I am a big believer in communication. I’m not writing about marketing/advertising when I make this first reference. I am writing about in life, in general, in everything. Too often, too much is left unsaid. Or, like a young
child afraid to ask questions in front of peers, we leave too much un-asked. The point is, we all do too much guesswork. Bottom line, if you have a question, ask it. If you have something to say, say it. Otherwise, you are just frustrated.
For myself, romantic movies could all be easily cut to one-quarter length of screened run time. In most cases, the actor playing the romantic fool often is afraid to ask for or share his feelings. It goes something like this: “I . . . I . . . I just don’t know what to say to her.” Gag. The actress playing the pursued role is always just waiting to see “who he really is inside. . . he just can’t show it.” (Double gag) I just want to scream in the first 15 minutes, “Tell each other how you feel and what you want and let’s get this thing over with.” Can you tell I like Comedies, historical and sci-fi?
Anyway, back to the lesson at hand . . . Let’s use another example, my 12-year-old son. Since he was very young, I have told him that the only “stupid person” is one that is afraid to ask a question. I tell him, “It is better to be thought stupid by asking what may seem obvious, rather than prove it beyond a doubt by illustrating on the test that you had no clue what the problem was.” And worse, that you were afraid to even ask. (Okay, the first part paraphrased an overused expression, but who’s counting?)
So, per my usual musings, the reader (you) may be wondering what I am rambling about based on this blog’s title. How does this related to strategic marketing and advertising? It’s simple and it is the basis of the success and growth of bloomfield knoble for the past 12 years: We communicate by asking questions, debating with you and developing a shared understanding.
Too often, the word/reason I hear from new clients as to why they were looking for a new agency is the same: Frustration. And while it is that word that is often expressed to describe results or lack thereof, when we delve deeper into what caused that failure, we discover it is the same answer every time — lack of communication. Interestingly, the agency that is “fired” or “replaced” often says the exact same thing about the former client: Frustrated. And at first, both seem to think they discussed and communicated. But in reality, it did not occur.
The best part is that the end was sown at the beginning. Here is how it goes: The principles on both sides are not involved in important, up front discussions at the beginning of the relationship (or end of sales cycle). After these “key” managers sign off, they expect subordinates to make their shared goals reality. It is a hands-off approach afterward, often never meeting again in person. Executive management teams like to have one big kick off meeting, state their expectations, then let the group work it out thereafter. This usually results in a “firing” or “replacement” of the agency within 2 years. To give perspective, if one approached one’s marriage or child-rearing or investments in the same manner, the same results would occur, only more personally disastrous in the forms of divorce, insubordination and broke!
Taking the time– no — forcing the time to communicate is the key to long-term business relationships (and personal). At bloomfield knoble, we are often accused of being “blunt,” “pushy” and “passionate.” I don’t cringe when I hear any of those descriptions. That is a compliment. We don’t let executive management shirk its responsibility to us or ours to them by letting them off the hook when it comes to communication. We need to ask questions, discuss and be open about the situation. We need to get passionate about what our client’s are passionate about. We need to understand. Very simple. Very hard concept in business. But only by following this and adhering to it as a philosophy can one hope to be successful long-term in anything where other people are involved.
I’m not talking about “buy in” or “sticking to the plan.” I’m talking about conversations where eyes lock and understanding is watered and blooms. It is the duty of the agency to make all its client members successful, from top to bottom. From the directors to the implementors to the execution team, there must be no questions unanswered and no goals misunderstood. When an agency rolls over and says, “Well, I guess we just do our best and execute what they want,” without ever arguing their own opinion, they are doing you a great disservice. They are also sealing their fate.
Now, this is only learned through trial and error. We all have made this mistake many times starting in kindergarten and continuing through adult life. But here at bloomfield knoble, we have learned the lessons of childhood and adult business 101 communication and adhere to our formula for success — Ask + Discuss = Passion (for your business and marketing goal).
A little hint: This works well in personal instances, too!
Eric J. Hirschhorn is a principal at bloomfield knoble. For 17 years he has helped lead the Dallas-based advertising agency from start up to becoming a premier, full-service agency whose clients include some of the most influential companies in America. Eric lives to spend time with his family, to work and to travel the world in search of unique fishing adventures.