The Cozy Client with the Elephants Memory

Who is closer, a mother who raised the child for 20 years or a spouse who has lived with the person for 20 years?  It is hard to say who knows who is the best. However, entertainers create a bond with clients by interacting and sharing an experience, thus creating an allusion to “friendship.” It’s like the scene in the movie National Lampoon’s Animal House, where they go on a road trip and see Otis Day and the Kings playing at a bar. Instantly, they presume that Otis knows them and that they are best friends.  To Otis, they are just another client and nothing special.

The client/friend relationship is a fragile gray line. It’s a sobriety test that you do not want to fail.  I have seen entertainers who have thought they were part of the company and gorged themselves on prong shrimp, and the following year they found themselves cast out to sea looking for a new gig. Beware, just because they joke around with you does not mean you are a “made man.”

A close working relationship does not mean you are best friends. Stories of entertainers who treat CEOs and VIPs like long-lost college friends quickly teach that jokes are like guns. Point one at somebody, and the funny quickly deflates.

Clients who have hired you for multiple events now feel it is OK to request and expect more because “we are friends.”  The feeling of obligation quickly surges through the body like the warmth from a shot of 20-year-old whiskey. These “special people” get designs that are typically not made. They have been elevated to a higher priority than the people paying you to be there.

Avoid the Deadly Trap

  1. Never Break Bread – Sharing a meal with a client quickly breaks down the client/customer relationship.
  2. Small Talk – Too much insider information about you allows the client to build false feelings of relationship.
  3. You Are Not Family – Family can do and say things to one another, which is acceptable.  Any outsider who tries the same will be led to the guillotines by the family members.

No matter how many events you attend, the client is always a customer. Professionalism should be the first thing they associate with you. Make friends elsewhere, and keep clients as customers.

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