We all know that, when it comes to business success, client relationships are integral.
As Account Director at Three Whiskey, I’ve seen their importance first-hand. That’s why I’ve pulled together some of my key insights to help you build long-lasting, harmonious and mutually beneficial relationships with your clients.
There are many essential elements to successful business relationships, but none are as important as regular, honest and clear communication. It sounds obvious, but it’s harder than it sounds. And the harder it becomes, the more important it is.
Take the client on the journey with you and they will understand when the direction changes. Involve them in the decisions and they will defend them to the business.
The execution of a strategy is a journey, with many obstacles to overcome and occasional changes in direction. Take the client on the journey with you and they will understand when the direction changes. Involve them in the decisions and they will defend them to the business.
You’ll never achieve that level of buy-in if you’re justifying something retrospectively.
2. Get to know all the stakeholders
Clients have multiple stakeholders to manage, each with their own agendas and priorities. Managing these stakeholders is a big task - but you can help.
If you get to know the stakeholders that your client is managing, you’ll be able to help them frame opportunities in the right way for each of them, highlighting the features of the strategy that address their particular needs. This will speed up decision making client side and help to keep projects on track.
You’ll also become more understanding when a compromise is needed and know when to push back and when to accept. And, most importantly, you’ll go from being another stakeholder for your client to manage to a trusted and respected partner who your client can’t do without.
3. Recognise the value delivered by the previous agency
Your client worked very closely with the previous agency to arrive at the strategy that preceded you, so be very careful when saying anything that could be seen as criticism of the previous agencies’ work. Especially in front of your client’s boss, as that may make them look bad.
Be very careful when saying anything that could be seen as criticism of the previous agencies’ work. Especially in front of your client’s boss, as that may make them look bad.
Instead, acknowledge what was good about the previous approach and constructively build on it.
It’s only natural for clients to be defensive if you come in as the newbie and suggest a completely different way of doing things. Be mindful of this and give your client ample opportunity to feed into any change in approach, make sure they understand why and make them an integral part of the solution.
4. Build a business case
Clients have a limited budget and lots of options to spend it on. How do they know that what you’re suggesting is their best option? You need to make it clear and easy for the budget holders, and reassure them by presenting a case that is tailored to their objectives and shows the business impact.
It may be beneficial in the early stages of a client relationship to start off with smaller budgets, where you can build confidence in stages. By being flexible and achieving profitability at a lower level of risk, you’re more likely to be able to scale up as your client’s trust and business grows.
A final thought
Clients and agencies are on the same side. Cracks only form when clients lose faith that you really understand them, their needs, their industry and their business.
All partnerships are built on the foundations of mutual respect, trust and understanding, keep these foundations in place and your relationships will flourish.
Do you think you’ve got what it takes to join one of our teams? We’re hiring. Visit our Jobs page to find out more.
Photo by Leon on Unsplash