How to Build Empathetic Partnerships Using Client Personas

In the world of client services, it’s critical to remember that our client partners have their own goals and aspirations – and their own organizational politics to navigate. At JDM, part of our job as business partners is to help equip our client contacts with what they need to shine. This means, in part, respecting each individual personality and the strengths and quirks they bring.


One way we approach being great partners: building client personas.


This is similar to a brand’s initiative of building buying personas. It requires a deep understanding of a client contact’s needs and desires, with the goal of forging a genuine connection that helps the client see us as their best option. In the case of brand customers, it’s purchasing a product or service. In our case, it’s staying with JDM for the long term. 


At the root of it all: empathy.


Here are a few personas we’ve built at JDM – and how clients who fit those personas benefit.


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The Skeptics

These people are extremely versed in the ins and outs of marketing and use a highly analytical approach to poke holes in our proposals. They’re not easily won over, and it will take time and plenty of supporting evidence for them to build trust in us.


Our approach:

Proactivity is the name of the game here. While some client contacts will take for granted that our approach is best, Skeptics will ask plenty of questions to make sure they agree with our recommendations, so we need to have our reasoning prepared. QA is also vitally important with Skeptics; an extra set of eyes before and after anything launches will minimize mistakes that a Skeptic should never (ever) catch first.

The benefits:

Once you do win over Skeptics, they’ll be loyal partners (which benefits us) and can turn their analytical power to address different issues, which we’ve seen open up growth opportunities for their teams that can supercharge our partnership.


The Cheerleaders

Cheerleaders are optimistic extroverts looking for reasons to celebrate the wins. They’re eager to see the agency-client relationship as a partnership and don’t tend to get deep into the analytics. They may care more about feelings than about KPI trends and like to keep everyone on the same page.


Our approach:

Cheerleaders may be more interested in harmony than KPIs, but the same might not be true of their teams at large. We also need to be ready to provide respectful but contrary POVs when it will benefit the client – along with an explanation of how and why the client stands to gain. Clear communication that celebrates wins, measures KPI progress, and keeps the client’s best interests in mind while supporting morale is the approach we take with cheerleaders.


The benefits:

A little education, where needed, can help Cheerleaders understand the impact of our combined work and communicate it effectively to their in-house teammates. Crystallizing our wins and quantifying the impact, while ensuring that a little constructive tension keeps the focus on the right strategy, will give everyone more to celebrate in the long run.


The Whirlwinds

We’ve all worked with these folks: they’re extremely creative, curious people who love tests and talking about the big picture and have far more good ideas than they have time to carry them out. They’re natural optimists who tend to bite off more than they can chew and struggle to see initiatives through to conclusion.


Our approach:

Since whirlwinds often struggle with organization, we can fill a need by creating a structure to house their ideas, including prioritization and next steps. We also understand we need to sometimes be “bad cop” in sticking to the most important initiatives of the day while leaving space to give the Whirlwinds’ ideas consideration. Communicating the results of tests and other projects while identifying clear milestones along the way helps keep Whirlwinds on course.

The benefits:

Giving Whirlwinds the chance to ideate while making sure high-priority initiatives are owned and completed is the best of both worlds. This approach lets Whirlwinds play to their strengths and understand the value of follow-through while giving them plenty of material to convey progress to their managers.



This is an inexact science; no client contact will perfectly fit a predesigned persona. The value of building personas comes in helping JDMers build the skills to recognize a contact’s unspoken needs and goals and anticipate them in our communications, whether that’s regular reports or quick Slack pings or ad hoc updates that we know will be appreciated on the client side. 

The soft skills of tone, delivery, and anticipation of next steps absolutely matter in client service, particularly when they’re tailored to the recipient. Whether it’s celebrating a win, prescribing next steps, or pushing back on an opinion if we see a better way forward, understanding the person on the other end of the Zoom call will help us communicate more effectively – a win for both sides.

If you’re curious about using personas in your approach to marketing or client services, we’re always happy to chat!


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