17 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.
What Is Client Relationship Management?
Customer relationship management (CRM), also referred to as client relationship management (CRM), is a method used by agencies to enhance interactions with customers, increase customer loyalty, and promote revenue growth.
CRM helps you manage customer behaviors and purchasing trends while also influencing a company’s sales strategies and service-related operations. With CRM, you can better understand your customers’ preferences and wants, thus being able to offer effective customer service and develop new services that follow market trends.
In order to effectively manage client relationships, you must establish a solid CRM structure and train your team to follow it. This system acts as a directive to employees to maintain positive relationships with clients, which instructs how your agency will track and deal with all client interactions. You can implement CRM software to gather information about customers from various points of contact, such as websites, phone lines, live chat, letters, marketing materials, and social media profiles. With a robust CRM system, staff workers who directly serve clients can acquire in-depth knowledge of their customers’ data, purchasing history, shopping preferences, and pain points.
Best Practices for Effective Client Relationship Management
Good client relationships let your client see you as a true partner. You are happy to fulfill your work and responsibilities because they respect and listen to you. As a result, your relationship develops and broadens into something better and bigger, whether through persistence, added projects or business, or the greatest compliment—recommendations from existing clients.
Nevertheless, developing a solid relationship extends beyond adhering to the terms of your contract. Here are some best practices for you to impress your clients and solidify your position as a reliable partner. Let’s go through the 3 stages of the client life cycle: onboarding, mid-project, and project completion, and how to leverage these moments to strengthen relationships.
1. 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 transparent communication chain early on helps prevent communication errors and confusion.
2. Client Discovery
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 an excellent 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.
3. Ask Simple Questions
Instead of asking lengthy, open-ended inquiries when seeking a client’s guidance, try to ask extremely focused questions that will elicit a “yes” or “no”. If it’s difficult for a customer to remark on an idea as a whole, perhaps split the work down into parts and ask about each one separately.
4. 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.
Engage and Wow Your Clients!
A Tool to Streamline and Improve Client Relationships
1. Make the Client’s Life Simple
In most cases (unless specifically requested otherwise), busy clients lack the time to study ten different possibilities. Give them three excellent ones, and make sure they can react swiftly and easily in the fewest possible terms. The best technique to present your work and gauge the client’s reaction is through face-to-face meetings.
2. Building Rapport
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.
3. Always Anticipate Comments
Before presenting the work to a client, creatives and experts should critically evaluate their own deliverables. Try to think from the client’s perspective and ask pertinent questions during this assessment. Run it by one or two coworkers who aren’t involved with the client if possible to get more objective feedbacks.
4. Balancing the Client Relationship and Your Principles
The client relationship is crucial, but so is your agency’s standards. When solving a client’s issue or digging to the root of a problem, keep this in mind at all times. To respond impersonally and rationally to a situation, step back from it and consider it from a third-person viewpoint.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Support Creative Thought with Useful Data
Supporting all subjective content with factual, useful data is another simple way to keep the client on your page. Convincing a client or justifying a concept would be much easier if you can back up your arguments with facts, figures, or other infographics from reliable sources.
8. Be Versatile
To ensure client satisfaction, prioritize flexibility and accommodate their needs. Be cordial and convince the client that you have their best interests in mind. Never come across as disgruntled or put out by the client.
9. 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.
10. Only Submit Your Best Work
Customers, like anyone else, dislike having to give negative comments. One common cause of project delays is when the task of addressing such feedback is postponed. By consistently delivering high-quality work, you not only maintain a smooth workflow but also foster trust for future projects. If you don’t believe it’s your best work, it’s better to hold off on delivering it.
1. 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.
2. Proactively Follow Up
A crucial aspect of effective client relationship management is consistent follow-up. Simply add reminders every two or three days to your diary to provide clients who are slow to respond with a modest nudge. Clients prefer to know that their agency is constantly advancing the work.
3. Showing Results
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.
Leverage Your Client Relationship Management with a CRM System
Using a CRM system like Function Point will help you smoothly move the clients down the funnel and monitor all interactions to make them happy. Here are the features you should look for when choosing CRM software:
Log Customer Interactions
A CRM system keeps track of customer data and any communications—including calls, emails, and support tickets. This gives you and your team a comprehensive view of communication history with each client.
A CRM system serves as a centralized repository for various documents, making it simple for team members to store, access, and share important files, enhancing collaboration and efficiency.
Centralize Customer Database
Utilizing a CRM system, customer data can be organized into segments by age, region, income, and preferences. This segmentation enables marketing and sales teams to perform customized campaigns for specific customer groups.
Calendar and alerts
A CRM system synchronizes with your calendar and provides alerts and updates. It helps you stay on top of important client calls and meetings by sending reminders through desktop notifications, text messages, and emails.
Supports lead management
A CRM platform effectively handles leads throughout the customer life cycle. It collects, archives, and segments the leads based on the marketing requirements of the company, streamlining lead management processes.
To Wrap Up
Effective client relationship management is vital for your agency’s success and growth. By implementing the 17 tips provided, you can build strong, long-lasting connections with your clients, foster positive client experiences, and enhance your reputation.
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.
Interested in learning more? Book a demo with us.