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At the fabl we spend a huge amount of our time trying to understand what our clients want. Sometimes getting that information is like extracting teeth…..but like toothache, once the operation has finished, everything feels better.

And, just like a dentist, one of the biggest challenges is to convince a client that we need to drill down (into their needs and desires) to extract exactly what is required.

Writing engaging content for a client is a skill. It isn’t easy. Any decent wordsmith can do an article for a website or magazine that is interesting to read. The skill is making sure the key messages of the client get through into the readers conscious and sub-conscious. How many TV adverts have you watched where afterwards you have absolutely no recollection of what brand was being promoted? The written word presents exactly the same challenge. Engage….but make sure the message gets across too.

That’s why it’s so important to completely understand what a client wants to achieve. That means understanding the tone of voice, key words, key phrases, target audience and the platforms that content will be used on.

Small wonder we ask so many questions….

But there’s more. We need to spend time understanding what the “target” wants – and this is where it can get interesting.

This week I’ve been calling sales people working for major food brands.

I’ve been asking them what they’d like to see in a magazine aimed at owners of restaurants and hotels. Many are gobsmacked I’m asking their opinion. When I explain that our client wants to properly understand the needs and advertising aspirations of that brand, I’m often referred to someone in Marketing. But that’s not who I want to talk to. It’s the sales guy at the pointy end.

I’ve made dozens and dozens of calls – and been ignored by most – which is probably why most agencies don’t bother trying.

However, what’s been fantastic is that I’ve also spoken to some really experienced and talented folk. I’ve had input from Adrian – a self confessed “dinosaur” who didn’t really know who Holly Willoughby was – but who displayed a complete grasp of what he needed to see in an advertising strategy – for it to work for him and his brands. I’ve discussed the finer points of Augmented Reality with an Account Manager for Tetley Tea. I’ve had a promotions wish-list from a representative of Heinz, who called me late at night whilst he was travelling back from London. Lots and lots of input.

To all of these people – who day in and day out have to perform in a tough sales environment – I say, “Thank you!”

And to those who wouldn’t talk to me? I say – sorry about the missed opportunity. I was just trying to listen and learn.

Listen and learn – really good advice for everyone who truly wants to engage with others.

Maybe the Spice Girls knew what they were singing about….because the second line of the song goes…..

So tell me what you want, what you really, really want…