Proper client management is a crucial ongoing process. When done right, it can provide numerous benefits for your small business: A growing positive reputation in your industry, increased trust with your team and clients, less stress and smoother processes for each project are all benefits of successful client management. In a previous blog post, we discussed ways to attract and acquire better clients to improve the health of your business and cash flow. However, acquiring clients is only the beginning.
Now let’s see how you can achieve sustainable and successful client relationships to grow your business.
Step 1: Self Reflect
While it’s one of the greatest feelings to have a new client on board, it’s important to do some self reflection before you commence a new project with them. Knowing you and your team’s strengths, weaknesses, preconceptions, and attitudes beforehand can help establish an open, trusting relationship with your client from the get go.
For instance, you might want to evaluate whether you have preconceptions about this client. Keep in mind that most clients start off as good clients—they’re excited about working on a project with you—and likely, things only head south when you begin to hit roadblocks. When things DO head south, make sure you don’t project any preconceptions you had of them, or else it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Identifying strengths and weaknesses is another fantastic way to position you and your team’s services (and what unique benefits it’ll offer your client) competitively. By self reflecting, you have a better grasp of what you excel at, and what you areas you can potentially work on. These reflections will help tremendously in your pitching, and help build trust with your clients down the road.
Step 2: Know Your Client
In the same vein as knowing your team’s preconceptions, strengths, and weaknesses, it’s just as important to communicate with your client about theirs.
Before your work begins, consider asking your client these questions:
What are some potential roadblocks for you?
Every business faces roadblocks that can hold up a project. Senior reviews, legal reviews, and coordinating teams of varying complexities and schedules all can cause holdups for your team. Figure out these concerns at the outset of the project, address them, and you’ll get to successful end results much easier. Remember: your team needs a couple days (or weeks) to get work back to you, too!
What was your experience with your last digital agency?
Ask your client about their experience with their last agency, and from there, you’ll likely see concerns they might have for you. This is also a good chance for you to ask them other risks that they have on their minds, and to set parameters surrounding anything that comes up during the project.
These conversations not only help establish trust, but helps communicate that this project is a collaboration—one that is a win-win when the project is a success!
Step 3: Form Trust Right from the Beginning
Building trust with your client is a combination of understanding yourself and your team, as well as getting to know them. Trust between you and your client means that you both can depend on working with each other’s best interest in mind.
To form trust with your clients right from the start, you should:
Often times it’s difficult to be transparent and open when it comes to difficult conversations, such as timelines, budgets, and project-specific issues. However, the more transparent and upfront you are during those tough subjects, the more likely they’ll believe your promises in the future.
Already working with multiple clients? Chances are, your client operates in a vastly different industry than you. This means different terminology and language that you might not be used to. Start getting comfortable using their industry terminology right from the beginning—and even help them understand yours. These extra steps will help both of you be more productive at different stages of the project.
For example, try to use the same technology as your client. Are they used to building fees on Excel? Work on your budgets on Excel. A small gesture like that will help your client recognize you, hence furthering your trust and overall relationship.
Acquiring good clients is one thing, but actually managing successful relationships with them is a whole other ball park. As a small business owner, you’ll be working with all kinds of clients throughout your career, so knowing the steps to successful client management is a must have skill.