Everyone talks about being client-centered.

Those who back up all the talk with real substance are rare.

The legendary father of advertising, David Ogilvy, was so committed to acting in the client’s best interest, that in the early days some thought the preoccupation a product of eccentricity.

On one occasion in the late 1950’s he and his team had been invited to make a presentation and pitch for the advertising and marketing account of Greyhound Bus Lines. When Ogilvy entered the pitch room, in true Mad Men fashion the art boards of a competitor’s creative presentation stared him in the face.

When it came his time to speak, Ogilvy turned to the assembled Greyhound execs and informed them that, though confident and proud of the presentation he and his team had created, the ideal solution to Greyhound’s advertising needs had already been presented — by one of his competitors.

Hence launched the successful and long-running Leave The Driving To Us campaign.

David Ogilvy didn’t build one of the most successful and decorated advertising agencies in the world by making a habit of selling work for the competition. But he did have the reputation of consistently acting in what he believed to be the best interest of the client.

Yes! We Are Client Centered (Really, We Are)

If it could be spoken into existence, we would all be masters in the art of being client-centered.

Peruse websites and marketing collateral and it is clear that the idea of coming at things from the client’s point of view is deemed worthy of marquis status.

But as anyone truly committed to it knows, client-centeredness is not as simple as crafting a headline and a few eloquent proclamations. Even award-winning attempts to script it into the offerings of a service organization often come up short when tested against what clients say and believe.

Why? Because client-centeredness is an attribute that either resides at the core of an organization, or tends to be easily brushed aside when push comes to shove in decisive moments.

When present, the client-centered attribute is manifest in experiences that communicate far more effectively than the best website service description ever written.

The Path To Trusted Advisor Status

I’m betting most of us remember a handful of times when the experience we received transcended any tangible marketing claim or promise. With deference to that old adage, we possess first-hand knowledge that experiences speak louder than words. 

Yet, it is easy to do precious little beyond talking about great client service. If we talk about it long enough, maybe it will be real!

Two things are worth noting. First, the experience you deliver IS your marketing message. Talk about it in collateral materials, announce it on your website and proclaim it until you lose your voice; but if what you say doesn’t align with the experiences you deliver, one message will be loud and clear — your game is all talk.

Second — the only real path to trusted advisor status is to consistently deliver an experience that demonstrates the client’s interests and concerns are paramount. Nothing will differentiate you in the market place more emphatically or more quickly.

And just in case it sounds like I’m suggesting your written message doesn’t matter, let’s pause. I believe in the power of the pen. I have been a writer since before I had a career. This is not a suggestion that the content on your website isn’t important. It is to say that when marketing content doesn’t align with the market’s experience, no amount of award-winning prose will help.

Client-centeredness is not a copy point. Copy points don’t live, and they are easily dismissed or forgotten.

Being client-centered is the byproduct of a core belief. And as is so often the case, the communication of core beliefs is most profound when seen and experienced. It is a fortunate consequence for the rare few who operate from a client-centered position that the experiences we deliver are memorable, differentiators and the most articulate marketing message possible.