9 Tips for Effective Client Relationship Management
Your agency nailed the pitch, the contract is signed and the combination of excitement and caffeine has your team ready for kickoff. It’s time to begin focusing on client relationship management and retention.
If you’ve been blessed with skilled account managers, you may not even realize how important client management is. It’s something the entire team plays a part in, whether you’re directly client-facing or not.
Here are some common points in the client relationship cycle that creative agencies stumble on, and how to use these moments to strengthen relationships.
Onboarding Relationship Management
Onboarding new clients is the honeymoon phase—everyone is happy, meaning it’s the ideal time to lay solid foundations for the rest of your relationship. Right from the kickoff, create guidelines for how frequently you’re communicating with your client, and who is communicating with your client.
Smaller agencies often struggle to navigate clear relationship management and may put account managers in charge of budgeting, or project managers in charge of client relationships. Having a clear communication chain early on helps prevent communication errors and confusion.
Your client discovery process is your first chance to really dig deep and understand your client’s expectations, personality and goals. Managing a thorough discovery process reduces the need for unnecessary questions down the road, and helps your clients feel secure that you’ve taken the time to truly listen to them.
The discovery process is also a good time to understand how your client likes to communicate. Are they prolific emailers, fans of the telephone or succinct communicators? Make note, because this will be important throughout the entire process.
Creating Clear Deliverables
Understand exactly what your client wants and what your team is capable of delivering, then build your deliverables list back from this. Your deliverables should act as a roadmap to project completion—that way if your client decides they need to take a detour they’ll understand the scope and budget are also subject to change.
Communicate value, and take the time to explain your team’s creative process and how the clients’ feedback plays a role. It’s not uncommon for projects to be held up due to client indecision, so taking the time to help them understand timelines and workflow can save you trouble down the road.
Once the initial seduction is complete, a lot of agencies forget that client relationship management is just like any other relationship—it still takes work. Your clients are also human! Checking in between project touchpoints or remembering details of their lives and personalities help to build rapport and trust.
Showing Value Early On
All marketers are well aware that proving the value of marketing efforts can take a long time. Showing value and measurable results early on in the project builds trust that you’ll be able to create value in the long run too.
These quick wins could be a piece of downloadable content on their existing site that will build their email list while you develop their new site or a campaign to their current employees to foster excitement for your new creative direction.
Sharing Too Little or Too Much Information
A lack of reporting on projects is an all too common mistake that agencies make. Reporting is time-consuming but necessary. Save time by selecting the right information to report on, showing value to your clients without confusing or burdening them with unimportant data.
Allowing clients to be involved in your projects through a client portal helps them see progress and feel involved. You control what your client can and cannot see, so be strategic in your approach.
Defuse Client Freakouts
Even the best agencies have experienced a client freakout at some point. Account managers can defuse an upset client by first remembering to actively listen. Allow them to feel heard and understood, even if they’re being unreasonable. Take notes, and ask them exactly what solution they hope to see. Listening and moving swiftly in your problem-solving are key to a happy resolution.
Don’t forget to coach the rest of your team in this process. Involving your team in problem-solving encourages them to take responsibility for their role in satisfying clients.
Letting Clients Bully You
Once a project is near completion, it can be a struggle to stand up for what you believe is the right way of doing things and what your client thinks they want. Delays can hold up payment and the ability to take on new projects, so you’ll be tempted to move fast.
There’s a time to just deliver what your client demands, and a time to push back and defend your creative team’s work. Often, you can change the way your client is seeing things by changing the way you’re talking about them. Explain your process, show real results and help your clients understand why you’re doing things. If they can understand the why, they’ll start to appreciate the how.
Thanks to numerous analytics programs, it’s becoming easier than ever to communicate value and results to clients. Through integration with programs like Hubspot and Zapier, you’ll save time and help your clients understand the results and true value of your work. Stop wasting agency time copying and pasting data, and use digital tools that automate the process for you. Focus the time you’ll save on improving the results.
Agency and client relationships are notoriously difficult to navigate. Throughout the creative process, you’re bound to run into disagreements, butt heads and have the occasional meltdown. But like any relationship, it’s how you manage these difficulties that create lasting mutual success.
Function Point alleviates the chaotic nature of operating creative agencies, internal marketing teams and professional service firms. Used by over 9000 customers across the world, the all-in-one solution helps teams connect each stage of project management. Our goal is to make productivity more personable; to warm it up and give it a heartbeat.
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