Creating long-term value for clients, especially in marketing, comes down to how well the relationship is managed. Getting to know your client, their business and goals is the first step but to take it further requires looking at ways to keep bringing them value. This is done with a balance of:
- Process Development
- Managing Expectations
- Measuring and Reporting
The willingness to learn, improve and understand clients are all equally important in long-term success. Relationship management and fostering client-agency relations is vital to delivering long-term success.
So, how do you set yourself up for success from the start? Let’s dive into the 4 elements necessary in establishing a successful client-agency relationship.
1. Process Development
Over the course of an agency's relationship with a client, it is critical to establish a set of processes and standards for your interactions with them.
Doing so builds trust and provides confidence while reaffirming your expertise. It also helps to keep things organized - from standards in communications or the best times for meetings to turnarounds on approvals.
Start building your process by visualizing all the interactions with your business and the major touchpoints of the project both internally and client-facing. Then leverage each one as an opportunity to provide updates, next steps and source feedback. You're mapping out a journey.
An example of this from my role as Business Development Manager is in my sales pipeline. Customizing this pipeline helps me stay organized with multiple opportunities in the balance at one time. At each step of the process, there are a set of tasks to accomplish and client touch points all the way through, with opportunities for feedback too.
It's important to bring clients into the discussion of process as well – so you can take advantage of opportunities where yours and theirs intersect. To build on my earlier example, we want feedback from clients on which decision makers to include at which stages, past experience with services like ours, and preferred timelines. This information helps us customize and align our approach within the established framework with the client's for a more seamless experience.
As a marketer, this might mean collaborating with sales teams to find ways of improving the flow of leads through their own pipeline as you build a new drip campaign or diving into challenges with their employee retention to build creative rewards programs.
Established processes are an important foundation in relationship building and a powerful tool in your toolbox for managing expectations as well.
2. Managing Expectations
In managing expectations it is important to be honest and transparent from the beginning. Not all clients are experts in marketing- which is why they've reached out to begin with. Plus, as you grow together, they'll learn more and there will be more opportunities to express the levels of value to the marketing strategy in place.
Setting SMART goals and clear deliverables is next alongside assigning roles and responsibilities. Setting these early, and revisiting them often are helpful to keeping things on track. Don’t be afraid to use tools like shared to-do lists, calendars or Teams channels to keep things on track as well. Take the time to set clear boundaries and limitations as well to avoid unrealistic expectations.
A great way to bring extra value to clients is by anticipating their needs and meeting them with creative solutions. A simple way to put this into practice is by knowing important cycles in the client's industry. For example, we might plan a campaign for an accounting firm around tax season. The foundations of this principle at Thinkr come from thorough research and regular brainstorming for all our clients.
3. Measuring and Reporting
Clear deliverables and SMART goals should always be measurable. This not only provides a tangible way of demonstrating project success, but also opportunities to track important changes, influences and growth over time.
Elaborating with key takeaways, trends, and implications of any data in this phase showcases that deeper meaning in the work that really shows clients you understand their business.
We've heard it before, but it remains true: good communication is the foundation of a successful relationship!
Establishing regular status updates, monthly reporting, quarterly reviews and such both with the client and with internal teams will help keep things on track and allow you to get ahead of any issues.
It's important to make sure that the client feels heard and understood too so ask lots of questions, solicit feedback often and listen carefully. This is a great way to learn more about certain industries directly from the experts.
Taking the time to really get to know clients is incredibly rewarding. Doing so can be tricky sometimes, especially when we can't meet in person, but this is where we get to be creative! For example, if I know the client likes coffee, I'll send a bag from a local roastery with an invitation to chat over a cup.
Building Successful Client-Agency Relationships
Agencies can be the right hand of their client if they know how to make the most of them. When time is invested from the start on these four elements the chances of a successful client-agency relationship increases. These are keys to building a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship.