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Managing expectations is the bread and butter to any healthy client-vendor relationship. So much goes into closing a new deal with the client: determining KPIs, setting forth clear goals, proper budgeting, and milestone planning. If the same amount of detail isn’t put forth in managing the client’s actual campaign, it is likely the relationship will not last.
To ensure needs are met from start to finish, it is important to put systems of checks and balances into place to ensure 1) your client is pleased and 2) you keep their business. Here are some tips on how to manage a client’s expectations throughout projects.
Invest in the relationship
This one is easy! Your clients will grow to trust you the more you invest in them. Don’t be a robot, show compassion, and show that you care about more than the dollar sign hanging over their heads. The more you understand them and their needs, the more comfortable and inviting they will be with your strategies and ideas.
I cannot stress this one enough. Regularly communicating and addressing problems frequently are vital to the success of a relationship and projects. Remaining proactive and refraining from reactiveness is crucial to building a solid foundation with your customers. Whether it’s good or bad news, it’s on you to deliver that to them and not wait until it’s too late.
- Instant message software such as Skype is a great way to easily and quickly check in with clients and be available for them throughout the work day.
- Weekly calls are a great way to regroup and report back to the customer with progress from week to week.
- Weekly reports are another great way to report to a client that maybe is short on time and cannot commit to a weekly meeting.
- Quarterly in-person meetings are helpful for planning purposes and are beneficial to both parties, as there is nothing as effective as face-to-face meetings.
Listen, but don’t be a “yes” man (or woman)
The customer is always right, there is no denying that. However, laying down some basic ground rules won’t hurt. It’s important to be upfront and honest in a professional manner. Whether it’s an unrealistic timeline or a not so great strategy, it’s okay to speak up. At the end of the day, the client will appreciate honesty rather than missed deadlines or poor results.
Listen and Advise
While you don’t want to be a “yes man,” you definitely don’t want to be known as a “no man.”
Bring solutions to the problems and advise your client with realistic ways you can help, whether it’s suggesting a different approach or working with them to compromise on turnaround times.
- Negotiate the deadlines. Suggest dividing up deliverables into batch deliveries so that with larger scale orders, they can get some of the content sooner
- Determine priorities. Is there one piece of the project that takes precedence? If so, try to get that done first to get more time on the other items.
- Does the strategy make sense for their KPI? Provide case studies or articles that pinpoint good strategies that back up a better or different approach.
At CopyPress, we start campaigns with a firm grasp of the client’s overall KPIs. We want to know what the client is trying to accomplish, how they want to accomplish it, and how they will be measuring the campaign’s success. Without knowing the overall end goal, the risk is high for ending up with a dissatisfied customer.
Gather information upfront
Creative briefs are a great jumping off point. At CopyPress we have a brief for each product. It’s basically what we use to gauge the scope of each client campaign.
Guidelines are extremely helpful to the process. Does the customer have tone/voice guidelines, branding guidelines for design work, etc. that need to be used?
Define the approval process
At CopyPress, we want our clients to be as involved as they prefer and approve steps along the way. We try to avoid any surprises at the end of projects by adding approval points during each campaign. Whether it be topics for blog posts or wireframes for infographics, we want our customers to be aware of the progress as it’s happening and be on board.
Set micro goals and milestones
It’s important to agree at the start on timelines so that know when you need to get things done and they know when to expect things from you. It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable and provide comfort to the customer.
Invest in software such as Trello that allows you to interact with your clients and manage their campaigns in real time. Email is a blackhole. Run from it, as fast and as much as you can. Don’t get me wrong, email is not the enemy. All I am saying is that it tends to be the common denominator of communication gone wrong.
Trello is my favorite project management tool to date. It keeps track of everything. The platform allows you to communicate directly with your client, upload documents, and track deadlines and milestones.
Reporting back to the clients may seem like a mundane task, but they show a clear picture of progress. If you’re providing a service like content creation and you don’t necessarily have a “reporting system,” you can always check in with the customer to see how the content turned out–did they get extra traffic to their site? Did they get compliments from their existing reader base? Did they get any sales or sign-ups? Showing concern with the finished product shows that you are invested and are putting in effort to measure their overall success.
There are always going to be ways to improve the relationships with customers. In the end, the ability to manage your customer’s expectations and long-term relationship will depend on the level of communication and attentiveness you provide. If you don’t start with clear goals and systems, the risk of disappointing you and your client will be high.