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Carter's Groovy Guide to Client Relations

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Carter Davidson. A man of many names and many titles. He is our Designated Driver and our primary client liaison. He is a man so devoted to maintaining healthy relationships with clients, he has been known to ski with clients, eat with clients and even fish with them when they need some river therapy, or just therapy in general. (He’s a licensed Maine and New Hampshire fishing guide, so that's tough for anyone to pass up) Needless to say, he knows a thing or two about client relations. 

 

We sat down with Carter to pick his brain and learn his not-so-secret secrets to building genuine personal connections with clients.

 

Q: What are your tips for building long-lasting client relationships?

 

A: I think it's pretty simple. Most of what I'm imagining you and I talking about today is going to be straightforward. I mean, it's not rocket science here. In many cases I feel like the AE (account executive) or the client liaison, for me anyways, isn't about the spotlight. The spotlight is more focused on the creative geniuses here at Drive, and I'm totally good with that. Or the client, right? In many cases, the client deserves the spotlight. I mean, they're what it's all about in my mind. So that being said, it's super important that you're always available. And that's 24/7, 365 days. And if a call comes in at 10:30 at night, from a client saying, “I'm in a jam, I need your help,” or, “Hey, this just came up. I found a great ad opportunity and it's due tomorrow at nine,” whatever that call is, whether you have a solid runway to deliver or a very short turnaround. Number one, you have to answer the call and I know that sounds simple, but there is something very important about answering the phone or picking up the phone and calling. 

And then I think second to that, you just have to be supportive and willing to help them out at any point. There's sort of a phrase that I've been using for the past five or six years here at Drive and it's very much rooted in “yes is the answer, what's the question?” And so that's my approach. When talking with a client, or when a client calls or, “hey, I have this,” before we even know the details, it's likely that you're going to hear me say, “Absolutely, let's do this! Okay, now, give me the finer details.” That's just a way to show them that we're here to help. 

I think it's important to be honest, and I think it's also very important to have transparency with the client. Probably now more than ever given the past six months here in 2020. It's super important to be transparent. You know, clients are looking to come to us for help and honest feedback helps build the trusting and I think, an authentic relationship that might be hard to come by today, you know. 

I also want to say that it's important that I call out Miss Nancy Clark, the owner girl. There really is no better account executive, there is no better client liaison than her and she's amazing at it. And I've learned a lot from her over the past five or six years. And that's very much a true story. A couple tips. Like I said, it's not rocket science here, but You have to be willing to answer, help and be honest for sure.

Q: Things to avoid in building client relations?

 

A: Things to avoid? I mean, this is pretty straightforward, right? Number one, you don't ignore clients. I can't stress enough the importance of just always being available. Pick up the phone and send the email at any time. You just have to be there. First and foremost. So I think it's kind of that simple. 

Q: How do you approach communication with new clients?

 

A: Yeah that's a fun time. The starting point, the kickoff. I think, when working with a new client, in many cases, it's that honeymoon period. I think we can call it that, right? We've already been dating and so now we've got commitment, where we're going for it. So that honeymoon phase is very much me trying to get to know the client, how they operate, what's important to them, what's important to their company. And I think it's important for the client to sort of get to know us here at Drive. And so it's a lot of back and forth. You know, it could be emails, it could be a weekly call, that we tend to set up with a new client. I think once we've developed the relationship, it doesn't become turnkey, in the sense of, we're a factory, that's not us at all. It's authentic and unique. Every day is important but they get a sense of how we work, we get a sense of how they work and it becomes a little bit easier every day. I think obviously there's more questions asked in the early stages or the early days and that goes both ways. 

Oh, and one other piece. If at all possible in those early stages of client relations, I try to take them fishing. And that will absolutely make Nancy's eyes roll and she'll cup her hands in her head and shake her head (that's a side little joke we have here). That proves the point, though, that people are more conversational when they're relaxed, I think.

Q: Is every client relationship different?

