4 Keys to Better Agency-Client Relationships in Digital Marketing
For any business, but especially for a digital marketing agency, having strong client relationships is a bedrock of success. In lieu of an established brand name or industry reputation, building trust and loyalty with a growing customer base is critical.
More often than not, there will always be a competitor with better looking marketing materials and more impressive case studies. Differentiating your service or product from the competition, and showing clients why they are best served staying with you can be difficult.
At the end of the day, strong relationships with clients, built on accountability, transparency, hard work, and great communication can act as the proverbial “ace in the whole” when it comes time to renew contracts or fend off competitors.
A recent post by Salesforce suggests that it’s 6-7 times costlier “to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.” Recognizing the significance of those numbers, below are four tips for building better client relationships for digital marketing agencies, and retaining more of your existing customer base.
1.) Accountability: Own Your Failures… and Your Success
Regardless of industry or profession, every account manager or account executive will inevitably face a situation where a client’s needs or expectations are not met. All too often, the immediate reaction to client discontent is to try and deflect blame, make excuses, or to minimize the severity of the issue.
Ultimately, such tactics are more likely to further exacerbate the problem than they are to solve it. Instead of deflection or re-direction, a better approach is to face the issue head on, own it, and get one step closer to resolving the problem as soon as possible.
Perhaps someone else in your organization was responsible for the issue. Perhaps client expectations were not realistic. Perhaps there was an unexpected algorithm update that took the whole industry by surprise. There could be a litany of reasons why the problem probably wasn’t your fault. However, at the end of the day, you own the client relationship, and you are the face of the organization to them.
In order to take credit for success with a client, one must also be willing to be accountable for failure. More often than not, that accountability will earn respect with your client, and may be an opportunity to turn a problem into a positive.
2.) Transparency: A Foundation of Trust
Any time I hear a pitch involving “secret sauce,” “proprietary methodology,” or “voodoo science,” I can’t help but cringe a little bit. While there certainly are legitimate cases where a business can’t disclose certain things because of intellectual property protection, 9 times out of 10 these buzzwords are simply code for “BS.”
Today there is a massive amount of information available to a prospective client online. A 2012 Corporate Executive Board study of business-to-business customers found that, “On average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—before even having a conversation with a supplier.”
Glossing over a client’s questions or concerns and assuming they only care about results is a bad strategy. Educate clients on SEO, paid search and social media, explain why a particular marketing strategy is recommended, and outline how those processes are expected to achieve the desired results over time.
At the end of the day, an educated client who understands the process will have more realistic expectations, will probably have more patience, and will almost assuredly trust what you are doing much more than one blindly hoping that the “secret sauce” delivers as promised.
3. Hard Work: There’s Simply No Substitute
NBA All-Star Kevin Durant famously once said, “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.” Though the quote appears to have actually originated from a high school basketball coach named Tim Notke, the words are impactful nonetheless.
In the business world, a competitor may have the advantage of a stronger reputation or even a more effective product. But a harder working client account manager, one who makes the extra effort to really understand their client needs and ensure that the client is getting the maximum benefit out of the relationship, will win every time.
Business, much like life, tends to be dynamic and constantly in flux. Yesterday’s customized solution may no longer be applicable today. Just look at what was considered to be “best practice” in SEO five years ago versus what we know today. It takes hard work and persistence to continually stay abreast of your client’s needs, and to ensure that your product or service is being applied in the best way.
4. Communication: Never Assume Anything
Even when things are going great, one must always be vigilant about maintaining regular communication with his or her clients. Regular communication in a client relationship can bring potential problems to the surface,” averting a major client issue down the road.
Furthermore, even if it a client does not respond to updates on progress, the simple act of sending such updates reminds the client that work is being done. Having a paper trail of email updates or other forms of communication makes it much easier to answer client questions about what work has been done and when.
Communicate to your client how much new ad copy you wrote, how much keyword research you did, how many updates you published through Twitter and Facebook, etc. Articulate not just what results were achieved, but what work was done to achieve those results. In short, demonstrate your value to your client on an on-going basis so they don’t assume that results just happen on their own.
Lastly, always strive to be proactive. By suggesting opportunities to clients and providing ideas for improvement, rather than reacting to complaints or concerns, you establish a position of trust and respect with your client. The day that a client feels that they are coming up with more ideas, or better ideas than you, is the day that the client no longer views you as a necessary resource for their success.
What are your thoughts on building strong client relationships? Let us know in the comments!