David Ogilvy used to say that clients get the advertising they deserve. In our experience, we always throw ourselves into the work. But the final quality of our work is surely related to the client’s investment. That investment is more than financial; there’s insight, encouragement, adherence to process, and even professional affection.

We recently saw this lovely essay on “the perfect client.” It’s advice for agency personnel. But it offers perspective for clients, too. Perhaps it might help everyone get more out of their advertising and marketing efforts. With a little editing, it might even help us build stronger relationships with our lawyers and accountants. (Edit further and improve a marriage?)

It’s from Second Wind, a powerful information resource that helps agencies like Young Isaac become smarter, more creative and more valuable to clients.

Are you a perfect client? If so, come hither…

The Perfect Client
by Second Wind

It has always been true that for an agency to do good work and make a fair profit at doing it, the client has to be a “good” client. The client has to be enlightened, has to appreciate good advertising, and has to feel that you should make a fair profit on the work you do.

Listed below are some of the most important qualities shared by good clients, which you can use to judge both your present and future clients. You should strive to apply these criteria to every potential client you approach. If they don’t fit the criteria, better think twice about taking the account.

Without exception, and based on my experience throughout my thirty years in advertising, if the client and the agency do not share some common values at the beginning of the relationship, the relationship will not last. Don’t waste your time on clients who don’t fit your criteria. Spend your time looking for clients who do.

Here are the criteria to look for:

1. The client must believe in advertising, have a sense for what is “good,” and want the best they can get.

2. Advertising must be important to the client’s business success.

3. The client must be willing to share essential marketing information.

4. The client must be willing to set numbered, dated and attainable marketing objectives, and to measure results.

5. The client must have the potential to grow.

6. The client’s product should be a good one.

7. The client’s principles, policies and personnel must be compatible with yours.

8. There must be a minimum of people at the client with approval authority—preferably one!

9. The client must want the agency to be fairly paid for the work performed, and paid on a timely basis.

10. The client must deliver to the agency a reasonable amount of gross income so that the agency in turn can devote the time needed to service the account.

One more: 11. You should like this person (the client). If you don’t have some chemistry between you, the relationship is ultimately doomed.

Gauge Their Worth
Try these criteria on the next client who comes running in offering your agency the moon if you’ll only show what you could do for them if they were to give you their account. Maybe it’s worth doing all that speculative work to get the account… maybe it’s not. The “perfect client” criteria gauge helps you to make that decision.

Constantly prune your client list. Make sure each of your clients meets the client criteria formula. If you do, you’ll be much better off.

Listen here, agency presidents. This is your job. It’s what you’re being paid for. If you pick the right people to work for you, and pick the right clients, you’ve got it made. Award-winning advertising is a cinch. Profits are almost assured. If you don’t do those two jobs correctly, I assure you you’ll never be very far out of the deep muck.

©2007, Second Wind Ltd. All rights reserved. This is reprinted here with expressed permission.

Let’s make it a dozen. From my experience at Young Isaac, I’d add this suggestion for agencies like ours:

12. The client must want to lever the agency’s best practices. Your account and creative teams have direct operational experience producing effective strategy and creative. That experience is a competitive advantage that you can offer your clients. Work with clients that allow you to put that experience to work, rather than forcing the agency out of process.

If you like what you read here and want access to all the smarts of Second Wind, contact Laurie Mikes at Second Wind.