When it comes to managing client relationships I definitely don’t have all the answers, but then does anyone really?
What I do have though is plenty of experience working with some of the nicest clients on the interwebs and I’m gonna go ahead and dub myself an expert on that sheer fact alone! 😉
Before I jump in on those all-important 5 key tips [I’ll get there I promise!] I did just want to reiterate that every client is unique and so are you, so there’s sadly no one-sized-fits-all to build strong relationships every time. Then again though, wouldn’t it be boring if they were all the same!? Wouldn’t we as agencies and freelancers be boring too if we were all cookie-cutter copies!? Get to know the people you’re working with and you’ll find what works in different scenarios. Find your strengths and go there. Be yourself and the rest will follow!
Keep the comms game strong
I hate to be predictable but hey, communication really *is* key!
When we bring on a new client we like to find out what channel they most like to do their comms on and we go there! We also have Whatsapp groups set up for all of our SMM clients so we can keep the good times and group chats a-goin’ all the time.
We like to make ourselves as available as possible [well within reason!] so if we can squeeze in a quick chat with our dearly beloved clients we absolutely will. This means full transparency when we also just can’t make it happen at that particular point in time so we’re not ever screening calls or letting emails develop cobwebs in our inboxes. A courtesy message to say hey I haven’t forgotten you and will come back to you at x,y,z time goes a long way!
Just one more final thing before I move on to my next point and I have a feeling there will be some people out there who are not going to love this one… but pick up the phone when you need to. Email is fab and efficient and a dream come true but not being able to read tone or communicate complicated information there means sometimes a phone call is not just useful, it’s a necessity!
You’re a person, I’m a person, let’s all person together
Look at that, you’ve already got something in common with your client from the get-go! #winning
Part of being a human means that we ain’t perfect [*GASP* shocker I know!]. I have a list of flaws so long it could keep you nodding along for days and my clients, well as much as I love them [hi guys, you’re the best 👋] also not without their own idiosyncrasies and pet-peeves. Now that we’re all in the same boat we should probably forgive each other for our failings yeah?
If you’re having a rough day and an urgent client email feels like it’s going to tip you right on over the edge, just remember that the human on the other end of that computer isn’t out to get you. Just like you, they have their own stresses and pressures. I find that when I remember that, I find a better place to relate to my clients and can function more with empathy.
On the flip side, I’m very lucky that my clients also allow me to be human and not a robot. They know I make mistakes because I own up to them when I do and they know that at the end of the day I may just be a person but I’m a person that truly cares about the success of their business like it was my own.
HONESTY trumps all else
Let me be honest [Ha! Couldn’t resist!], sometimes dropping a few truth bombs ain’t easy but believe me when I say it’s worth it!
Some of the hardest conversations I’ve had with clients have been the most strengthening for our working relationship.
This extends from giving your client your most honest strategic opinions [it’s going to help them, in the long run, to know that something isn’t working], to admitting when something falls outside of your particular knowledge or skillset and also letting them know what is and isn’t achievable for you.
I’d love to promise all of my clients the world, but honestly, if that isn’t realistic, it’s only going to lead to disappointment and disappointment does not make for a happy client relationship. When you lean into honesty you create the strongest foundations and trust imaginable and an environment where your clients can similarly be open and honest with you. #happysigh
Invite Feedback and questions – they are the best!
Write this one down: Questions = good!
Yes, they may take up a bit of extra time in your day but when someone asks you a question they are inviting you to demonstrate your amazing knowledge and prowess and giving you an opportunity to clear up anything that may not be clear.
I have worked in agencies where the response to client questions is ‘I’m the expert just trust me’ and from my experience that builds zero trust. When I actually take the time to answer said question though, my clients not only appreciate me for it [while simultaneously wondering how one person can get so carried away with talking!] they also get it… and when they get it, we’re both empowered in our partnership together.
The other thing that really helps, and this could be a controversial opinion is honest feedback! Ok, ok I love hearing ‘this is perfect, zero changes’ as much as the next person, but I’d hate to think there actually were ways I could have improved something and I’ve missed them. When your clients give you feedback they’re mapping out a roadmap for you to do better work for them in future and in my book that’s pretty darn handy!
If you do receive feedback you’re going to want to receive it graciously with zero offence [it’s not personal afterall] and encourage your client to keep that important channel open.
Lay the strategy frameworks and get on the same page
When someone says they want to work with TDP I get so excited I just want to get started as quickly as possible, but it’s really important before you get delivering that magic to set the strategic scene.
Identifying your goals and approach right from the start is so important to setting expectations for both parties and making sure you’re 100% aligned on where you’re seeking to go and HOW you’re going to get there.
It may slow your roll a little bit, to begin with, but it’s so valuable for establishing solid relationships with your clients that last the distance.
Before I head off to check out what new cute Baby Yoda memes have landed on IG I have one final piece of advice from one pal to another. Remember that not every client/agency relationship is a good fit. It’s like any relationship and sometimes it even feels a bit like a breakup when you go your separate ways but you know what, that’s ok!
We’ve all gotta find OUR people, and when we do, boy oh boy is it fun and a pleasure to go to work everyday!