Creating (and Maintaining) Strong Client Relations
A delicate subject constantly on the minds of directors and account reps alike: the client relationship. Building and maintaining a professional yet approachable communication language that will endure can be a daunting task, especially when working on high stakes projects that reflect a clients brand, and ultimately, their bottom line.
The success of an agency, design firm or even freelancer depends heavily on strong client relations. Many businesses will gain new clients solely through word of mouth or reviews primarily gathered through social platforms. Some see client relations as a service in itself, setting the tone of the agency’s core values.
There are many moving parts to the lifecycle of a creative project. Moving through the process keeping in mind these few steps will solidify the relationship as a trusted partner as opposed to just another vendor, greatly improving the project’s outcome.
‘Date’ Your Prospective Client
Getting to know your client, ensuring that you can deliver on what it is that are in need of is the first step on the road to a great partnership. Find out more about their company and project stakeholders, what their needs and expectations are – making sure that your values, workload and team will mesh well with the scope of the project and people. Spend a little time on your own researching their background as well as their industry, and feel free to dig deeper on questions you may have during an initial discovery session before a proposal is delivered and the project is kicked off.
Set The Tone
We’ve all heard that the customer is always right, and while it’s important to go the extra mile – being realistic about expectations will result in a happier client. From the onset of a project, set the tone that should be carried through. If a long project or retainer based partnership is at hand, more relationship building will come into play, while a short project will focus more on benchmarking right away. A friendly but efficient communication is oftentimes the best route as no amount of schmoozing will make up for sub-par work.
This may seem very basic, but it is a simple hurdle to jump in getting ahead with clients quickly. Acnowledging emails as soon as they come in with a quick note of receipt, letting the client know a status or movement on a project is critical in forging a language of trust. Many times multiple agency stakeholders will need to be involved in decision making or development – communicating this action to a client rather then making them wonder can mean keeping or losing existing and prospective business.
Provide Clear Deliverables
At the beginning of a project, all seems as clear as day. Recapping meetings and collaborative sessions as the project moves along will help to keep a client in the loop and up to date on what to expect. If possible, provide a weekly or bi-weekly summary of work completed and outline what percentage of the project is complete, and what may remain.1