3 Ways to Maintain Strong Client Relationships
To build on my last article, let’s continue down the road of showing client love and keeping the spark in your client relationships alive.
I used to want my clients to like me. Now I make them fall in love. It doesn’t happen by accident — this is all about strategy. After the initial investment that brings clients on board, you enter a blissful honeymoon phase where everyone’s happy. Resist the temptation to rest on your laurels! Before your clients’ eyes start to wander, do something proactive.
Here are three rules I live by when it comes to maintaining strong client relationships.
You never want your client to think, “what are we paying for?” If you do PR for yourself on a regular basis, they never will. Before a client even asks for an activity or results report, you should have it ready to go. I give mine a new spin by merchandising our work to date. Putting your projects in context this way helps clients better understand how what you do on a daily basis is paying off.
Now I’m not saying to be boastful. Be factual, but remind them of the value that you brought them. And if you’re really smart, you’ll develop the report in a way that they can share internally — helping them do their own internal PR while doing yours as well.
Remember, the name of the game is to help them achieve their communications objectives and, even more importantly, make them look good in front of their boss and peers. On top of that, sharing your reporting is a great prelude to my second tip.
2. Become an Idea Machine
After you’ve shown your clients what you’ve accomplished together, start conversations on where you’ll go next. Mapping out possible futures gets people excited, especially when you’re bringing new ideas to the table.
One of my favorite moves is to walk my clients through case studies on what their main competitors and parallel industries are doing. It’s a casual way to talk about possible roadblocks and how to overcome them. Plus, we get to draw out lessons from what competitors are doing right.
Heard about a conference they should attend? Tell them! Identify how they can push themselves, and how you can help. This is the perfect time to refresh strategy without having to wait for your clients to bring up concerns on their own. You also might hit on exciting ways to expand your scope of work.
Now there is a fine line. If you know your client doesn’t have additional budget, don’t try and get blood from a turnip. If these new ideas will help them look like rockstars, propose shifting existing scope to support the new idea or couch it as something to plan against once budgets are back in play.
3. Take a Page from Amazon – Be Obsessed
Your clients have no reason to leave when you’re more invested in the business than they are — something I’ve been proudly accused of many times. Take a page from Amazon’s playbook and be obsessed with your customer. If you sense that their eyes are wandering, figure out why. Try to better understand them and their industry so you can identify their needs, including which needs you’re not meeting.
When I was helping MetLife recruit mega tech talent, we totally immersed ourselves in the tech community to understand what would draw a candidate to work at a particular company. We hung out on Reddit forums, attended big data conferences, conducted interviews, you name it. In the end, we employed many cool tactics that the big tech players were using to draw talent. For instance, we attracted top engineers through “Easter egg hunts” — basically, hidden messages/code on various websites across their homepage. Once we drew in the curious coders, we gamified the application itself, having applicants code their resume in LinkedIn. Not to toot our own horn, but we won awards for these recruitment campaigns. (I told you to merchandise, didn’t I?)
Success in client services is about constantly strengthening yourself and your client relationship. Just like in your romantic life, you need to put in the effort to keep your client’s eyes from wandering.
Rum Ekhtiar, founder of Rum and Co, is focused on brand strategies that work, ideas that are creative, new businesses pitches that win, and teams who work toward a common goal. With over 20 years of experience, he's worked with companies like Novartis, Citi, MetLife, and others, helping them transform their business, their story, and their engagement model. In this blog, he'll advise marketers on ways to break through creative and strategic blocks, methods to navigate client relationships, and how to ultimately realize the full potential of their capabilities. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on LinkedIn.