Today, on Hubstaff’s Agency Advantage Podcast, I’m talking with Chantell Glenville, author of the book What Clients Really Want (And the S**t That Drives Them Crazy).
Chantell has worked at some of the world’s top agencies and also managed agencies in her role at Vodafone. It wasn’t until she made this switch to the client side that she realized just how out of touch many agencies are with the real needs of their clients.
In our chat today, Chantell answers the question of what clients really want by laying out the basics you need to get right, as well as how agencies can take their client relationship from good to great.
If you’ve ever had a client fire you when you thought everything was going great, then this is the episode for you.
Click here to grab the transcript!
There is no such thing as a clean slate
Chantell’s first key tip is to stop assuming everything is fine when you first enter a relationship with a client. Really take a step back and look at how you relate to your clients.
You might think nothing is out of the ordinary, but you might actually be doing all these things that drive your clients nuts, like missing deadlines or putting out sloppy work, and instead of starting out at zero with your new client, you’re actually starting at negative three.
In order to really start fresh with your clients and ensure you can keep their business, you need to examine your business habits and how your clients act with you.
That way you can move out of the negative zone and into a really positive, productive relationship with your clients and make sure you stay employed.
What drives clients crazy
A number of things can sour the relationship between agency and client. Chantell highlights two of the big ones. Either you’re taking extra money from them, or you’re taking extra time.
First, failing to discuss costs upfront can really upset your client. Say your client wants to make extra changes to your project, and it costs more than the standard contract. To you, that might seem reasonable–the base rate is for so many changes and rounds of tweaks, and the client wanted more, so you’re charging them more.
But really step back and look at it from the client’s point of view. They only have so much of a marketing budget. If they cross the line over what they initially paid for and you don’t make that clear to them, they’re out of luck and have to scramble for the extra money.
Make sure you communicate with them about what they’re paying for and when they’re asking for more.
Second, pay serious attention to detail. It’s pretty obvious why clients might get upset when you go over budget, even if it’s their fault–you’re costing them money.
But if you produce work with basic mistakes like typos, you’re costing them time. Instead of having a marketing product they can review and rubber stamp, they have to comb through it for nitpicky things that you should have been checking for.
They’re paying you for a service, but now they have to spend their valuable time making sure that service is up to snuff, instead of you taking the extra step to make sure it already is.
Not everything is so obvious or as complex. Consider your client’s working hours. A lot of ad agencies enjoy the freedom to start work late in the morning and keep strange hours, working into the evening. Clients are less likely to have that kind of schedule.
If anything, they might start work early so they can leave early. Think about what time they’re at work. If your client leaves at five o’clock on the dot every day, don’t get upset if they don’t respond to a round of changes you send them at ten o’clock.
On the other side, make sure your client knows what time to expect response from you. If your client starts work at seven and you don’t get in until noon, make sure they know that they can’t email you first thing in the morning and expect an immediate answer.
How agencies can fix it
According to Chantell, the most important thing agencies need to do is understand that clients and agencies have different forces at play.
The individual you’re working with at a client company might be understanding that a third party you’re working with didn’t get their stuff in on time, or maybe your creative review didn’t work out, but remember, that individual has people at their own company putting pressure on them to get this done as well. They have stakeholders and managers to impress of their own.
To build this sort of empathy, especially for long-term relationships between an agency and client, Chantell strongly suggests going to visit your client at work. See what their typical day is like, what their pressures are, and how you can make sure working with you is a pleasure instead of a pain.
According to Chantell, it’s not just about making their lives easier, which is often what agencies focus on; it’s also how can you avoid making their lives harder. When do they have deadlines? When do they really need this done? When are they in or out of the office?
If you know these things about your client, your relationship will be much smoother.
Going from good to great
The real secret to keeping business, according to Chantell, is making sure you take that extra step. First, know a client’s brand better than they know it themselves. You’re the marketer, after all.
Really understand what they’re saying as a company so you can make sure that’s in every piece of work you do for them. When you’re presenting work, make sure you take into account the whole of a client’s business.
You might just have been asked to work on this one aspect, but still take a step back and see what the rest of the company’s doing and how this specific piece fits into the puzzle. That will make your work stand out and ensure the client is pleased with it.
Second, make sure the client knows where the project is at every step of the way. Instead of just updating a client when things aren’t going well or when something’s going to be late, proactively let them know what’s happening.
Update them on the status of their project as often as possible. This might seem like extra time taken away from your already busy schedule, but actually proactively letting your client know where they stand will save you time.
Instead of getting an email randomly from a client asking how the project’s doing and then having to drop everything and figure it out before you can respond, you can email them at the beginning or end of the day to tell them, “Here’s where we stand.” This allays the client’s fears while also making sure you don’t get distracted from your own work.
The client will also look at you much more positively if they don’t have to chase you down for answers all the time.
Want to learn more?
Chantell’s book is on Amazon, again titled What Clients Really Want (and the S**t that Drives Them Crazy).
She also runs a website called MasteringAccountManagement.com, which provides advice and information for anyone in client services on how to create great client relationships, but also on anything that will help improve their jobs, from improving presentation skills to time management.