Client Porn: Recovering from the Destructive Power of “Ideal” Clients

“Now that is a good-looking client.”

Big… budget.

Long, sexy… timeframe.

Rock-hard… ROI.

And did you see those analytics?

Alright, before this gets out of hand, let’s start with a question.

 

What is “client porn”?

About a week ago I sat down with my good buddy Adam Cuppy from Zeal to talk about that question.

His answer?

Client porn is objectifying a prospective client, setting them on a pedestal of perfection, and thereby separating them from the relationship.

Good definition, right?

Well, let me add to that a bit.

 

Client porn is…

  • fantasizing and fawning
  • ogling and objectifying
  • dehumanizing and degrading
  • your idea of the “ideal” client

Sound familiar?

It should, because we’re all guilty. In fact, I’ll be the first to say it…

 

My name is Marcus, and I’m a client-porn addict.

Things got so bad when I was managing partner at Creo, I even created a “Client Maturity Model,” which was my agile-agency way of mapping out not just the “ideal client,” but the “ideal client relationship.”

What’s worse, I even justified it by calling the document by its more common (but much more deceptive) marketing title: a persona.

 

Porn vs. Personas

Before we go any further, let me be clear: I am not advocating you abandon traditional forms of audience analysis and market research.

That’d be crazy.

In fact, developing what Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg call buying “personas” is absolutely essential to crafting a persuasive message that attracts and lands legitimate clients.

The Eisenbergs put it like this in Waiting for Your Cat to Bark:

Lots of businesses, in no small part because of inside-the-bottle syndrome, persist in setting up processes in the ways they understand, the ways they find appealing, as if the business themselves were their own, sole target audience.

You can imagine the extent to which you limit your persuasive potential when you focus on what you want rather than what your customer wants.

In other words…

 

Your business cannot be about you.
It has to be about them.

 

And this is exactly why client porn is so incredibly poisonous and destructive: client porn is all about meeting your needs, comforting your fear, and stroking your ego. It’s all about you feeling safe, secure, and satisfied.

Putting it like that makes it easy to see what’s missing: them.

Client porn robs your business relationships of… well, the client.

Instead of building real relationships with real people, client porn dehumanizes. It’s a mode of escapism that separates you and your client from a relationship that’s honest, real, and mutual.

To quote Mr. Cuppy, client porn creates a “take-take” relationship where giving isn’t just overlooked, it’s abhorred.

This kind of atmosphere makes it impossible to relate to your clients as people and it robs you both of gratitude and appreciation.

 

So, how do you rescue your relationships from the destructive power of the “ideal” client?

Two tips...

 

1. “Stop it.”

Bob Newhart was right: Stop it. Stop it, right now.

Of course, the real question is always, “How?”

You can start by getting honest.

Have you ever said to yourself, “I can’t wait for Client-Awesome to sign on, so I can finally drop Client-Lame.”

Stop it.

Next, recognize how poisonous and truly destructive client porn is… to you, to your business, and (above all) to your relationships.

Only when the destructive power of client porn becomes real will you be able to resist its siren song.

Lastly, stop bad mouthing your clients… to anyone: “Out of the mouth overflows the heart.”

So (one more time): stop it.

 

2. “Love the one you’re with.”

Time to get practical.

 

First: Why should you “love the one you’re with”?

Because (at the end of the day) it’s in your own best interests to.

The only way to really get your needs met is by not directly trying meet your needs.

Sociologists call this “inner subjective.”

The theory goes like this: if I put your needs above my own and actually meet them, then the only thing you have left to do in our relationship is meet my needs.

In other words, if I shift my focus to the client, the client will shift their focus to me. I get what I want by first making sure they’re getting what they want.

(And, yes, this is a universal relationship principle.)

 

Second: How do you “love the one you’re with”?

The key is to be specific.

Ask yourself, “What does my client really need and how can I partner with them to get it?”

Normally, we tend to think of the product as the need. But that’s rarely (read: never) the case.

The real need is always emotional.

This sounds basic, and it is, but it’s so often overlooked.

Yes, your client wants you to deliver what you’ve promised, when you’ve promised it, in the manner expect. But even more than that, they want to be heard, respected, honored, cheered on, built up, rallied around, and (gasp) loved.

 

After all, as revolutionary as this might sound, your client is real person, so start treating them like one.

 

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