by Alistair Mokoena (@AlistairMokoena) While it’s customary for clients and suppliers to wish each other a great festive season or a happy New Year, it’s very rare to see clients and suppliers sharing New Year’s resolutions, especially ones that pertain to their business relationship. Some might share personal resolutions but seldom do you hear clients and suppliers discussing work-related resolutions. Shouldn’t we know what each of us is setting out to achieve this year? What could be more important?

Inform our business agendas

This is very strange when you consider the amount of mental bandwidth these goals enjoy in our lives. They inform our business agendas, as well as our personal to-do lists. One of my favourite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt is “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Knowing what your business partners value and aspire to gives you the inside track on what matters to them. There’s no better way to achieve relevance than to understand and deliver on what really matters. My counsel is focus upon what matters; everything else is a sideshow.

Those of us who take New Year’s resolutions seriously tend to dedicate a disproportionate amount of time and effort to making these materialise. Once I share mine with others, I expect that those close to me will, at best, help me achieve these or, at worst, not stand in the way of my achieving my goals. But how do I expect help if I don’t communicate my needs?

Some people believe that all you have to do is declare these goals to the universe and the universe will somehow conspire with them in the pursuit of their goals. If it were that easy, we would all wake up in the morning and ordain success through our declarations. It doesn’t work that way. In every relationship, you have to ask for what you desire.

Have to make it our business

As ad men and women, we have to make it our business to understand our clients’ resolutions, which tend to revolve around addressing the criticism that our clients, marketing professionals, face daily from their stakeholders. These generally fall into the following categories: speed, efficiency, effectiveness, impact, influence, meaning, growth and having fun.

I’ve heard many clients say, “We have to work smarter, be faster and more nimble this year; our budgets are under pressure.” I’ve also heard clients say, “We need to get better at demonstrating that our marketing efforts are effective. The finance department is demanding to see a return on marketing investment through demonstrating a link between marketing inputs and broader organisational outputs such as sales.” They look to us to help them achieve these.

We must send questionnaires to our clients at the beginning of the year, asking what their personal and business resolutions are for the New Year (the fact that my client’s resolution is to lose weight has a massive impact upon our catering decision in meetings). We also need to share our resolutions with our clients so they may help us achieve success. For example if my resolutions are to contain costs, grow revenue, develop talent, drive transformation, achieve work life balance and win awards, I need to let my client know so he or she may support me in my journey — that’s what happens in symmetrical relationships that are based upon mutual success.

It’s not too late

It’s only February now: it’s not too late to tell clients or suppliers what’s front and centre in your mind in 2016. No goal is frivolous. Even if all you want is a six-pack and to have more fun, these are important goals because they give you energy. Protect them with all your might.


Alistair Mokoena November 2014Alistair Mokoena (@AlistairMokoena) is a Unilever-trained chartered marketer with lots of blue-chip marketing experience who switched from client- to agency side at the end of 2012 and is currently MD of Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg. One of his favourite pastimes is driving around in the bush, photographing wildlife. He contributes the monthly “The Switch” column, covering relationships inside agencies and between agencies and clients, to

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