5 Tips to Strengthen Client Relationships
Last time you saw me here in the blog-a-sphere I was writing tips for clients who were looking to partner with agencies, that blog can be read here.
As I was spending time thinking about what blog topic I wanted to tackle this time around, I felt drawn to the importance of building strong relationships with CURRENT clients. While it is common in the advertising agency world to focus on gaining new business, taking care of the business you already have is key to long-term success. Below I have outlined 5 tips on how to best maintain and grow client relationships.
Listen, Speak, Repeat
How many times have you heard the old adage “Communication is key”? That old adage is the most important thing Account Managers can do to help clients feel they are heard, understood, and valued. Around Texas Creative, not only is timely and efficient communication a priority, but it is at the center of everything we do. This begins at the upfront of the relationship, with Account Managers initiating an open line of communication to establish goals and scopes – allowing everyone the opportunity to understand expectations from the onset. Being available to clients and responding in a timely manner ensures that clients understand that their projects, goals, and satisfaction are important to us. Effective communication allows clients to feel comfortable being open and honest, which is imperative to a successful agency/client relationship. I know personally, it is important for me to know that, when I am speaking with a client, they feel their ideas and concerns are being taken seriously and will be relayed back to the team effectively.
Also important to note here is the need to communicate with sincerity. Take the time to really get to know your clients, not only their business but them personally. Their kids’ names, what hobbies they have, pets, and any other information they are willing to share with you. As the relationship grows, this helps clients look forward to meeting and speaking with you and can encourage them to be long-term partners. One way I have found helpful in achieving this is by scheduling face-to-face meetings when feasible. Having that time to spend together is helpful in strengthening the relationship as well as communication.
Communicate What Matters
While everything I mentioned above is important to the overall relationship, the bottom line always remains – clients want to communicate with you about how you are helping their overall business goals and objectives, and the best way to communicate the great progress you are making on a client’s account is to PROVE IT. Take ownership of leads and revenues you have helped generate by showing that in reporting. While most agencies are providing reporting, are you really communicating what matters? Use this time to brag a bit on yourself and your strategic thinking. For me, this is a monthly-scheduled reporting meeting with my clients to share all the results (qualitative and quantitative) of campaigns we have been working on, ultimately showing them why our partnership is working. Never miss an opportunity to have these discussions with your clients.
If there is one thing I have learned over my years working in this industry with a wide variety of clients it is the importance of sharing your knowledge. Our clients partner with us because we are experts in marketing and advertising, just like their clients partner with them because they are the experts in their industry. It is my job to make sure that my clients can communicate to their colleagues about their marketing goals and plans. When a client does not understand our area of expertise, it might make them feel disconnected or checked out of the process. I use these times as an opportunity to share information with clients that helps them understand why we do what we do. Find time in your day to send clients information about your industry that can help theirs and keep them the smartest person in the room in their own companies. Explaining what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how we chose to do it will help clients feel like they have ownership and will keep them in-the-loop.
To Infinity and Beyond
One of the best ways to build a strong relationship with a client is to gain a reputation as an agency that not only delivers results but is willing to go above and beyond. It is important to be sure not to oversell or promise something unrealistic when the relationship is in its infancy. Setting realistic expectations gives you the opportunity to impress the client and position yourself as a partner. Always consider the client and what they value. This could range from something as simple as hand-delivering a project that you spent extra time printing and hand folding for a big presentation they have, doing an in-depth, over-the-phone walk thru of analytics that might be tough to follow via email or finding media added-value that helps to enhance results of a particularly important project. The key here is to find a way to go “to infinity and beyond” the way your client would most appreciate. This should be easier to do if you have used the tips above to listen to your client’s needs on a regular basis.
Gauge Temperature Often
This might seem straightforward, but I find it is a step that is often skipped. Rather than sitting at your desk wondering what your clients might be thinking on the other side of the phone, the best thing you can do is be straightforward and schedule regular times to ask them directly. This helps show the client that you are committed to making the partnership a positive experience for everyone. Something I have learned is that happy or not, clients want to be heard. I have found that having regularly scheduled times to communicate about the relationship makes for a happier client. Waiting to discuss client feedback only once a year or over a long period of time can often lead to hostility. If you are married or dating, this is the equivalent of that fight over who left clothes on the floor that all of a sudden spirals into arguing about one of you not having any pride in your home (What, like you never had this fight?). The little things come back around if they are never addressed and, in any relationship, it is never good practice to let people dwell. Having regular check-ins allow things to be out in the open and makes everyone aware of potential issues, helping to guide the conversations to the root and make plans to change.
Now it is your turn to communicate with us. If you work in client service and are reading this, what tips would you suggest adding to this list? If you are a client working with an agency do you agree or disagree with my list, thoughts to add? We want to hear from you.