During my 25-year tenure as a design professional, I have concluded three things: You can please yourself, you can please your client, or you can please your clients’ customers. Oftentimes, they are not the same thing, but they can be.

In the long run, it is in your best interest to please your clients’ customers above the desires of your client. Here is my hard lesson in marketing.


That’s right. Doing what pleases your client ON THE FRONT END seldom aligns with the results they hope to achieve and doing what will benefit your client might end with the loss of that client.


About seven years ago, I was approached by a small business. This business had a 3-year history as a military contractor making military-grade products for the navy. They wanted to branch out to the consumer market by repositioning one of their products.

I met with my new lead to talk with them about their vision for the future of their business and the exciting potential for their product on the civilian market. They looked forward to a time when they could boast about their growth that was not dependent on government spending.

At the conclusion of our meeting, I was given the trust of my new contact and they became my new client.

I eagerly began the process of product and consumer research. With my results I entered into the fun world of designing a new brand identity. This consisted of mood boards, color strategy & logo concepts.

Two weeks later, I called my client to schedule a meeting and present my brilliant work with a well-rehearsed verbal presentation.

The silence was suspenseful. At first, I thought that maybe they were just digesting all my amazing work, but soon enough, the silence was broken with a simple statement: “We are not seeing eye-to-eye.”


Over 40 hours of research and work, and I get that? I stammered a few words of my well-prepared verbal pitch, but for every thought I managed to express, I had more resistance with their own justification why they don’t like the direction I was headed.

On a personal level, it hurt. I was very pleased with my own work and the results of my research. Therefore, I fully expected my client to share the enthusiasm. Instead, I felt like I was 12 years old again getting an “F” on a project. I spent the entire weekend only to learn I did not understand the task. This was different, though. It was my sincere belief that my client was wrong, this time, not me.

Ultimately, I acquiesced and listened to my client without trying to defend my own well-vetted rationale. We had another meeting a week later where I presented what my client expected, not what I thought was appropriate. The meeting went really well, and my client was happy, and our relationship continued for months in preparation for the product release.


Following the product release, my client became increasingly irritated by the lack of enthusiasm – at best – to the negative response they got from their vendors and ultimate lack of sales. Nine months later, they abandoned the whole project. This was due to their thinking that the market was not ripe for their product.

In retrospect, I should have taken more time to get to know my client. I should have taken more time to understand their perspective and integrate it into the design strategy. Had I done that, I would not only be pleasing my client, but also their customers, and ultimately, myself.

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