Give anyone in the measurement industry one glass of wine and we’ll start telling stories about the wildest projects we’ve ever worked on:
- Like the time one of the best Measurement Mavens of all time had to wear a Keebler Elf costume as part of a client’s assignment.
- Or the time my laptop failed and we had to use my account manager’s laptop for a high-level research presentation in front of a serious group of clients from all over the world, not realizing that my manager’s screen saver was a picture of a nearly naked (although rather attractive) man. The clients were not amused.
But give anyone in the business a second glass of wine, and the horror stories will start coming out:
- There was the client who used to proofread our 30-page databases just to find typos so he could demand a discount on our invoice.
- Or the one that made so many account managers cry, the next time the client called we politely referred him to our least favorite competitor.
- Or the client who constantly asked for quotes on new projects so he could give our methodology and numbers to my competitors to get a lower price. (I actually billed him just to write the next proposal.)
Being a PITA* is a waste of time & money.
Such tales reminded me of what we used to refer to as P.I.T.A pricing scheme (if you were nice you’d get one price, if it was a ridiculously unrealistic deadline, we might tack on 20% and if you were a total P.I.T.A you’d be quoted a 50% surcharge.) Yes, there are real financial ramifications of not being nice such as:
- Your calls will go to voicemail while your account manager pops a Valium.
- Your projects will get foisted off onto the junior person who doesn’t know any better and stays in the room while everyone else takes an “urgent” call when your name comes up.
- You will spend half your time training new account people on your industry.
- You will never, ever get a price break.
- You will get charged for every minute of overtime work.
On the other hand, if you qualify for the “gratitude discount” and become everyone’s favorite client it’s likely that:
- Senior leaders have all your numbers in their contact list and will take your calls right away.
- The best and the brightest individuals will fight to work on your account.
- You won’t get nickel-and-dimed over every request; in fact, most of the time they’ll move heaven and earth to get things done for you within your budget.
- People will stay late and come in early and work over the weekend if they know you really need something.
So why, if every client wants to be liked and get the best service, is it so hard to be a great measurement client?
Many might blame some deep inner fears of math combined with existential control issues stemming from a childhood encounter with a ruler that left you with an indelible fear of being measured.
But there’s not much I can do about that. Instead, I asked the best and the brightest of my colleagues — who collectively have survived about 500 years in this business — what they might suggest. Sure enough, we ended up with a total of 25 tips about how to get the most from your measurement vendors:
- Be honest and forthcoming. We don’t mind being your therapist, but then treat us the same, be forthcoming, and willing to head our advice.
- Let us inside your world so that we know what will be important and what we can ignore. We don’t mean just making sure that they have all the details of your measurement requirement. It means giving us the inside skinny on the priorities and keeping us in the loop on the org chart. If we don’t know what’s what, we won’t know what’s important.
- Manage your sense of urgency: Nothing is harder to work with than when EVERY project and EVERY request comes with an urgent deadline. The sense of urgency gets to be numbing after awhile. We understand that sometimes deadlines need to be moved up, but even we know that every instance cannot be that urgent. PR agencies – are you listening?
- If you absolutely have to have the end result by “tomorrow,” please contact us sooner than the day before “tomorrow.”
- Treat your vendor as a partner. You selected them because you both want the same thing: accurate, timely, and valid research. Many are also happy to be your friend, your therapist, your confessor and your sounding board, but first and foremost they want to be treated with respect. You are not running Downton Abbey, so if you treat them like a footman, don’t expect them to jump when you ring the bell. They’ll work much harder on a project that makes them feel valued and respected than one that leaves them belittled.
- Ask, don’t tell. You hired them for their expertise, so when you have a project or a problem, ask for their advice on how to troubleshoot it. If you just give them orders, you lose the benefit of their experience. Chances are good that they’ve dealt with similar issues with other clients and could offer a best practice or better solution.
- Gratitude is great, silence is the worst. There’s nothing worse than running around like crazy to get a client something and then hearing nothing in return. A simple thank you email is much appreciated.
- Do your homework before calling for a vendor quote. No one can price out blue sky.
- If you’re unhappy, sit down, and have a beer with your vendor. Chances are they are dying to know what they can do better.
- If a vendor puts in a lot of time on an RFP or proposal, have the guts to let them know the results, and why. If you don’t, chances are good they won’t be as responsive the next time.
- Lose the entitlement attitude. Your vendor isn’t your mother. As many times as we may pull off the impossible, sometimes, the rabbit just will not come out of the hat no matter how hard you pull.
- Realize you aren’t their only client. Most likely they are juggling needs/asks of dozens of clients.
- Be clear in your objectives including who needs the reporting, how it will be used, timelines, and any other considerations (such as bonuses on performance). Also be clear and definitive on the overall business objective of your organization so that PR results can be linked back to them.
- Invest the time needed to get the most out of your measurement project. It takes time to do it right. We are not mind readers. It will make you look smarter if together we do a thorough job.
- Own the analysis – add your own understanding to make it a richer and more insightful deliverable.
- Build measureable tactics into your PR programs to help demonstrate that your message was heard, e.g. a call to action like take a health screener, download a fact sheet, view an infographic, register for a newsletter, vote for preferred action or preference, etc.
- Educate yourself about measurement. Identify five smart people in the field and meet with them for a substantive discussion of the issues BEFORE you issue your RFP.
- Set realistic budgets. Measurement providers have to put food on the table, too. Know what things cost and know what the smart trade-offs are.
- Recognize that the truth will set you free and that the data is the data. We don’t “make you look” either bad or good. We provide the data and the goal should be to use it to improve. If you have a smart measurement program you can do your job better and longer – either where you are or elsewhere.
- Don’t yell. Ever. Take your meds. If you feel like screaming at your vendor, then take more meds.
- Don’t come back at the end of a project and change the criteria because you don’t like the results or you forgot something.
- Don’t lie or conveniently forget conversations, saying one thing to your vendor and another to your boss.
- Do not spread the FUD (fear, uncertainly and doubt) with vague threats. If you’re unhappy, explain why, then see # 9 on the “Do” list.
- Don’t ask us for something at 5:30 PM on a Friday before a holiday weekend, especially if you’re not even going to look at the results until the following week.
- Don’t set us up for failure. Don’t promise that something will be delivered by a certain day before checking to make sure it’s even doable. If as a result we don’t make your deadline, don’t blame it on us.
*PITA = Pain in the Ass