When it comes to cultivating a long-lasting client-agency relationship, it may not always go as smoothly as you’d hope. No agency is perfect, managing customer expectations is tough, and every agency runs into a difficult client from time to time, as well. Not every business relationship is meant to have a permanent shelf life.
It’s important to remember that each client is different and that if you want to build a solid client-agency relationship, you need to master the art of managing customer expectations. This takes a lot of patience, understanding and communication, but the result is beneficial business relationships that will mean more work pouring into your agency.
If you’re wondering how you can become better at managing client-agency relationships, start by following these five steps.
1. Be as Clear as Possible
Communication is the first rule to live by when it comes to managing client relationships — it allows you to set clear responsibilities for meeting expectations and working toward goals.
First, you should always discuss a client’s short-term and long-term goals immediately upon entering into the relationship. Being straightforward will help you figure out what they expect and assist you in finding organic, on-brand ways to achieve their goals.
For example, if your client’s top priority is to boost engagement via social media, then you will know this is an area of focus. Collaborating with them about how to translate their brand to an online presence that matches their target audience, and how that presence needs to engage with that audience daily, is an involved process that can easily backfire due to miscommunication.
If a client has decided to reach out to an agency, it means they want someone consistent and professional to handle certain aspects of their business. Setting goals and laying out a game plan will show that your agency can present practical and effective solutions.
When it’s time to start picking goals, you should provide your client with all of the relevant information they need to understand your process. You can showcase studies from other happy clients as social proof that you know what you’re doing.
You should also be clear about what your company expects of the client. Both parties should agree on an established method of communication, whether it be in-person meetings, weekly email updates or scheduled phone calls. This set a routine with the client and they will know exactly what to expect.
Lastly, before you get going on the campaign, the client should know what your strategy is. This will help them understand the type of work you’re doing and the timeline that you’re on. When a client is left with just an end-goal in mind with no knowledge of how they will get there, they can start to get impatient. Let them in on your digital marketing strategy and the steps you are taking to help scale their business. This clear communication will help put their mind at ease.
2. Learn Everything About the Client
While this may sound a bit extreme, it’s a fact that truly taking the time to learn and understand your clients will go a long way in cultivating a lasting client-agency relationship.
As with any type of relationship, you’ll want to get to know certain vital things about your client right off the bat. There are three key things you must completely understand about them:
- Their business model
- Their customer base
- Their products or services
When it comes to understanding the client’s business model, you should look at what their goals are and the obstacles they’re facing. To learn more about their business, you can ask the following questions:
- What challenges are they currently facing?
- What future challenges are they expecting to encounter down the road?
- Who are their main competitors?
- What is their definition of success?
- What goals have they set, and how far are they from reaching those goals?
Asking questions like these will also help to establish trust. The better understanding you have of their business model, the better you can serve them.
Understanding the client’s customers is different than understanding the business itself. It takes a much smarter approach, since this type of information is gathered from behavior tracking and other types of data. Ask your client if they have created a buyer persona. If they haven’t yet, then that’s something you should jump on quickly. Another way to better understand the customers is by media monitoring. Pay close attention to topics and products that generate conversation. You can even send out a time-sensitive survey to collect feedback. Once you understand the client’s customers, you will be able to market to them more efficiently.
Lastly, if you haven’t tried your client’s products or services yet, you need to do so. Even if it’s not something you would normally buy, testing it out for yourself will give you a better idea of what you’re trying to market. At this stage, you should also take some time to research your client’s main competitors to see how they are marketing their version of the products. If they seem to be doing well, perhaps you can incorporate a few of their tactics into your own strategy.
3. Cultivate a Partnership
At the end of the day, a client-agency relationship is a partnership. You need to be working together to overcome obstacles and achieve set goals. If your agency is set on selling ideas and not working as a team with your client, then the relationship is destined to fail.
Managing client relationships shouldn’t be too difficult and it certainly should never be forced. Start by choosing to work with clients who are a good fit from the beginning. For example, if you consult with someone who asks for XYZ and you don’t do X, this is an indication that this partnership will not work out. No one likes the idea of declining to work with a potential client. Some may even view it as losing money, but that’s the wrong way to look at it. By properly curating your clientele, you will be saving yourself from disagreements and headaches down the road. By choosing clients whose goals you know you can reach (and exceed!), you will build a client base full of satisfied customers who will turn around and recommend your services.
4. Provide Progress Reports
Another key to effectively managing customer expectations is to frequently provide detailed progress reports. It is important to let clients know what you’ve been up to, how your strategies are working and how close you are to accomplishing agreed-upon goals. It also helps to boost trust, which is absolutely critical in any client relationship.
In case you haven’t noticed, clear communication plays a major role in each of these steps. By providing transparent data about your methods and metric tracking, you display clearly to clients just how valuable your services are.
Also, always make sure that you are using layman’s terms and clean reporting styles. Confusing reports that are littered with complicated terminology do not impress clients. They need to be able to easily understand the reports so they can ask the right questions. A few tools you can use to create simple reports include:
These can take the hard work out of putting together a detailed report and sending it out to clients.
5. Keep Your Promises
Nothing chips away at a solid agency-client relationship faster than broken promises. Mistakes happen, people aren’t perfect and sometimes things don’t go as planned, but you can always be sure to keep your word. A pro tip for managing customer expectations is to never bite off more than you can chew. Don’t set unrealistic goals as this can only lead to disappointment and unhappy clients.
The goals that you set should be achievable and measurable. Part of effectively managing customer expectations is to lay out smaller goals and consistently hit them. For example, instead of saying that you aim to get a million followers on the client’s Instagram account, focus on slowly growing the following each week. By creating high-quality, engaging content, you have a much better chance of growing a genuine and loyal following gradually over time.
Wrapping Up Client-Agency Relationships
Now that you have a better idea of what managing client relationships really entails, you can start curating your client base and cultivating longer-lasting partnerships. If you want to learn more about how marketing automation can help your business grow, check out SharpSpring, we’d love to hear from you!