 

A: Absolutely. It's very similar to the crew here at Drive. I think we're all unique. What's important to Mike, as the Art Director–though it could be very similar to what's important to Kris, our Creative Director–there's a flair of each of their own personalities, in their wants, desires, workflow and their end product. So I translate that over to the client side. What's important to Cannon Mountain isn't necessarily the same as what's important to any of our other clients. I think that's one piece of Drive Brand that's unique, because we're not an agency that's vertical. We're not all stacked up in one industry. We don't just serve healthcare., we don't just serve the ski industry, we're across the board and so the industries are different–let alone the client and what's important to them. 

Another example might be one client could be very data driven, while another is more content oriented. There's a joke here that some are cat lovers, some are dog lovers and I think we even had a client who was a goat farmer at one point, but it proves the point that each client is unique and every relationship will evolve, as it should, on its own.

Q: Is there a certain voice you try to use to represent Drive, or do work with clients simply as yourself?

 

A: Not really, no. It's pretty much straight up me, although, I think Nancy has said that I've got a solid phone voice. So I don't know if that's relative to this conversation, but I suppose that's something that everybody can count on. I’m straight up, Carter. There's no fake here. I think it's important that everyone knows I'm genuinely interested in how they're doing and what's going on inside their office and outside. I'm very much a friend, and a part of their family I hope, and certainly a part of their team. That sort of goes back to the earlier question, that I consider myself their representative, their liaison, a member of their team and just bridging that gap to Drive. So you get Carter all day, every day, 100%

Q: What’s your favorite client relationship story?

 

A: Yeah, that's that's tough. I mean, we've already talked about the fishing adventures. And I'm still trying to work on a client relations trip to Labrador for huge brook trout. So there's my 2021 goal for you. 

If I were to sort of look back over the five or six years here at Drive, there's a few projects that sort of stand out. One of which is a photoshoot, and it was a monster photoshoot. Large crew, multiple photographers, we were on location for I think–two weeks, huge list of talent, models–so there was just a lot that went into it. The shoot was out in Colorado and like any photoshoot done right, you have to scout. So, we ended up–Kris and I–going out to Colorado for a few days just to scout, so that we had our homework done. Coincidentally, there was a huge snowstorm that rolled through southern Colorado. We show up at the client's office and he says, “We're not going to scout what we expected to scout Today. We're going to scout the upper mountain.” And really that was a wink wink, we're just gonna go have fun today. There's probably a foot and a half of fresh snow, and if those listening don't understand the passion that I think just about everybody in our office has for winter sports, there is nothing better than a client saying “let's just go rip it up.” And that's what we did, Like trees, and steeps, and Bluebird day. I mean, that never happens. It's one thing to get a powder day, it's another to get a powder day with blue sky and we got that. Coolest part of that day for me was just hearing the client hoot and holler and knowing that he had as good of a day as Kris and I. Those are sort of one of those moments where I just feel like I'm in the right place, not because we're just having a blast, but because good things happened that day. So that's one. I think the takeaway from all of that was a lifetime connection had been made with the client, and I suppose, too, powder turns with a client are pretty cool.

Q: Anything more you want to add?

 

A: Well, is now a good time to mention that I'm licensed Maine and New Hampshire fishing guide or Is that too much?

There you have it folks. A brief look into the mind of Carter Davidson. As you can tell, he knows a lot about relationships - we’re trying to convince him to audition to host one of those dating shows, we’ll keep you posted.

We know you were furiously taking notes, so here’s a recap of Carter’s fundamentals for ya. 

All told, Carter’s formula for success includes a handful of fundamental ingredients:

 

  1. He is known for saying, “yes is the answer, what's the question?”

  2. It is important that he doesn’t take himself too seriously as he prefers to enjoy the ride.

  3. Carter does not like lima beans or couscous but he loves boats.

  4. Embrace going the extra “mile.” That part of the road tends to be the most rewarding.

  5. #FishMoreAndYoullLiveLonger just saying

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