In any field, true masters of their craft make it look easy. This is certainly true delivering large and complex retail marketing programs for clients. From their perspective, what I do as a project lead should look easy. A big part of the job description is ensuring that our agency’s execution appears completely seamless.
Of course, it rarely is and that’s where the magic happens. After more than 15 years working in this capacity at multiple marketing agencies, I have learned a lot about what it takes. Let’s pull back the curtain—just a little—to reveal some of my secrets delivering expert-level client service on complex retail marketing programs.
Never Let Them See You Sweat
You know how they say being a good host is like a swan—serene and confident on the surface, but below the water, paddling like hell? Well, that’s client service. If a client can see the thrash and waves in the water, you’re doing it wrong.
Before I moved from my native Trinidad, I used to work on the client side, and that experience still gives me perspective. At the end of the day, clients need their retail programs in market on time and on budget. I act as the client’s extra hand, relieving any doubt and stress from their mind. For me, success is defined not only by the quality of the program, but whether we made it easy on the client.
Planning and Preparation Is Everything
The critical first step in making it look easy is to understand in fine detail how our clients and strategists want to roll out the retail marketing program. The more complete the brief is, the more accurately I assess timelines and budgets to come up with an estimate. There are few things I love more in my work than a brief that’s crystal clear with examples of the creative that’s needed—it really helps set the entire program up for success.
Sometimes I need to gently massage or trim to get the program within the client’s budget. My own experience and knowing what matters most to the client’s goals and KPIs ultimately guides my hand reducing or removing non-essential components.
Anticipate Domino Effects
A big part of planning and preparation is identifying any risks well in advance.
With long lead times, more complexity and the general upheaval that pervades retail today, programs almost always end up being executed in a way that is different from the initial plan.
Some retail locations expand while others contract or even close up entirely, and suddenly budgets and timelines need to be revised. It’s an ever-shifting process, but anticipating some degree of change helps to mitigate any downstream effects.
Keep Your Eyes on the Sky
Most days, I feel like air traffic controller, trying to guide five planes into safe landings all at the same time. To avoid disaster, all the pieces of a complex retail marketing program need to fit together and work as a whole. It’s my job to make sure every link in the chain holds fast.
So when something about the program does change, everyone has to be kept fully informed to identify any other issues that may crop up. I typically go back over everything with timelines, quantities, inform suppliers or production crews, and then have them update pricing on raw materials.
Over the years, I’ve become more confident in creative problem solving . My personal idiom is, “There are more ways to reach the sum of 4”. If I only have one less than satisfactory idea to resolve a challenge, I speak with colleagues and partners to gather other options.
Gain Trust Through Transparency and Honesty
If there is a mantra I live by, it’s to maintain as much transparency as possible, so there are no surprises. I believe in strong business ethics—in this business, honesty truly is the best policy.
Of course, a big part of keeping the client’s stress low is to keep them fully informed about the program’s progress, so I share updates in between milestones. It helps clients to know that everything is on track, or that if there are course corrections, they are well in hand. I never keep them in the dark about anything at any time. It’s essential that clients feel comfortable placing their programs in MMK’s hands. There’s only one way to gain that trust: demonstrate you know what you’re doing.
Many Ways to Be Smart
As a project lead, I may be biased, but I believe that a major portion of success in retail marketing comes down to confident, seamless execution of programs. Smart creative matters a lot, of course, as does the right strategy and consumer insights. But getting that program in store on time and on budget with little to no stress ensures the client can get the full value out of their campaigns.
Want to see how we could help guide your next retail program into a successful landing? Contact us to have a chat.