The best advice I have ever received in my client-servicing career to date is: “If you don’t look after your clients, someone else will”. This advice has never been more poignant than in today’s marketing and media landscape. With such a wide range of agency approaches and offerings and the rapid increasing growth in technical knowledge within the industry, you have to ask yourself: is the production of great work and fantastic results enough to stop clients looking elsewhere?
The key to client retention is simple: great service.
I have put together five helpful tips to help anyone wanting to get the most out of a client services role:
1. Get on the road
Yes, we all know that sometimes it is just easier to send a quick email. You can type, retype and amend until it reads like an A-grade dissertation, but let’s face it, who ever read their dissertation back?! Nobody wants a lengthy essay in their inbox, it is far more beneficial (and can often be less formal) to visit the client and chat in person. Do not just save client visits for when things go wrong – make your face to face meetings a regular occurrence and get to know them when everything is going right. That way, they will not associate face-to-face meetings with negativity.
Spending time with clients is invaluable for building that relationship. It’s very much like any personal friendship in that if it lies dormant for a while, sooner or later the person feeling neglected will start to look for new friends…
2. Computer says “no”
The word ‘no’ has been erased from all account handler vocabulary – full stop! Yes, some client requests can often seem outrageous and unmanageable in terms of timings/deliverables, but instead of creating a barrier that can ultimately have an effect on all of the hard work we have put into growing the relationship and the account, it’s up to us to offer alternatives that still meet the client’s needs.
3. Don’t speak DALEK
As client services account handlers, our client contacts are not always from marketing and media backgrounds. It is often marketing managers, and marketing execs dealing with the online AND offline agencies, especially in smaller companies. Although clients are often keen to know the technical detail, this information needs to be distilled to a level of understanding that everybody can digest. Speaking a client’s language is the key to growing the relationship and instilling the client’s trust and appreciation in your approach to management, the agency and the work you’re doing.
4. Exceed expectations
Effective account management is always striving to go the extra mile in terms of service and delivery. So many marketing and media agencies out there do what the clients request plus a bit more. As account handlers, we should be questioning the brief and offering value through alternative and enhanced solutions – generally being so much more than just a ‘go-between’ for the client and the technical team. Which leads me nicely on to the final point…
5. BE the client
Within any agency, the client service account handlers are the clients. We are an extension of their marketing team, we represent them internally and we must always have their best interests (and of course, business objectives) at heart.
It is the client service account managers job to get under the skin of client, we get to know the brand, understand the objectives, and advise accordingly. The advice may be taken on board and sometimes it may not. At the end of the day, clients are paying for our expertise and if we think there is a better way to drive results, it is our job to question decisions. It will gain you respect in the long run; and respect strengthens relationships.
6. Great conversations
“Power relationships are built on great conversations, not one person showing the other how much they know.” The facts and figures may be an important part of our day-to-day work but over-sharing such information will not take you to the highest level of relationship building.
Learn about what your client’s value through the art of conversation – listen to their challenges. A CEO at another agency I previously worked at used to say, “You have two ears and only one mouth for a reason.” Listening and learning does not compromise your position as the ‘expert’, it allows you to empathise and ask thoughtful questions about what they just said.
So, think twice about turning up to a two-hour meeting with a mammoth PowerPoint presentation full of charts and numbers –be confident, know your client. They might just respond better to a coffee and an honest two-way conversation.
7. What is the agenda?
When developing a power relationship, the first building block should always be to know your client’s agenda. Do you know what their main challenges are, what pressures they are under, and what is really important to them right now?
Once you know this, you can work towards helping them accomplish it, but you must always start with theirs, not yours. Following on from the above point about how important it is to listen and learn, continue by asking yourself, ‘How can I help?’. Make a point of understanding what is going on in their world and walking in their shoes – we all know our own challenges can often consume us, so make a point of trying to relate.
Pushing your own agenda (likely to be far less relevant to the client at that particular time) definitely won’t be helping, nor will it earn you any fans.
8. Treat prospects like they are already a valued client; eventually, they might become one
Relationship building is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time and a lot of effort to gain trust and respect but is worth playing the long game. If we treat prospects like we treat our existing clients, by keeping regular friendly contact and offering market insight and new ideas whilst always avoiding a ‘hard sell’, a great future relationship could be taking course.
Invest to get to know a prospect’s business. They will appreciate your insight and persistence and maybe one day you could be talking about doing business together.
9. Integrity is everything
Be truthful. Follow through. If you make a mistake, own up – all things we have heard a thousand times before. But not only are these small life tips important, they are everything when it comes to maintaining strong relationships and building upon trust in business. Sobel says, “You can’t believe the message if you don’t trust the messenger.”
Develop a reputation for integrity, and it will become the anchor for all your successful relationships.
MAPS Agency wins lots of new business from all over Queensland and Australia due to our impressive portfolio and the amount of time and effort we all put into everything we do, but it’s the relationship formed between us and the client that helps us keep clients.
The great work we deliver as an agency keeps our clients happy. Great business is about great relationships. Great relationships are built on trust. And the trust between a client and an agency starts (and ends) with client service.
If you are looking for a marketing and media agency to assist with your advertising and marketing you will find us in Maroochydore, Sunshine Coast.