The Client Is Always Right...Until They're Not

The Client Is Always Right…Until They’re Not

  • On : January 18, 2024

The customer is always right.” It’s the age-old mantra that’s echoed through the annals of history, instilled in every marketer and service provider. But let’s be honest, it’s outdated, oversimplified, and, quite frankly, sometimes downright wrong. As a marketing consultant who’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, I’m here to tell you that while this saying might make for good customer service rhetoric, it’s a dangerous philosophy to blindly follow, especially when it comes to crafting effective marketing strategies. There’s a line in the sand, and sometimes the client is standing on the wrong side of it. Let’s dive into the controversial truth.

The Myth of Infallibility: When a Marketing Consultant Must Intervene

First off, let’s debunk the myth. Clients, like all humans, are fallible. They have their biases, blind spots, and sometimes, their ideas are just bad. There, I said it. It’s not about disrespect; it’s about reality. Blindly agreeing with every client demand or whim doesn’t make you a stellar marketing consultant; it makes you a yes-man with no backbone. And guess what? It doesn’t benefit the client either. They come to you for your expertise, insight, and guidance. If all you’re offering is a mirror to their own thoughts, you’re not doing your job as a marketing consultant.

The “Until” Moments

So, when does the “client is always right” philosophy crumble? Here are the “until” moments:

  1. Until It Compromises the Strategy: If a client insists on a direction that’s clearly at odds with the strategy you’ve developed based on research, data, and experience, it’s time to push back. A good strategy is a roadmap to success; veering off course on a whim is a journey to nowhere.
  2. Until It’s Ethically Questionable: If a client’s request ventures into ethically gray or downright black areas, it’s not just a red flag; it’s a stop sign. Your integrity and reputation are on the line, not just the client’s.
  3. Until It’s Detrimental to Their Goals: Sometimes clients are their own worst enemies. They might ask for things that feel right to them but are actually harmful to their goals. It’s your duty to steer them back on track, even if it means telling them they’re wrong.
  4. Until It Ignores the Target Audience: Clients can become so wrapped up in what they want that they forget about the people who actually matter: the audience. If a client’s demands ignore or alienate the target audience, it’s your job to intervene.

A Marketing Consultant’s Strategy for Handling “Until” Moments 

So, how do you handle these situations without burning bridges or losing business? Here’s the controversial but effective approach:

  1. Be Direct but Diplomatic: Honesty doesn’t have to be brutal. You can (and should) express your concerns and objections diplomatically. Present them not as contradictions but as insights and recommendations.
  2. Back It Up With Data: Opinions can be dismissed; data is harder to argue with. Present solid evidence to support your stance. Show them the potential outcomes of their demands versus your recommendations.
  3. Offer Alternatives: Don’t just shoot down their ideas; offer better ones. Show them you’re not just a naysayer but a problem-solver.
  4. Know When to Walk Away: Sometimes, the best option is to part ways. If a client consistently pushes in the wrong direction and refuses to listen, they might not be the right fit for your expertise.

The client is always right…until they’re not. As marketing professionals, we must have the courage and integrity to recognize and address the “until” moments. It’s not about ego or stubbornness; it’s about delivering real value, maintaining your professional integrity as a marketing consultant, and ultimately serving the client’s best interests, even when they can’t see it themselves. So, let’s retire the old saying and embrace a new philosophy: “The client is always right, until it’s our professional duty to show them a better way.