The art of asking the right questions (and caring about the answers) to take the agency/client connection from like to L-O-V-E.
Waaaaay back at the beginning of 2015, a very smart coworker shared a New York Times article with me that explores the idea of asking a series of 36 personal questions in a specific order with the intention of making people fall in love.
If you missed it, the idea is that mutual vulnerability creates a level of intimacy that leads to romance. And that vulnerability can be achieved simply by answering 36 questions and spending exactly four minutes looking into someone’s eyes.
I’d only been with Adpearance for a few months when I read the article, and in that amount of time I’d participated in more client interviews than I’d ever thought possible. Around Adpearance, we call them “intakes.” And we have intakes for everything: new websites, SEO services, social management services, specific projects or goals, you name it. They’re pretty fun and surprisingly fast. Our marketing specialists typically lead the conversations, and those crazy kids are smart and curious enough that they always manage to unveil something that would be missed in a classic brief. So intakes are really effective and the time is well spent.
But reading the NYT article and being new to intakes got me thinking: What if we were able to mastermind the perfect order of questions for intakes? In addition to getting us the information we need to produce a great product, could a properly structured list of questions make our clients fall in love with us?
The idea festered in my brain.
I asked our marketing specialists to send me their lists of questions in advance. I considered reordering them into a magical cadence, starting with easy and progressing from there. In short, I tried to figure out how to game an intake in such a way that clients would hang up the phone or walk out of the meeting room thinking, “Man, I love Adpearance. They’re my digital life partner. I’m in F-O-R-E-V-E-R.”
But time passed. I sat in more intakes. I heard more clients answer questions about their hopes and visions. I started leading intakes myself.
And that’s when it hit me: All those questions in the intakes aren’t about making the client fall in love with the agency. They’re about the agency falling in love with the client.
When you hear firsthand about a fellow marketer waking up in the middle of the night with a seemingly impossible business challenge, you care. And when a sales guy confesses that he’s desperate for more leads, you feel a sense of personal responsibility to help him. It’s powerful. You don’t need to manipulate the conversation. You’re in.
And that is what’s been so fun for me at Adpearance: To see is that once the agency is personally engaged, so is the client. I believe the best client retention strategy is to set loose a team of whip-smart marketers to deliver on goal with passion, care and dedication. That’s what every client has wanted.
So, I may not be a scientist or journalist or active dating participant, but six months after reading the study on falling in love in 36 questions and asking innumerable questions of clients, I believe that in the client/agency relationship, the game doesn’t matter. Ask the questions in the most natural order possible. It’s finding the humanity in the B2B setting that makes businesses fall in love.