A Guide to Client Archetypes

By Rasha  //  Modes of Business Engagements  //  2 Comments

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

Sometime February 2011: As I stepped out of the conference room a couple of days ago after undergoing an hour of ingenious debates with a new client, it came to my mind that I needed to get my fingers busting and write that post I’ve been wanting to finish for quite some time. This is a simple guide to understanding client types and then categorizing those client into three typical business personas. I will explain how I have over some years learned the keys & ways to adapt to client confrontation, simplification of the daily struggle of client vs. agency, and how to adapt with these three major types of clients. Why do I refer to them as types? Well if you’re in client servicing, you’d agree with my theoretical approach to clients after reading this. If you’re in any form of media, advertising or digital agency, manage to know what type of client you have by adhering to the below- it will spare you from breaking pencils and loosing your wits for a somehow smoother remaining year. And if you are a client, then know you are still with your agency because they have finally managed to analyze under which clientele type you fall, categorized your behavior and were able to draw clear manifestations which steer for effective business results and overlapping business trajectories.
So now I get back to this post after also having passed through a hard and frustrating client meeting which took place last week this month, so now I come with better realization of clientele types.

Our paradigm of simultaneous categorization takes place every time one encounters a foreign element, an acquaintance, and a series of similar events, or even when examining new senses. Having said that, we throughout our business relations have become accustomed to categorizing incoming vague occurrences prior their coincidence as risky and we choose to either continue and take on the binding measures or avoid the situation. Sometimes however we may find a particular person or occurrence as frisky & choose to reunite with them again after recognizing this particular happening as a controllable & comfortable situation. Where am I going with this? Well, finding myself in this similar situation of categorizing an event or individual takes place with every new person I meet, especially when meeting or dealing with new clients, or prospect business connections. When knowing your grounds and the dynamics of individuals you are to confront, better assessment and smoother communication could take place between you and your potential business client.

Call them manipulative, undeniably & unjustifiably talkative, or more like having verbal diarrhea with no significant motive behind their uttered words, those to my findings are the “Airhead Non Benders”. Those types of clients or new business acquaintances are prone to activating their talkative gills and get worked up with run on sentences. If it means interrupting you, changing the subject, working their way into the slightest silliest logistical details which you highlighted as a step 2 of the proposal. Sometimes if not most the time he/she don’t swallow the yellow template & they say “well personally I just don’t like the color on this template it’s making me feel weird”. With no valid argumentation, debate or even knowledge of what they argue, Air Heads are easily detected when the 1st word they interrupt you with when you pitch your 1st line are “To my opinion” or “I once” or “If it was up to me”. No your opinion doesn’t matter now, let me finish. And your childhood stories and nostalgia cannot in any way fit in my mood board and business plan. I’m no shrink, and most certainly its not up to you, you have hired us to effectively & successfully work on your business. Such types of clients also categorize you as either “the opponent” or the “Manifesting Idol” who will take note of their naïve personal business views and make them happen as they see fit, then throws the blame at you when their shit hits the fan.

“The Motivated Admitter” is one of my favorite types of clients. The one individual who acknowledges your skills and years of experience, while taking note of the thriving ways he/she can learn from you. This client asks so many insightful questions in curious mode and not in any way trying to booby trap you (an Airhead Nonbender characteristic). Such type can be split into two: The demotivated & motivated- who seems to without thinking for a split of a second shoot questions which answer themselves. How to take advantage of the Motivated Admitter? Ensure his/her answers to their several suspicions are met. Steer them via educating them about your business, how you do things on daily basis, send them articles, white papers, invite them to seminars and make sure to give them the credit when they need it or deserve it. You are their ally, and they are your way forward into creating great things for their business/brand. Instead of wasting their energy arguing you and proving they’re smarter then you, they embrace your way of doing things while inducing their culture and intelligence of what they know and how they do it.

Your palms might get wet 30 minutes before he/she shows up or you might feel nervous if your thoughts, strategic plan and resources weren’t documented and supported enough. “The Shrewd Freud” is the type of client who will get you on top of everything without you realizing it, unless you’d want to go for an embarrassing ride. Although keen on his/her knowledge and exceptional skills in a great deal of different industries, this client will not abuse his know-how and experience to deteriorate your insightful work, but rather act in a suspecting demeanor. This type might choose faking the “motivated admitter” which would be quite obvious at this stage of meeting the client for the 2nd of 3rd time. This type of client would reward you on the spot for great work and would slaughter your hard weekend’s work with one statement, which proves your theory or idea as a total fiasco. So handling such a client needs vigilance, attentiveness and hitting online readings before even taking him/her on a casual lunch. This type accelerates your career and introduces you to facets of the business you would’ve never come across on your own. So be prepared, be very prepared.

These are the typical bold clients you might seek to categorize. Of course there are several more. Like the Shrewd and Rude who uses his knowledge to slash you in front of a dozen of other executives. Or the “High and IQ Dry” who’s high on life and chooses to spill the work on you and the agency using the “I don’t know” excuses to slip from client usual work, like a proper brief for instance.
Dedicate your time to getting to know your client well. What are their hobbies? What did they do before doing what they do now? What kind of music do they like? This will manifest in not only socializing with them, but this will pave way for an easier strike with them when at a next meeting/pitch. For the “Air headed Nonbenders ’ refraining from using yellow in the 1st place and talking about how hard it is to play football when the client used to play football is an automatic compliment for such a shallow & unfortunate client. For the “Motivated Admitter” secure your way with steering them into mutual business success. As for the “Shrewd Freud” its your time to learn & instead of wasting energy on panicking before he/she shows up for a meeting, be very prepared and work your way one step ahead of what client might have in mind.

We as agencies can also be clients to sub contracted work, and are even daily customers to shops and service providers. How would you chose to behave with your suppliers?
Have you ever come across a type of client which you handled differently, or any type of the 3 mentioned client? How did you handle such a coincidence?

2 Comments to “A Guide to Client Archetypes”

  • Very interesting read!! My personal favorite is the The Shrewd Freud for a simple reason: this type of clients will make your time very worthwhile. In addition these clients will provide constructive feedback that is always of added value to the work being done.

  • Thank you Bassem for enjoying this post.
    The Shrewd Freud is also one of the important types of clients. As you mentioned, their opinion can be based on evident findings aiming at enhancing your work. However this type of client if mal-nurtured with ego can trigger a negative feedback from you- the “Shrewd & Rude”


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