Every agency knows the importance of nurturing strong client relationships. After all, client relationships are an essential part of success. Delivering award-winning work for clients is only part of the puzzle. Clear lines of communication, honesty, trust, and mutual goals are just as important for performance.
But building long-standing client relationships takes time, effort, and dedication. And sometimes, not every client wants to play ball. Perhaps they don’t value your ideas, they expect deliverables quicker than you can send them, or lines of communication get lost in the shuffle. Without care and attention, it’s unlikely the relationship will last. Thankfully, not all is lost. There are things you can do to repair relationships and carry through to new clients, too.
At TrunkBBI, we pride ourselves on our ability to create and maintain solid client relationships that stand the test of time. Over the last decade, we’ve learnt a thing or two about what it takes to build strong rapport with clients. So, here are our top tips.
Get to know your clients
Your clients have lives too. Outside of their 9-5, they have families, interests, hobbies, or things they’re excited about, as do you. It’s easy to forget the importance of small talk, but it’s essential for getting to know your clients on a personal level as well as on a professional level. Something as simple as asking how their weekend was is a great way of not only showing you’re interested in them, but also for exploring common ground and building relationships outside of your meeting agenda.
Schedule meetings a couple of minutes earlier to give yourselves time to catch up and talk about anything non-work related. Or take time at the end of the call to wrap things up and discuss your plans for the weekend or dinner. Humour your clients and get to know them—they’ll appreciate the effort.
Cut the jargon
Clients come to you because they want support in an area of marketing expertise. And more often than not, an area where their business falls short. They may want you to fulfil their entire marketing function, or perhaps part of a role where they need additional guidance. Regardless of their situation, they’ll appreciate having things explained clearly, without excessive technical language.
While it’s important to position yourself as an expert, you don’t need to use unfamiliar acronyms and marketing jargon to show your value. Help them see the value in your offering by explaining concepts in a way that’s easily understood. Also, take your time to answer any questions they may have without judgment. This way, they’ll better understand how your processes work, and it’ll help to build trust.
Set clear expectations
Agency life is busy, we all know that. Deadlines may get pushed back as more urgent projects take priority, and some tasks may need additional time. Other times, life just gets in the way, meaning resources are lower than usual.
It’s crucial to be clear with clients from the outset about timescales and deliverables to manage their expectations. Set project scope outlines, so they can see how long each task will take, and when they can expect deliverables. If deadlines are likely to be moved, communicate this with clients as soon as possible.
Often, your inbox is flooded with emails from both internal team members and external clients. Even if you’re busy, take time to respond to client emails and acknowledge that you’ve received them. A simple “I’m looking into this for you, and I’ll get back to you by tomorrow morning” is helpful for managing clients’ expectations and showing you’re working on a solution.
Be open and honest
No one knows the answer to everything. If your client asks a question you’re unsure of, be honest with them and explain you’ll need to get back to them. It’s better to come away and look into something than give incorrect information or overpromise on something you can’t deliver. If you can provide them with a timeframe for giving them an answer, even better.
Most clients will value the openness and honesty. They’ll also appreciate that you’re taking the time to look for an answer. Plus, it’ll help establishing a foundation of transparency and trust—both of which are essential for lasting client relationships.
Work together as a team
Coming together as a team is crucial for building effective client relationships. Before beginning any project, take the time to sit down and set clear goals. You’ll have individual goals and KPIs to reach, though there will also be mutual goals you can work towards. Be very clear and specific about what you need to achieve, together and individually, and set a clear path of how to get there.
Showing you’re on the same team helps to elevate your relationship with mutual respect and understanding. It lets the client see they’re not ‘just another client’. Instead, it’ll show you care about them, their product/service, and their business, and demonstrate your desire to collaborate towards common goals.
Establish clear communication
Agencies shouldn’t underestimate the power of clear lines of communication. This includes delegating a clear point of contact and creating opportunities for feedback, regular check-ins, status update calls, and consistent reporting. Clients want to see how you’re managing their project, and importantly, how things are progressing. With regular updates and reports, they’ll see how you value their work and feel more at ease with how you’re managing tasks.
Clients also need to know you care about their input and are open to receiving feedback. Setting a regular cadence for your client to discuss any feedback they may have, positive or constructive, will result in improved processes and ways of working. Make sure your clients feel heard and that you value their opinion, whether that’s through a quick Teams call or a face-to-face meeting.
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