[Kate Hudson needs 10 days and a love fern to end a relationship. Some agencies only need 4 emails and a botched conference call.]
I don’t want to state the obvious, but sometimes I can’t help it: client relationships can be tricky. And all agency work — from inbound marketing to SEO to creative shops — involves client relationships. As a marketing manager, I’m involved in day-to-day communication with my clients. I’m in every conference call and meeting, and I’ll see where things stick with the client — concerns about budget, content topics, writing production, deadlines, scope of work involved — and I’ll work to ‘unstick’ them.
Often, communication with clients is successful. But sometimes the relationship breaks down. I’ve seen both happen. But there is hope! Client relationships can be salvaged if you avoid…
The top 4 ways to lose a client:
1. “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
This is simple: good communication doesn’t come naturally, and misunderstandings are unavoidable. So strive to communicate with the client where the client is. Relationships vary from person to person, and communication should, too — some clients prefer phone calls, some need constant updates, and some need help prioritizing.
Find out what works best for each client and never be afraid to hold a face-to-face meeting to clear up a misunderstanding — if an email convo turns terse, sending a lengthy follow-up message isn’t going to resolve the problem.
2. Ignore the client’s pain.
What problems keep your contact awake at night? You can fill 100% of your retainer contract requirements and still miss solving the client’s pain. If a client expresses concern or suggests that she needs to justify your retainer, sending an email to remind her that your team has fulfilled A, B, and C requirements from the contract won’t help.
Fix the pain.
3. The spark has died
The longer your company works with a client, the more you’ll find your communications veering towards quarterly reports and uninteresting questions about the weather. Surprisingly, this can lead to a diminishing quality of service, and can make clients feel unappreciated and unheard.
While it’s good to offer as smooth of an experience for your client as possible, it’s equally important to invest in your relationship with them — make your client feel valued, and they’ll value you. Spend a little extra time on handwritten thank you notes. Learn about the person you’re working with because, in a lot of ways, your contact is part of your team.
4. Inability to meet client expectations
This one is tricky, not just because it’s hard to manage client expectations, but because this brings up the classic fight between Marketing and Sales. In some industries, content marketing and inbound marketing takes longer to generate leads — but it will lead to higher-quality leads.
But if your client is convinced that your agency is the best at content marketing — and they feel the content marketing isn’t working — you’ll need to manage the client’s expectations. Instead of telling the client how you’re meeting X, Y, or Z goals, talk about how you can adapt those goals. This goes back to the “pain” from No. 2: if the client isn’t seeing the growth they feel they should, or if they have unrealistic expectations, then you’ll need to have a frank discussion about what steps to take going forward.
Even if you’ve made these mistakes in the past…
You can still build strong client relationships going forward, now that you know what not to do. Remember: keep these four moves in mind, and you can wind up with the Matthew McConaughey-esque client of your dreams.
How have you handled a client relationships in the past? Share your successes (and not-so-awesome moments) below!