Four ways to max out your client relationships and keep them strong.
Good client relationships used to be fine for most creative marketing agencies. When it was hard for clients to find new agency partners and move their business, they were willing to put up with a few missed deadlines, delayed responses, errors and trust issues. With the rapid expansion in the number of providers, especially virtual ones, it’s become easy for clients to leave when they feel their agency isn’t going all out for them.
There are a lot of factors that can impact the perception clients have of the agencies they work with. Based on our experience, there are four that it’s absolutely necessary for agencies to pay attention to:
- Setting expectations
- Communicating effectively
- Educating clients
- Building trust.
These are the key things that influence how clients view their agencies.
High client expectations that aren’t met is the top reason agency relationships fail.
Do you set reasonable expectations at the start of every client engagement? If not, your clients are. And their expectations may be too high or not aligned with yours.
- The client starts out expecting unrealistic outcomes.
- The agency doesn’t readjust the expectation because they’re afraid of losing business.
- In the end: It’s a sure fire set up to a client agency bust up.
Here are five things you can do to prevent this from happening:
- Clarify the role your agency is expected to play. Are you just handling the creative aspects of the project? Or does the client expect you to develop the strategy and be responsible for the implementation of it? It’s necessary for you to figure this out before the people on your team drop the ball or start doing too much unnecessary work.
- Develop complete and thorough proposals. Many agency presentations and proposals are vaguely written. They’re an invitation for clients to fill in the blanks with their own perceptions of how things should go. Don’t take chances when it comes to creating contracts and other documents. Make sure they’re clear and define everything, including the role your agency will play, response times, methods of communication and delivery expectations. Your first documents won’t be perfect, but over time you’ll learn from your errors and omissions and be able to develop materials that clearly set reasonable expectations.
- Launch each project with a creative brief. It’s not enough to begin every relationship with the right paperwork. You also have to scope out each project with a creative brief. It should define for the agency and client the purpose of the initiative, its parameters, timeframes and milestones. It must also include information about how the client brand should be represented.
- Define metrics. Every project brief must include metrics that will prove the success of the initiative. They should be based on industry benchmarks and aligned with client goals. Work together with clients to come up with metrics you both feel confident you can achieve.
- Set budget and expense limits. Define them clearly and document them. Make sure you use actual dollar amounts and include all expenses. Don’t forget things like travel and shipping. A project that a client views as a big initiative may not be seen in the same way by people at your agency. Working with a budget and expense ledger is the only way you can avoid cost overruns that could cost you clients.
Get to know your new clients before you start working with them. Find out who should be the primary point of contact and learn how they prefer to receive information.
- Do they appreciate getting phone calls or do they find them annoying?
- Do they like to know about every issue that happens or just the resolution?
- Are they open to in-person get-togethers or do they prefer virtual meetings?
Finding out about these things early in your relationships will help prevent disconnects and miscommunications that can be damaging. Also, encourage your clients to speak up when they are uncomfortable or unhappy — or just have basic questions. It will keep small issues from turning into big problems.
Tip: The SketchDeck platform makes agency client communications easy. It also offers a level of transparency that will help engender agency trust.
Clients come to your agency because you’re expert at something they don’t have as much experience in or you have capabilities they don’t. It’s critical that you educate them about the things you do. It will allow them to communicate more effectively with you and the people on your team, ask smarter questions and feel more confident about the value of the work you do for them. Well informed clients will also be better able to push your agency talent to greater creative heights.
If you and everyone at your agency do the things outlined in this article, you will build trust with your clients. This will lay the foundation for solid working relationships that will last a long time and pay off for everyone. A trust relationship will result in better creative marketing deliverables because everyone involved will feel more comfortable speaking up and confident about sharing their ideas. And isn’t that what a relationship built on trust is all about?