My favorite customer is the one who points out my mistakes. It may be counterintuitive, but it’s true. The client who tells me I missed something or wants me to make a change is engaged in the writing process. An engaged customer winds up with text that is more than simply correct; it captures their voice and style and articulates their unique message. Client input and feedback are essential components in developing powerful and nuanced communications.
Early in my writing career, a designer hired me to write copy for a corporate brochure. The customer – a hauling company, if I remember correctly – didn’t have any existing literature, so I had to start from scratch, by interviewing the business owner. I approach these discussions with two general goals, to get the facts about the company and to gain an understanding of its character. He gave me neither. Me: “What’s different about your company?” Him: “I don’t know; you’re the writer.” Me: “How do you approach your customers?” Him: “Aren’t you supposed to tell me?” It was an uncomfortable conversation. When I sat down to write the copy, I had no choice but to be generic and vague. I might have even made some stuff up. I suppose he was happy with what I wrote; he paid me. I never actually saw the brochure, but when I think of how much better it could have been, it still makes me sad. Did he think so little of his own venture that mediocre was okay? I wonder if he’s still in business.
A little back and forth is not a waste of time, and I won’t be insulted or defensive if you identify something that you don’t like. Vibrant, compelling communications are the result of dynamic interaction and the end product is worth the effort that you, as a paying customer, put into it. When you notice something, no matter how trivial it may seem to be, don’t be afraid to ask about it. Experience has taught me that it’s the most effective, and perhaps the only, way to ensure that you’ll get the product you want. I’ll be flattered that you took the time to read the piece carefully. I’ll welcome the opportunity to fine-tune the text to represent your goals more accurately. I’ll thank you for staking your claim in the process, so we can both be successful.
And you’ll be my favorite customer.