This article was first published in Beloved by Clients, and you can read it here.
Similar to Ground Control to Major Tom, sorry, I mean Space Oddity, “Somewhere over the rainbow” is another song that I can’t call by its official title, “Over the rainbow”: it just sounds too weird to my ears without the “Somewhere.”
But that’s where the similarity between Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s classic and wonderful song –yes, I know it was originally sung by Judy Garland a half century over in some CIA movie but I just forced myself to disassociate with that version for many reasons, including it’s too tied in my head to my mom’s love of some movie about some road with some golden bricks that I had to watch only 1,100 times throughout my childhood–ends. Ground Control is someone escaping from the pain of this world, while Somewhere over the Rainbow is about someone embracing the beauty of the world or at least of an imaginary world in which the streets are paved with gold that exists in your mind.
But this song is great for one particular client hum it to myself every single, every single time, a client–and that would be, about 99.99% of all clients in the world–gives me that “I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now!” ( (Although this now-obscure allusion makes me wonder why this song, one of Queen’s best, hasn’t stood the test of time the way many of their other songs have?).
You want it all and you want it now? Well, somewhere over the rainbow, there is a perfect paradise where that’s possible.
Indeed, the lyrics play it out perfectly:
I want it all (Hey, yeah), I want it all
I want it all, and I want it now
Me (Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole), responding:
Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true
Just yesterday, I spoke to a potential client, with a startup that hasn’t even launched their first product, who told me–with no irony unless his irony was too subtle for me to detect it, boiling down a much longer conversation to the essence: “We absolutely need to have to have $10 million in sales within six months. Here’s the part that will make it interesting for you: we have a near-zero marketing budget, so you have to figure out how to do this, given no resources. I’m really busy developing our next product, so I won’t be able to support you much. And instead of us paying you directly for your work, we’ll pay you on a commission for the sales.” I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.
To which, the only possible response is to whip out my acoustic guitar, gain 300 pounds and changes my race to be Asian, and to sing:
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me
This world on the other side of the rainbow does sound wonderful. I want to live in a world where money appears on the streets. Where random people just quickly, easily, and without any problem do anything you ask them to do no matter what. Where flakiness doesn’t exist. Where no one has bad nor overly-selfish intentions. Where everyone I work with can read my mind and understand what I mean by the words I utter:
Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh, why can’t I?
Anyone with non-trivial client experience is shaking their head in agreement now (hopefully to the rhythm of one of those songs.) It’s an interesting question worth exploring: why are clients so consistently so difficult and so challenging?
I don’t know! But here are a few hypotheses worth throwing out because there may be some truth to one or more of these:
- Maybe there’s something in the human ego or heart or mind or soul to make humans think, “I gave that person $0.01 and now he is my slave!” And of course with the mental gymnastics so that you convince yourself it’s a free and fair trade and you’re fully justified.
- Maybe some people are just so naive that they don’t realize the fundamental nature of “trade-off‑s” involved in every request and every aspect of life? “Yes, we can do that for you… but it will take years to do!”
- Maybe some people are in positions to make decisions and have authority (ie, your client) without having “earned it”–perhaps they inherited the job because their uncle founded the company? Or they’ve just been around and minorly competent forever–that they don’t understand the nature of “getting things done.”
- Maybe some people just lack empathy. For those people, I’d unbiasedly recommend this book: https://amzn.to/3nJG2dO
- Maybe–much more charitable than some of the above theories–maybe a lot of the trade-off‑s involved in any work just aren’t obvious to the other side.
- Continuing to be charitable, more basically than the trade-off‑s in work not being obvious, maybe the complexity or lack thereof of the work itself isn’t obvious to anyone not in that field. Maybe a non-designer can think that a designer merely needs 15 minutes of time to create a logo of the sophistication and class as Apple’s or Nike’s.
- Maybe the Peopleware principle that the more people that are involved forces communication to grow exponentially, so communication and management time really take up a substantial amount of time, energy, enthusiasm, and slow things down–just isn’t a widely known principle.
- Maybe some people do truly believe in magic. (Cue Queen’s It’s a Kind of Magic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p_1QSUsbsM ) (I don’t know why this series is so heavy on Queen’s songs? I’m a fan, but not a particular fan, and not nearly with the intensity of my fandom for my favorite bands.)
In conclusion: the dialogue between Somewhere over the rainbow and I want it all by Queen is the client-vendor dynamic in a nutshell. And while both of these songs have catchy melodies, the lyrics are simple, clear, direct on both sides that there’s no deeper dive into them, at least for today. That’s what the rest of the series is for.
Morgan Friedman has been building and running Display campaigns on top of GDN Network of Adwords, err, he means "Google Ads," for almost 15 years. Friedman is, by nature, an obsessive optimizer, and has been A/B testing every obscure option, configuration, strategy, and tactic on Display Ads. Oh and search ads, as well as figuring out how to grow companies and politicians from just the seed to hundreds of thousands of users, or voters, as well. His favorite number is eleven. He enjoys writing about Managed Placements.