Because “I Hear You” is not the same as “I Understand You”… A New Year’s Resolution

I recently had a rough experience with an amazing client that I truly enjoyed working with. We seemed to hit it off from the moment we met. We shared an enthusiasm for our projects and most importantly – a level of trust in one another that made the work easy.

But as in love, we can be blinded by a situation that just “feels right” and in business, that’s dangerous. We can be blinded by emotions and feelings that come from wanting to make a client happy, but we can forget the real reasons we are hired – and it ain’t love.

In this case, the client wanted greater brand recognition, a more dynamic website and a strategy to generate traffic to the site. We jumped in and began our research phase. How were they perceived? Who were the competitors? Was their mission muddied by conflicting messages or general confusion? Plus, they worked with teens – did their message resonate with youth as well?

We found that they would need a very unique message in order to stand out in a competitive search engine landscape. They needed an angle that would grab attention and set them apart – and that’s where the misunderstandings seem to have begun.

We devised a story concept that took a humorous approach and involved multiple characters. We suggested a series of videos shorts to tell the story. We would use the videos to promote the site. They seemed to love the idea.

We should have clarified why that concept was so important.

Just as the videos were completed – the client told me of changes in policy that made our humor-based approach seem ill-timed.

heard them – but I didn’t understand them. I asked that they watch the videos before a final decision was made. I didn’t better explain the SEO or how important the video was to our strategy for helping them increase recognition for their organization. They heard me, but didn’t understand how the two projects were integral to one another.

I felt certain they would see the videos and all would be well again.

Sadly – that was not to be. The client concerns remained and they no longer trusted the strategy we had agreed to. They simply wanted to move on to finalizing the website.

The website design became a shell of its original vision. With all of our concepts shelved – we struggled to find a new path for their SEO goals. We had no angle for content and no options outside the website to drive traffic. Of course, we understood these issues – but our client did not and we hadn’t adequately explained the importance of how both projects were intertwined.

The time for understanding was over – we parted ways.

You see, client and customer interactions are relationship based. And just like a relationship, without good communication, it can fall apart. We broke up – and it ended badly.

So, what can you do in this situation? I’m making a New Year’s resolution – more communication, less assumptions, better explanations, more guidance. What’s your business resolution? Let’s make 2013 great!

Leah Goold-Haws is the Creative Director/Marketing Strategist for LGH Marketing/Strategy. Leah’s experience has included campaign development and strategy implementation for multi-agency collaboratives, corporations and non-profits as well as entrepreneurs and small business clients. You can now meet with Leah at the Small Business Development Center. The SBDC provides low or no cost business assistance. Schedule an appointment today by calling 242-7630.

is the Creative Director/Marketing Strategist for LGH Marketing/Strategy. Leah’s experience includes work at advertising firms, freelance design and marketing strategy along with international work in TV & radio. Leah worked as Creative Director of a marketing and advertising firm in Northern California before opening LGH Marketing/Strategy in January of 2011. She currently owns two successful businesses and is expanding into the global marketplace.
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    Another, and slightly different tack: "Just because I listen doesn't mean I agree!" All apt applications to personal relationships as well as business. Point well made!

  2. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Leah, you are a braver woman than I. Writing computer programs for businesses, or designing web sites that please everyone seems like an impossible task to me and involves so many unexpected future issues and responsibilities. Listening and understanding, like you say is critical. I'm sorry this project didn't work.

  3. Avatar Canda says:

    Good advice for us all. Thanks! One question-what is SEO?

  4. Avatar Leah says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful comments – I was a bit nervous to share this story! I always take very seriously the importance of the issues and needs facing a business. That said, it's always challenging. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is the common term for how to asses your website ranking in a Google or other search list.

  5. Jennifer Jewell Jennifer Jewell says:

    no matter what form of relationship you're in – it seems to me reading this that this is a great resolution for me – as a writer, as a mother, as a wife, as a friend, as a businesswoman – thanks for the timely sharing!