Improving Client Relationships is Easier than You Think

Regular interaction with clients is a reality for most creative professionals. (They pay our bills, after all!) Yet, according to a recent industry poll, client engagement is a challenge for nearly three-quarters of creative teams. So how can you improve your client relationships? Here are three ideas that can put you on the path to building stronger partnerships.

Understand Client Motivations. “Demands from clients sometimes defy logic and reason, and creative teams are better at creating things than they are at dealing with timelines and approved channels,” explains Debbie Kennedy, a career advertising and marketing professional with over a decade of experience leading the Operations team for an in-house agency.

That’s why understanding client motivations is essential to success. More often than not, your client’s behavior is motivated by a goal or set of goals—achieving them is what drives their expectations. The first step to ensuring you and your client are aligned is to firmly grasp these motivations.

Jami Oetting, section editor of Agency Post, agrees. “You can’t manage the expected success of a marketing partnership without first setting mutually agreed upon marketing goals that align with the client’s business goals,” she says. Having a clear picture of what exactly your client is hoping to achieve will help you determine if a request they make will achieve their objective—and make it easier for you to realign them in the right direction during collaborative discussions.

Manage Client Expectations. As most creative professionals know, managing client expectations can be a challenge. But, doing so efficiently is a crucial skill. “Managing expectations is the single most important aspect to maintaining a healthy & rewarding relationship,” says Annie Pace Scranton, founder & president of Pace Public Relations. “Consistently having positive relationships with clients leads to a calmer work day and a higher level of productivity.”

At the beginning of your project intake process, improve communication with clients by asking specific questions and encouraging them to share examples or inspiration for their vision. You’ll end up with a detailed creative brief that eliminates misaligned expectations.

During creative execution, when the content is being produced, strive for as much transparency and visibility as possible to avoid “unscheduled interruptions” by your client. Communicate a check-in or review schedule during the project briefing stage so your client knows what to expect and when to expect it.

When it comes time for client review and approval, provide what we call “creative rationale” as much as possible. Reiterate goals, objectives, and the original business drivers so your client has a clear reminder of the context in which the work was created.

Build Collaborative Relationships. The key to building and maintaining a healthy relationship with your client is proving that you are a listening, collaborative partner. That means consistently demonstrating that you have a genuine, vested interest in their success. According to Cassie Hughes, strategy director and co-founder of Grow Marketing, one way to do this is to truly be of service to your client. “Sometimes a client may be overwhelmed by their role, dealing with a challenging boss, or going through something personal that has added to overall stress,” says Cassie. “In addition to providing your services to your client, be attuned to other ways you might be able to help.”

Follow-up with your client by asking for meaningful metrics associated with projects, like inquiring about the click-through rates of an email campaign you produced. Also ask about overall success: Did what your team produced help your client meet their objectives?

And finally, look for ways you can serve the relationship beyond the project at hand, like showing your client that your interests are aligned by delivering fresh ideas and information about competitors’ strategies—and how you can outperform them across all deliverables.

IHAF member, inMotionNow, is a leading provider of work management solutions, facilitating efficiency and productivity from project kickoff to final approval. The company’s flagship SaaS product, the inMotion Creative Work Management application for marketing and creative departments, enables creative professionals to manage and track print, video, and interactive projects in a centralized, online environment.

Linkedin: Rob Munz

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

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