Before founding Planable, I worked for an agency that was a social media company. I split my time between defining strategies for social media, leading content teams, and the presentation of the work of clients. With every new client we signed up for, building and managing relationships became more energy-intensive and time-consuming. We didn’t have a way to collaborate that let clients participate in large and small-scale projects.
Based on my experience, communication is what can break or strengthen the relationship between a client and. Here are three methods to manage your client relationships more efficiently.
1. Keep your clients involved–productively.
Each professional will attest that keeping the client actively involved in a project can go an enormous way to ensure successful completion. However, these same experts could also argue that this strategy could transfer all client decisions. Here are some suggestions to balance these two aspects out:
* Include the client right from the start. More specifically, involve them in the process of setting goals. In this way, you will build a solid foundation that can be reviewed if significant disagreements arise.
* Create standard timeframes. For instance, you can ensure that the client’s input is required in the early planning stage, once the first draft is complete, and, most importantly, when the final version is approved. These checkpoints for the project are intended to ensure the client’s participation during the critical phases of the project.
* Change to suit the preferences of the client. Please find out how they would like to conduct things and what you prefer. For instance, would they want to be wholly involved, or would they want to be surprised by the outcome?
* Request clients to contribute suggestions. Emphasis on ideas and not input. If your clients are separated from the work and aren’t involved, they’re less likely to be able to comprehend the nature of the project or feel empathy for the problems that you’ll have to face.
2. Create a clear hierarchy of reporting.
When it comes to reports, the subject can become somewhat hazy. In the ideal situation, report progress should be available to everyone requiring it. However, the reality is that people don’t all need access to every single data information point or report. There’s an art to information overflow, and as crucial as clear and transparent communications are, the customer does not benefit from having every metric measured. They’re looking for insight and lessons to be learned. What can they do?
The solution is easy: Create a clear hierarchy of reporting. In the case of progress reports, three categories are sufficient: project managers, client leads, and other team members. Project managers oversee day-to-day activities assign tasks and responsibilities, and ensure everyone is on the same level. Client leads serve as the link between the agency and the clients. They give direction to the account and ensure it is in line with both the business goals of the client as well as the company’s vision for creativity. Also, the lead clients gather information from clients, analyze their value and then relay these insights the project manager. This system helps ensure everyone receives the needed data without being weighed down by irrelevant details.
Between these reporting layers are numerous sub-layers – a literal network of responsibility and the roles of a single task. The result is that the structure of a reporting hierarchy differs from one organization to the next. There is no one great way to structure your the reporting process.
3. Learn to tell “No.”
There will come a while when you have to assert your position and say “No” in front of a customer for a variety of reasons, whether the expectations of your client aren’t realistic or because your experience suggests that the suggestion isn’t recommended. Being able to say “No” does not have to be confrontational or hostile. Instead, it would help if you had a respectful conversation in which you respectfully disagree and defend your position with convincing arguments. For example, you might say:
* “I am uncertain whether this could work in the context of X and.”
* “I believe this could derail us from the plan we had originally agreed to.”
* “I could be working with X as well, but I’m not getting enough bandwidth to concentrate on Z. Are you considering rearranging prioritization?”
Take advantage of this chance to start a collaborative initiative and ensure all expectations are met. The client must feel valued, not resentful. Regular meetings with your customers are vital for maintaining good relationships, the meetings provide an opportunity to get the pulse of their requirements and also be open about the nature of your work and the kind of service you’re able to provide. Keep the discussion going by asking questions like:
* “What do you want to accomplish through experimenting using X?”
* “Can you share with us some examples of brands whose strategies you admire?”
* “What do you want to communicate through the X and Y?”
There’s no secret formula to creating the ideal client-agency partnership. However, based on my experiences, the suggestions in this article will help you avoid the most common mistakes. It all boils down to the ability to communicate effectively, respect for each other, and a shared determination to see the project succeed. If you can nurture these three aspects, you’ll be on the way to establishing lasting and successful relationships with your customers.