Clients are not just a “pain in the ass”

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

16 June 2014

The art of stealing share requires work from clients

In all my years in this business, I never thought I’d come across a headline that said this: Cramer-Krasselt Resigns Panera Bread Because Client Was a Pain in the Ass.

That made me laugh. In our business, like many others, people like to complain about their customers – and there’s the old joke that marketing would be a nice business if it weren’t for the clients.

“They play such a significant role when they hire us, for example, that we ask them to follow some actual rules to ensure success.”

But even this story supports the notion that clients are powerfully important in the process. They play such a significant role when they hire us, for example, that we ask them to follow some actual rules to ensure success.

One of the most important ones is not to have any sacred cows. There is a reason for this. To truly steal share, everything must be examined. Otherwise, you may hold tight to something that’s actually the thing keeping you from winning.

That may be a name and logo, although the myth is that a rebranding includes changing those things. In actuality, those things are examined, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be changed.

Having an open mind as a client is easier said than done because you, as a steward of the company you work for or own, have emotional ties to the brand that may or may not be important. The key is letting those go so there are no obstacles to stealing share.

Panera BreadThere is another component that’s key to stealing share. Whatever you promise, the company must be able to fulfill it. That’s why what Stealing Share does, for example, is actually look at the operational issues as well as the product offerings to see what can be changed (and it almost always involves change) to claim the highest emotional intensity in the market.

That can be a difficult process because some companies fight inertia, as “it’s the way we’ve always done it.” In a sense, along with having no sacred cows, companies that win get out of their own way.

But it’s no laughing matter that the business would be better off without clients. The art of stealing share can’t happen without their input. Thankfully, we’ve been lucky with many aggressive and open clients who are smart going through the process.

I don’t know if Panera Bread really is a pain in the ass and I kind of like its Rube Goldberg-esque ads. But it’s important to note that the client has its own important responsibilities in stealing market share.

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  1. Mike Oz

    Can’t believe an agency actually said that. I know most wanted to. Heck, I’ve wanted to.

    But I like the point. The client has responsibilities too.

    • Tom Dougherty

      Yes the client certainly has responsibilities. However, the model that most agencies use (retainer) makes it a conflict of interests to tell the client the truth. There is a HUGE investment in the relationship and more often then not, expertise and effectiveness are poor stepsisters.

  2. Rachel Lentz

    The client definitely has responsibility. I agree with the first person that it can sometimes be very difficult to hold back from telling the client what you think of them.

  3. Mark D.

    Candor and fearlessness… It’s the fear of the unknown that keeps clients in a state of perpetual inertia.

  4. Corbin

    Yes the client has responsibilities, but making sure that the client understands what their responsibilities are is an extremely important factor in the client/consultant relationship.

    Consultants need to choose their clients just as much as the reverse. It works best when there is a two-way street. Without it, projects can end up being a failed frustrating mess.


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