You stay in the nest until they’re ready to fly

34696261 Clients aren’t always ready to go where you need to take them. 

They might be afraid.  They might not have the budget.  They might be caught up in some internal politics.  What you’re asking them to do might be difficult.  Or, they might not get it. 

But the bottom line is, they aren’t ready to leave the nest. 

We see that sometimes with clients when we talk about branding.  They might think it’s just fluff or they haven’t wrapped their arms around the idea that their logo is not their brand.  Whatever the reason — they aren’t ready to take advantage of the power that comes from truly knowing and living your brand story.

So as an agency, we have a choice.  We can tell them to come back when they’re ready or we can meet them where they are, stuck in their nest.

Wed all have clients like that.  Those clients are like baby birds.  If we rush them, shoving them out of the nest….splat!    That serves no purpose but our ego.

We need to be patient and just hang with them in the nest.  We can feed them little tidbits of information, letting them learn slowly and absorb what we’re telling them.   Sooner or later, they’ll want to stretch their wings a little.

When you think about it, that’s our job.  To help clients gain the information and confidence (in us) they need so they can stretch their wings. 


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20 comments on “You stay in the nest until they’re ready to fly

  1. Daria says:

    Nice metaphor. I am afraid though than not all the clients are cute baby birds. Some of them af aggressive opponents of leaving the nest under no conditions. And love and care doesn’t always soften their hearts. But I like the way you think. After all love & care can change a love of things.

  2. The Kaiser says:

    ooooooooh not sure about this one Drew.

    I know what you’re saying, but I think that a very traditional model of dealing with a client – or – it’s a way of thinking within a traditional client model.

    I think if you manage to make your agency part of the “development” team then you can push them out of the nest but the fall is a little softer – because it’s an internal fall.

    I’ve been banging the drum now for years that agencies need to get themselves into the R&D departments of clients – and that clients need to let that happen. That’s where, for me at any rate, real value can happen.

    I don’t think we can afford to be patient with them, because they expect us to expect that. They know that we should be patient with them.

    And I for one refuse to pander to the ego of some MBA graduate who afraid of disappointing his line manager.

    Much love as always,
    The Kaiser

  3. Janine says:

    I think the fear of leaving the nest is not unique to branding efforts, but it certainly is heightened when the client is unseasoned but armed with an MBA.

  4. Ely says:

    Being patient is very important when dealing with clients, customers, partners. You should run your company (specially if it is a startup) at a very fast pace internally, but that does not mean you should rush your clients into buying your ideas, concepts, products, services…

    We need to remember that we spend years becoming expert in our field and when someone comes for help, they do not have a fraction of that knowledge and experience. It is our job, as you mention, to educate them one step at the time and explain how we will help them reach their goal. Slowly to become more confident and they are comfortable enough to make decisions.

  5. Daria,

    True. But those clients probably aren’t going to change, no matter what. Those are the kinds of clients we should have the courage to fire.

    If we have the authority to do so.


  6. Kaiser,

    I completely agree with your “get in there and help them create it” model. We are doing that with excellent results with a few of our clients.

    But that kind of relationship does not happen overnight. There has to be a huge level of trust. And sometimes, you have to build the trust slowly — by hanging with them in the nest.

    Your model assumes a very high level of smarts and sophistication on both the agency and client side. Those kinds of clients don’t come along every day. Or at least they haven’t in my world. Doesn’t mean we can’t grow them to become that. But to stay in my analogy — that’s a client who not only already knows how to fly — but can soar.

    And…I was trying not to talk just about the agency business but any consultant/customer relationship. I think the same holds true for many of my readers who live outside the agency world.

    Bottom line — I agree with you. But I think sometimes you have to work up to that level of engagement.

    Is that different from your experience? Do you think there are a lot of potential clients out there who will just immediately let the agency assume the “on the R&D team” role?

    Love the love…and right back at you!


  7. The Kaiser says:

    Absolutely agree that you have to work up. As I said in my comment – clients have to let it happen too.

    And yes, I demand smarts (I am after all The Kaiser). We’re seeing enough dumb stuff and it’s time to put a stop to it.

    You coming to Munich tomorrow?

    Regal Hugs,
    The Kaiser.

  8. Max Entin says:

    Educating clients is a great way to make progress and get them to take action that is in their best interest. One of the other important factors is building trust. In addition to educating them you can start with a small paid project first. Don’t try to sell them on a big project if they’re hesitant. Do a very small one first so that the money changes hands and they are happy with the initial result of the small project. They will then be more receptive to an idea of a bigger project.

  9. Some of my clients I have to KICK OUT OF THE NEST or else they’ll strangle me, my time, and my creativity. Otherwise, there’s definitely a fine line that one must walk between keeping them in and encouraging them to fly!

  10. Janine,

    Without a doubt this goes beyond the agency world. That was the point I was trying to make. We all have clients who are at different phases of readiness.

    We have to decide which ones are worth nurturing and which ones aren’t going to change…so we should fire them.


  11. Ely,

    Good point. We didn’t learn/accept it overnight either.


  12. James says:

    At risk of mixing metaphors, it’s all about packaging.

    If the client isn’t ready to talk about branding, or whatever the issue is, put the idea in a new box and call it something else. If that doesn’t work, change the color of the box and deliver it again. Add a ribbon, and deliver it again. In time, the client will accept the new thinking and embraces it as their own.

    I was able to move a major telco, and we all know how hidebound they can be, with this approach. It takes time but it works.

  13. Ellen Weber says:

    What an interesting post and discussion, and a terrific picture of the clients we all meet!

    From the brain’s perspective, you get more synergy when you first identify exactly where you stand, and then agree to lay out and describe exactly where you are headed.

    It seems to me that a question to that effect would help clients step (or fly) past the fear and insecurity that hold so many of us back in light of a big move:-).

    How about simply asking, “Where are you standing now in terms of where you hope to arrive by next month? Thoughts?

  14. Kaiser,

    I was with you in spirit!


  15. Max,

    Very true — sometimes baby steps to start out with build confidence and trust. Usually, if you go slowly with a new client — soon they’re ready to run with you.

    I think sometimes people take the fear/hesitation personally as opposed to thinking about it from the client’s perspective.


  16. Pizza Dreamer —

    Very true. Sometimes a bad client is just a bad client. The trick is knowing when enough is enough and as you say…booting them out of the nest!


  17. Lewis,

    You raise an interesting point. I wonder if how quickly a client is ready to leave the nest has any correlation to the pricing model/strategy?

    Would your clients feel as comfortable if you had a long term relationship mindset but still billed by the project?

    Interesting to think about.


  18. James,

    Excellent point. I think we’re saying the same thing, just using different language. I believe you just keep feeding it to them, in bite sized pieces they can consume.

    So…you’re right, just keep presenting the ideas, but in different ways, volumes, etc.

    Over time, they’ll begin to get comfortable and used to the new ideas. And it could play out just as you suggest — pretty soon they think it’s their idea!

    Either way, as long as they get where they need to go!


  19. Ellen,

    I find that asking questions like the one you suggested really helps clients look at their situation differently. It also allows them to discover they have most of the answers, if they’ll just listen.

    It also helps to let them take trial flights. Little attempts to get closer to the target. If it feels too scary or too far out there, they can come right back to the nest.


  20. The Kaiser says:

    It was hell – the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

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