Leveling Up: Creating Strategic Opportunities with Clients

My client gives me tactical work, I wish they gave me a more strategic role.

My Take:

Clients don’t give you strategic opportunities, you create them.

It is your job to share with your client an insight that changes their thinking and impacts their business. Once you do that — they will start to see you differently. That is within your power.

To do that you are going to need to be aware of the practitioner acronyms you use everyday. Probably things like: CTR, CRO, CPCs, CRUX. 

This is what you should start adding into your reports: CaC, LTV, COGS, SG&A, Churn, MRR, Margin, etc.

Heck, look at your last presentation or report to a client -- do “Ctrl+F” for ‘$’. How many dollar signs are in there? Money is the universal language of doing business.

Start studying how industry acronyms (CTR, CPC, etc) increase or decrease impact on business acronyms (CaC, LTV, etc).

If you can start to speak that language you might get invited to the strategy table more and more.

“You should be on Pinterest because MSV is X” is WAAAAAY different than, “I looked into our CRM and saw that Pinterest referrals have a 3x higher LTV, and buy products with 30% higher margins. Therefore I believe that we should invest X% of our budget in Pinterest because we are only addressing 10% of the customer universe there right now.” (Notice I said customer universe, not MSV).

Strategic consulting is about knowing when to shift your language to theirs.

Clients don’t care about your acronyms in and of themselves. They care about how those acronym things you show them actually impact revenue, risk, customers, margins, and growth. 

When a client says “I gotta get to X to raise my series B” then you have to evaluate EVERYTHING you do through the lens of getting to X. 

If your clients ask is for 10 links or to rank #1, ask them what they believe that will do for their business. If they can’t answer it, you have a tactical client, which means you’ll always get tactical asks. If they can answer it, great, even better if they are open to you helping them find other ways to hit that overall goal.

I find that we all get to step up to the strategy plate in our careers, but if we fail at it we will be relegated to the tactical “penalty box.” 

It’s not because we didn’t get a chance, it’s because when we did get that chance -- we blew it by going too deep on the outputs of our work (links, rankings, CTR improvements) and not going deep enough into the potential business outcomes of those activities. 

Oftentimes we walk out of those meetings like “crushed it” but little do we know, we will never get asked those tough questions / for our opinions again. Why? We went with what was comfortable -- our area of expertise.

Start by telling your client you want to earn a seat at the table!

Most of the people who “don’t get a chance to be strategic” have never gone to their client directly and asked them for an opportunity to level up and asked what do I need to do to be given that opportunity, then asked that client to be a partner in it. 

Tell your client: "I want to be a strategic partner, I want to earn that right … will you tell me where I am failing to do that? If I’m not answering your big questions, I need your feedback to challenge me".

Like most things, you get the most help when you are vulnerable enough to ask for it.

It serves everyone (them and you) to have you in a position to better connect the dots between your world and theirs.

For more ways to level up to the C-Suite, check out these resources:

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President