Business of Life

Tips on Positive Anxiety


Mr. Orlov, formerly a senior executive of Volkswagen Group and a specialist in the marketing of branded goods, reflects upon a discussion with colleagues on the divide between marketers and their agencies.

Scaring your clients into buying into an idea is never a good idea. Fear is rarely the answer to anything in business. However, I’ve always been a strong believer in the power of positive anxiety — a well-articulated and well-documented risk or competitive threat that compels a client to rethink the status quo, introduces a healthy amount of self-doubt, and creates those nagging questions in the back of the client’s mind: “what if,” and, inevitably, “why not?”

All too often, agencies think that giant global groups like Omnicom (NYSE: OMC) or organizations like Volkswagen have all the knowledge. They don’t. Trust me — the executives in these organizations need help like any other, despite size and circumstance.

Following are some practical tips for nurturing positive anxiety with your clients:

  • One can never breath a client’s air for them — but an agency can give them a whole lot more oxygen. Don’t try to be them and don’t try to assume, but always be ready and prepared to go the extra mile — with anxiety comes greater need.
  • Take them off defense and attack. A client has decided to put their trust in you, now it is time to help them sell that commitment powerfully into their organization. They will face detractors — make it easy for them to address such obstacles through the power and value of your work. Then there will never be a need for any attack.
  • The right answer to an essential question has a better chance of being valid if both sides accept honesty. Treat your partner as an equal — equal to the task of co-creating and working through the solutions together. Together, you win.
  • Never assume the other side is naive — there are always those quite capable of wearing the mask of a fool, to hide a wise head.
  • Forced engagements always end in emotional divorce. Never pursue a plan if your partner simply cannot come along with you. There is always a way, but is far better to start right than to fix wrong.
  • Facts and truths are not the same thing. Facts, though important, are the collation of data from any time, whilst business truth is the real life condition. Be armed with knowledge, be primed to handle essential matters in real time.
  • Trust is a line of credit. Not doing the right thing is where that line of credit erodes.
  • Never leave a promise unattended; people do remember.

— Alexei

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