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.

Respond Swiftly

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.

Vanessa Petersen

As Executive Director of Brand Strategy based in ArtVersion’s Portland office, Vanessa manages both national and West Coast accounts. She brings with her a passion for strategy with extensive experience in creative marketing, brand growth and development. She is a true advocate of storytelling and brand building from the inside out, and her keen knowledge of the marketplace, trend patterns and usability lead her to identify opportunities that can inspire powerful design strategies.

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