If you want to make your clients love you, the key thing to understand is that marketing is a relationships business.
The best account handlers I’ve worked with understand this dynamic. They know that success hinges on building client love through deep and collaborative client and agency relationships. This type of trusted partnership has the power to elevate thinking, smooth processes, unlock commercial growth, and generally make life feel great for everyone.
Here are my six ways you can make your clients love you.
Build the relationship from the very start
Clients invariably know the importance of a good relationship with their agencies.
It’s as important for the client as it is for the agency.
They don’t want a yes man (or woman), they want a partner they can discuss their plans with, someone to bounce ideas off and agree the road map to success. Marketing can be a stressful existence so build empathy within their world.
If you want to make your clients love you understand their pressures. Know their objectives. Speak to them on a level and get to know them as a human. Find the common ground. Where do they live? What makes them tick? Hobbies? Married? Kids?
I’m a great believer that every penny invested in coffee, lunch, or drinks after work with your clients, will be paid back in trust.
I used to have a set of clients that would always come into London on a Wednesday and then would like to go drinking of an evening. Looking back our work may not have been the best but we kept that business in rude commercial health and no other agency could match us for our client relationships.
Learn and understand their business
I’ve never met a client that doesn’t love it when you can talk articulately about their business. Use their products. Experience them in retail. Read their reports. Take an interest in their category. Set up a news alert and send them competitor data. Clients love knowing what their competitors are up to.
The more you know about their business, their brand, their products, their category, their audiences, their objectives… the better the inputs to the work and the more you will make your clients love you.
As will your internal agency team.
“How’s business?” is perhaps one of the most powerful questions you can ask a client.
Ask them how you can help
“How can I help you? Another powerful client question and a really simple way to make your clients love you.
Such an open ended question also gets them thinking and it gets them talking, it opens them up for you to discover their pressing problems and for you to help solve them. This also gives you the potential to unlock opportunity for the agency.
I once moved a seasoned account director onto a global piece of business that was looking a little shaky. The first thing he did was pick up the phone to all the local marketing directors and asked them specifically how he could help them. Simple stuff you may think. When I attended a marketing conference about a month later, not only did a number of the clients thank me for putting him on the account whilst complimenting him on his questioning, one handed me 4 tins of Portuguese sardine pate to give to him as apparently it was his favourite!
You can’t buy that kind of client love. Co-incidentally he was promoted not long after.
Marketing agencies are in the business of serving their clients. That doesn’t mean saying yes to everything, but it does mean asking your client what they need and how you can help.
Make your client meetings the best of the day
Meetings are typically the key interface with clients. It’s where plans are formed, it’s where work is sold, and it’s where your clients judge you the most. It should be the highlight of a client’s day but nothing irks a client more than a badly run meeting.
We’ve all been there – no agenda, too many people, no-one leading, failing tech, no clear outcomes, a complete waste of the client’s time and the agency’s. Some meetings I’ll look around a room to try and estimate the cost of that meeting – person x day rate x meeting length x people in the room – can sometimes equal an eye-watering amount of money! I’ve known clients do to this too so if they’re paying watch out!
If I call a meeting I will ALWAYS:
- Agree the agenda with all parties in advance
- Pre-sell an overview of what will be covered, so a deeper dive into the agenda, to avoid any bad surprises
- Define success in advance i.e. it would be great if we could achieve this today
- Cast accordingly i.e. who do you actually need in the room, not who you feel should be in the room
- Check the tech. Then check the tech again.
- Tell stories. Clients go from meeting to meeting so make yours memorable.
- Read the room, intervene and adjust the agenda if necessary.
Never, ever, forget the original and intended purpose of the meeting.
Learn the best way to communicate with your clients
We exist in the communications industry yet I am constantly baffled at how bad we can be at communicating with our clients. Given the plethora of communication platforms now open to us, you need to make a strategic decision as to how you use those platforms.
In short, I believe the best way is always to take the lead from your clients. Some like email. Some like text. Some like a call. Some don’t like to communicate at all. Whatever their weapon of choice, use it, and use it well.
I’ve always used the below as a rough guideline:
- Detailed plans, presentations, or statements of work – Email
- Quick questions – Chat, text or email
- Bad news – Ideally face-to-face but at a minimum a phone call
- If they contact you and you’re available – Respond immediately
- If they contact you and you’re not available – Respond immediately!
I’ve always believed that you should treat your clients communications like they are the most important person in your (work) life.
Nothing dents a client relationship more than their important email languishing in your inbox awaiting a reply.
Be a marketing expert
Clients are looking for partners in their agencies. Equals that can help them navigate the increasingly complex and challenging marketing ecosystem.
Whilst an old concept, I’ve always liked the idea of account handlers being T-Shaped people. Individuals that have a breadth of marketing understanding and that are able to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas, whilst at the same time having a deep specialism in one particular skill or group of skills.
I was once advised that if I wanted to excel in marketing I should try and work across as many areas of the marketing mix as possible, including client side. I’ve always been a big advocate of secondments (agency personnel moving over to the client organisation for a set period of time).
I took this advice onboard and have now worked client-side (twice), in an ad agency (BBH), a digital agency (agency.com), a PR agency (Exposure) and most recently a media agency (Essence). I’d like to think I’ve seen it from all angles, well almost all angles.
Be the trusted partner that helps your clients navigate the increasingly complex marketing ecosystem.