Unusual ways to meet clients

Following our piece last week on ways to meet clients outside of pitch situations, designers tell us about the most unusual ways they have met or been engaged by clients.

Matt Baxter (background), creative director, Baxter and Bailey
Matt Baxter (background), creative director, Baxter and Bailey

“My business partner Dom and I have been chatting about this question and it seems we’re pretty straight when it comes to meeting new clients. Lots of good referral and enthusiastic recommendation and the occasional bit of happenstance and serendipity.

So if you’ll allow me to stretch the brief a little, I’ll tell you how I met my accountant (who also became a client).

At the age of eight or nine I liked to draw comics and, if asked, give them away. One day, a little curly-haired boy in the other class suggested that I should charge for them. Maybe 10p a go, he thought. This lad’s got laser-guided business acumen and financial chops, I thought. (I was very linguistically advanced.) And with that, we made a deal: I’d do the creative work, he’d handle the sales.

Thirty odd years later he’s my accountant and continues to suggest that I should charge a bit more for my drawings.”

David Kimpton
David Kimpton, founder, Kimpton Creative

“I used to play hockey and on one occasion after a match, I couldn’t find my flat keys anywhere. I ended up sleeping on a sofa in a back room at the clubhouse.

The next morning I discovered I’d done my back in lying on the sofa all night. I then spent £200 visiting an osteopath to sort my back out. She became my client! (Two months later my keys turned up in a hidden pocket of my kitbag).”

Jenny Theolin, creative director, Studio Theolin
Jenny Theolin, creative director, Studio Theolin

“Last year I got an email from the gallery who hosted LOLCat Teh Exhibishun, the world’s first exhibition inspired by cats on the internet, which I curated and organised there the year before.

She had a gentleman photographer (standing next to her) who was going to be exhibiting there later in the year, and he needed some exhibition design and marketing help. And she thought of me.

The unusual result was that, not be-known to the gallerist, I had moved to Sweden and this gentleman was a very well-known Stockholm-based creative. And he became my first client here in Sweden.

Cats on the internet saves the day!”

Algy Batten, founder, Fivefootsix
Algy Batten, founder, Fivefootsix

“About 7 years ago I had a consultation with one of the world’s leading laser eye surgeons. He had done a friend’s eyes and it took me about three months on the waiting list to get the appointment.

During the first few minutes of the consultation we discussed the usual questions of my age, health, occupation etc.

From the moment I disclosed my occupation I don’t think we had another conversation about laser eye surgery, it was all about developing brands for a laser eye surgeons. By the end of the half hour consultation I had a new client and my surgery appointment was booked for the end of the week, instead of the usual four-month wait.

It was only the night before the surgery, when my friend asked me which procedure I had opted for, that I realised I didn’t quite know what I was in for.

But seven years later my eyes are still great and he’s still a client so something must have worked!”

John Spencer, founder, Offthetopofmyhead
John Spencer, founder, Offthetopofmyhead

“The Duke of Edinburgh is The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Senior Fellow. I was working on The Academy’s identity. They had agreed the design then The Duke decided to have his say.

I went to Buckingham Palace with the president, chief executive and Tom McLaughlan, the director of communications. I’ll never forget Tom saying as we arrived: ‘We’re not so much looking for The Duke’s approval, we’re looking to survive’.

We met The Duke in his private library. I presented my work. He fixed me with a stare. Then he asked: ‘Do you have anything else?’ He didn’t like the identity but he did give it his support. And we legged it to a nearby pub.”

Simon Manchipp
Simon Manchipp, co-founder, SomeOne

“Now, I read in two ways. 1) What was the most curious meeting? and 2) where was the most curious meeting?

Let’s start with number 1. We’ve had some unbelievable meetings — last week a woman spent much of the time we had together with her hand down her trousers (true story) — this was a pitch, with six people in the room. Very distracting. Intimate moments are not a rarity… a couple of months ago we had a meeting where a new contact breast-fed (her baby) throughout the pitch.

I’ve had a very senior politician walk into the meeting, drunk with both cock and balls hanging from his fly (seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up).

Or there was the time David Law and I were flown to Russia, put up in a top hotel, driven for three hrs into deep Russian forests where we thought we were about to be shot, only to have a meeting with people we’ve never met about a project we had not been told about in metaphors so deep we left with no idea of what had happened (and we got paid for it).

On the other hand, to answer the flip side of the question… I’ve met a CEO while dressed in Tweeds and Hunter Wellingtons in Norfolk, by accident, won one of the agencies biggest founding clients deeply hungover on the Tube and discussed creative direction with an ad agency ECD on a Rollercoaster perched upon the end of Brighton Pier.

I suppose the point is that boardrooms are increasingly finding themselves lower on the list of places where business is discussed and agreed — I’ve long supported the view that you learn more out of an office than you do within it. Even if you have to endure some curious people and places along the way.

With so many odd icebreaking moments, We’re looking forward to taking it to the next level at SomeOne. The Japanese have a phrase ‘Hadaka Tsukiai’ — it refers to meetings held in Onsen (the hot baths found around the country). Tradition requires you not only to walk out entirely naked to meet your clients, but also to rest a small 7” towel (all that you are allowed to carry with you) upon your head while submerged in the scalding hot waters. The phrase means ‘Naked Companionship’. Naturally we’re looking to install a communal bath in our new studio.”

Discover more:

• Beyond the pitch: better ways to start conversations with clients

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  • John Scarrott September 17, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Ok here’s mine. And this dates me because it was before computers and the connected universe we live in. I was part of an ad sales team, and we were closing off that issue of the magazine. I came back to my desk to see a post it note with a colleagues scrawl on it that someone had called in wanting to discuss placing an ad. They’d mangled the name of the company- Greyson something, got the phone number wrong (it didn’t work) and they didn’t get a name either. No internet, no LinkedIn. Nowhere to go with it. So I headed home somewhat miffed. That evening I went round the corner to the supermarket and on the way back I passed a truck with a crane attached to it and painted up the arm of the crane was the name “Grayston White and Sparrow”. Bingo! I was sure this had to be the company that had called. I asked the guy in the cab for a business card for the company. I went in to work the next day and sold them a package of recruitment ads. “Back of the net” as Alan would say!

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