Digital marketing is a fast-paced and ever-growing industry.
It's a highly competitive, ever-changing sphere to work in - but of course, you probably know that.
Because of the industry's highly disruptive nature, client-agency relationships are fairly complex.
There are, however, smart ways to build a successful relationship between your digital marketing agency and any new clients you onboard.
It's all about setting realistic expectations, communicating, and staying as transparent as possible.
You Have to Set Clear Goals and Expectations
You can't launch a campaign without investing some time in working out what you want to achieve. While you're at it, spend a while figuring out how you plan to achieve it.
Without goal-setting, your campaign is just a fleeting thought.
When working on behalf of a client, planning is crucial because - let's face it - your ass is on the line.
You also can't be expected to shoulder the goal-setting responsibility on your own. Both you and the client need to know what is expected of each other. Success depends entirely on everyone knowing which direction your heading in and why.
Avoid Surprises and Break Down the Process
You might think that your best feature is adapting to surprises on the fly.
Good for you.
That's not what a client is looking for when they need to launch a successful marketing campaign.
What they do want is something thats:
You're running a marketing machine. Make sure it's well-oiled.
It's up to you to explain to the client how you work, which tools you use, and why your process will work for them specifically.
If you use tools like GoPinLeads to find leads - which, by the way, you should - explain why that's a good thing.
If you use any particular mail sending software, explain why that's a plus.
If you focus more on social media than emailing, tell them why.
Your clients need to have a good idea of what your specialities are. If you know what you're talking about, your clients will have a little more faith in your abilities.
It's also up to you to explain to the client what you need from them. They need to know how and when you'll expect input and feedback.
This is a team effort - and it's not just up to YOUR team.
Customer touchpoints are of the utmost importance. Identify how your brand engages with the client and how often. They'll appreciate the personal touch (and the forewarning).
There’s No “I” in “Gameplan”
While you may be the expert, the client's business is at stake. They should have the utmost confidence in your campaign - so they really do have the final say.
To make sure that they're happy with the campaign progress, they need to be involved in the planning phase right from the beginning.
Your clients need to:
a) Know what to expect
b) Have a chance to contribute
They'll be more comfortable with you doing your job - and be less likely to micromanage - if they feel comfortable.
If you're using a strategy that your client doesn't know much about, you need to make sure that they're comfortable with your approach. Explain precisely what your service will entail - it's about more than just the end goal.
This approach will ensure that you have ammo if you're client wants to randomly change everything halfway through the campaign. If the plains are all laid down in advance, nothing should get in the way of perfect execution.
If you make sure to measure expectations, you won’t ever have to bite off more than you can chew. It’s your best defense against feeling like you have to say “yes” to everything.
Make An Effort to Understand Your Client
When you first sign on a client, it's important to invest time and energy in learning about their business.
The following three main challenges are experienced by digital agencies across the board:
Agencies don't grasp their clients’ business
Agencies don't learn about their clients’ customers
Agencies don't research technology and innovation
These are issues that need addressing. Period.
Learn About Their Business and Industry
To be able to successfully market a brand, you actually need to know about it.
You need to dig deeper than a business' product line. You need to learn about their customers, business model, goals, and the challenges they experience.
If you're taking on a client from an industry that is unfamiliar to you, it's really your responsibility to get up to speed. And you need to do it as quickly as possible.
There are no excuses. Learning is your baby. It's not the client's job to educate you.
Media monitoring can be your biggest asset when it comes to learning the ropes. Keep an eye on online conversations related to industry topics and you'll have a ton of information regarding the public's interest or views on similar products. It's a quick (and smart) way to do some market research without the expensive headache of surveys, focus groups, or one-to-one interviews.
If you show your client that you've done your research, you'll drastically increase your chances of building a client relationship that lasts.
Do Some Product Testing
How else are you going to gain an understanding of what a typical product user experiences?
You might not be their usual target market. You might not be the sort of person who would typically purchase - or even use - their product. That doesn't matter.
If you're going to sell something, you'd better be damned sure you know all about it.
You need to get a real feel for the brand. It's the only way you can truly stand behind it.
Forge a Partnership
Your clients should view you as partners, not employees.
Simlarly, you should view your clients as partners, not simply some people with dolla dolla bills, y’all.
Your aim as a digital agency isn't selling ideas. It's building partnerships. Get that fact straight and your life will be a whole lot easier.
If you want your client relationships to work long term, you need to make sure that your clients feel respected. They need to know that their input and opinions are welcome.
Choose Clients You Actually Want to Work With
If life teaches us anything, it's that forced relationships aren't happy ones.
The same is true in business.
Obviously, there will be some speed bumps on your journey together - that's par for the course. But if you find a client with whom you can build a solid relationship, you'll avoid the truly disastrous hurdles.
Sure, turning away a paying customer is tough. You'll thank yourself in the long run, though. Losing out on one pay cheque is infinitely less troublesome than the constant drama with a pain in the neck...
Communicate Openly and Come Up with Ideas Together
You probably think you're a master communicator already. You just might be.
If you're not, however, there are a few things you can do to keep the lines of communication open.
Be proactive by anticipating any issues, comments, or questions before they happen.
Be honest, especially when things are going wrong.
Be completely transparent, especially when it comes to finances. Your client deserves to know where their budget is going.
Be reasonable and shoulder criticism with grace, even if you don’t particularly like it. Don’t be a pushover but be receptive.
While you’re working on your communication skills, it’s worth working on your collaborative efforts as well. The fact of the matter is that you’re more likely to have a successful relationship if you work closely with your client on their campaign from start to finish.
If you want things to run smoothly, give your client that all-important seat at the table. This isn’t suggesting that you let them run the show, but they are more likely to be open to your ideas if you allow them to be involved.
Regular reporting is key to a good creative and collaborative process. Report back to your client as often as you feel is necessary. They’re paying you to make a success of their campaign, the least you can do is enable them to keep an eye on what’s happening. You can automate this process as well, simply get your hands on some tools that will send your client updates on social media and web conversations. There’s no extra stress or effort involved, and you come of looking like a real pro too.
This probably goes without saying, but it is important to follow through on your promises. (Which is why we previously mentioned that you probably shouldn’t promise too much.)
Your word is your bond.
Your word is also what’s likely to let you either lose or keep a new client.
Stick to the game plan, don’t deviate, and make sure you deliver exactly what you offered your client in the first place. That’s what’ll keep them on the books for for the foreseeable future - or longer.