Does the Client Believe It’s Working?

In the advertising sales game, few things are worse than an unexpected cancellation.

The agreement was signed with great fanfare a few months ago. The ad looked great, the digital campaign’s performing well, and you’ve settled in for a good, long relationship.

Then the email comes out of the blue. “It’s not working. We need to go dark for a while.”

If “it’s not working” comes as a surprise, you may need to take a look at how you communicate results.

Your perception of the campaign matters less than the advertiser’s. Does the client believe it’s working?

sales success isn't magic -- does the client believe?

Photo by luckybusiness

A Quick Medical Analogy

A recent Seth Godin blog post pointed me to a New York Times article on “sham surgery.”

Sham surgery is a research technique in which patients (who are informed about and consent to this) are led to believe they are undergoing a surgical procedure. The procedure is supposed  to treat a real medical issue such as back pain or asthma.

The malady is genuine; the surgery may not be. Some patients get the real surgery; others just get anesthetic and an incision.

2014 review of 53 trials that compared elective surgical procedures to placebos found that sham surgeries provided some benefit in 74 percent of the trials and worked as well as the real deal in about half…

…Such findings show that these procedures don’t work as promised, but they also indicate that there’s something powerful about believing that you’re having surgery and that it will fix what ails you. [Orthopedic Surgeon Stuart] Green hypothesizes that a surgery’s placebo effect is proportional to the elaborateness of the rituals surrounding it, the surgeon’s expressed confidence and enthusiasm for the procedure, and a patient’s belief that it will help.

If the patient thinks it worked, it worked.

It’s much easier to keep an advertising client when the client believes the campaign is working. Ensuring this is up to you…and the elaborateness of your rituals.

It starts with managing expectations. 

What is the advertiser hoping to achieve with the campaign? Are their goals measurable? Are they realistic?

Do you know what they are?

Find out. Before the campaign starts.

  • If it’s an increase in sales, what sales? How much of an increase? By when? Doubling sales is great, unless the client expects sales to triple.
  • If it’s traffic to the website, how much traffic? To which page? How much are they getting now? Is there a mechanism on the page to take prospects to the next step in the buying process?
  • Are there any holes in the sales funnel — places where a customer might get confused or repelled along the way? The best idea can fail if it’s implemented poorly — you can read about a promotion I botched years ago here.

Are you checking in regularly with the advertiser to to see how the campaign is producing?

Don’t be afraid to ask — the client already knows (or thinks they know) whether it’s working. You’ll be in a much better position to address the issue if you know what they’re thinking.

Are there any unusual, emotional or quirky ways the client is measuring results? For example:

  • A savvy TV rep on the West Coast told me that when clients see their own commercial, they’re much more likely to feel like its producing. He makes a point of asking new advertisers, “What’s your favorite show?”
    If the client is a loyal viewer of one particular program, the AE always figures out a way to squeeze a spot or two into that show.
  • For years, I wrote all the radio commercials for a big home improvement contractor. Sales were important to him, but even more important was the good-natured ribbing about his commercials from his friends at the country club.
    Business could be up 20%, but if the other guys at the club didn’t tell him how funny he was on the radio, he truly believed the advertising wasn’t working.
    My eventual conclusion: it was his money, this was how kept score, and Job 1 was to make his golf buddies laugh. I wasn’t proud of this, but seven years of commission checks helped ease the pain. 

You’ve got a much better chance of building a long-term relationship if you make sure your customers see the results of the campaign.

Because if the client doesn’t believe it’s working… it’s not working.

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