This July, I moved from my position as an agency account manager and marketing strategist at Cleriti to my new role as a marketing manager at Emmi, a healthcare technology company. One of my first tasks at Emmi was managing the launch of a new website while working closely with a web development agency. Within a few days, I had switched from account manager to client point of contact, and, well — the experience was eye-opening.
3 Things You Might Not Be Thinking About, But Your Clients Definitely Are:
1) They notice shifts in staff, and they really notice when those shifts aren’t explained.
Whether someone quit unexpectedly, was fired thirty minutes before your conference call, or you’re just bringing in someone from a different internal team to consult, make it clear to your client why someone is — or isn’t — in the meeting. It may surprise some, but clients can develop a strong affinity for team-members outside their account management team. You might not know it, but your client loves loves loves the way your lead developer explains options and offers advice. If she can’t be on the call anymore, don’t gloss over it: let the client know that she’s not there and tactfully let them know why. A simple, “Alicia has, unfortunately, left the company. We wish her all the best, but we know she’s left your account in great hands! Going forward, Priyanka will be serving as your lead developer, and she’s a great fit for your team because of X, Y, Z,” is all you need.
If you don’t address a sudden gap or addition to your team, I assure you that your clients will talk among themselves and develop a theory for the changes — and that theory may not make your agency look great.
2) They notice when you’re bored.
Look, there’s no point in denying it: agency work, while it’s rewarding and fun, is still work. And there are times when everyone, from account managers to designers to strategists are, well, phoning it in — especially when this conversation marks the 100,000th anniversary of the first time you explained how HubSpot’s flexible modules work.
[insert sad confetti stock photo]
But clients notice when you’re rattling through a list just to get to the bottom of said list.
And they don’t like it.
I’ve unfortunately been in situations where vendors have glossed over questions from the rest of my team — and even one situation where they told my team-member to ask me to explain it — just to get through the meeting agenda in order and on time.
Take the time to explain, and be empathetic. The reason you’re in an agency is because you have a level of expertise that simply can’t be expected from an in-house team. Leverage that, and look for ways to inform your clients, not just answer questions to move on to the next bullet point on your list. Have some flexibility with your agenda, let the client know that you may run out of time but that their questions deserve to be answered, and set up another meeting, if necessary.
3) They notice when you aren’t flexible
I’ve heard a lot people talk about the start-up trap and, having worked for an agency just moving past the start-up hump, I can attest to it: it’s the idea that you must be all things to all customers because, well, you need the retainer income. But another agency trap that I’ve seen and experienced is the established agency trap: “That’s not how we do it here at _____.”
While good agencies run on repeatability and a process, there are times when you must be flexible to keep a client happy. Remember that your way isn’t the only way, and there’s a balance between efficiency and helping a client feel like you’re meeting them where they are.
This doesn’t mean bending your scope of work and doing things for free, but it does mean working with them and their quirks: maybe they need legal review for everything, so you build time for legal review into your timeline, even though that’s not normally in your project plan. Maybe you’re used to stack testing your web design, but they’ve requested you individually review pages in I.E., because many of their users access their site with that browser and they’re noticing discrepancies stack testing is missing. Find a way to be flexible, and your clients will keep coming back.
It’s important to take a moment to reflect on what your agency’s processes look like to a new client — while your goal is to make your onboarding system as smooth and repeatable as possible, it’s important to analyze that process and look for areas where you can improve and build better relationships. Learn to read the room and meet your clients where they are.
It can be hard, but it’s incredibly rewarding.