your client.
So here you go, the 7 steps to making MR Clients Angry. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments section below.