“The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them,” said Don Draper thoughtfully before taking a long pull from a cigarette.
He’s not wrong.
And while it may be ill-advised to take wisdom from an old episode of Mad Men, the perpetual fear of a client “going in another direction” is high on the list of things to worry about for most marketing agencies.
The antidote to that anxiety is to build rock-solid relationships with new clients right from the start. Here are some tried and true ways to build trust and loyalty starting on Day 1.
Communicate your ethos…
If you pitched your new client on a particular project, they probably got a flavor for what your agency has to offer. But now that you’re officially in business together, it’s time to get them onboarded and align on goals and expectations.
It’s well worth the time to prepare a welcome presentation—live or video—for all new clients that communicate:
Who you are – introduce everyone on the team, including what their role is, what the client can expect from them, and a fun fact that showcases their personality.
How you work – walk the client through the life cycle of a typical project. How do you get started? Who should they be in touch with? What are the preferred communication styles? How do you collaborate? How do you measure results?
Your company values/culture – what does your agency care about? What does success look like to you? How do you treat your customers and each other? How do you communicate? How do you celebrate? How do you handle failure? What do you do every day to live your company values?
… And learn about theirs
Part of your welcome presentation may include a section on every new client’s favorite subject: themselves. Do a deep dive into the history of their company and get to know who they are and where they came from. This kind of human touch can go a long way in building meaningful relationships.
When you’re face-to-face with them for the first time as a brand new client, get to know them even better by asking the right questions, including:
What motivates them?
How do they define success?
What’s their brand story?
What are their pain points?
What do they think sets them apart from their competitors?
Who do they believe are their top 3 competitors (and why)?
Who is their ideal customer?
Where do they want the company to be in 5 years? Ten years?
How do they think they are perceived by their customers? Do they want to change that—or enhance it?
What are their goals with marketing? How will they measure their success?
What do they hope to achieve with marketing that they aren’t already?
And if you really know who you’ll be working with—and show them who you are too, consider an out-of-the-box day that allows everyone to put down their guard and build trust as a team.
Depending on the personalities and preferences of your team and theirs (not to mention your budget), you might propose an escape room, physical obstacle course, coding challenge, or strategy adventure.
No matter what you choose, getting everybody out of the office or their remote work environments will offer insights into how your client’s team prefers to communicate and collaborate, how they think, what their team dynamic is like, and how they solve problems. Fair warning: It will also reveal how your team does all of the above, so make sure it’s an activity that will show everyone in their best light!
The importance of this kind of communication early on helps set your partnership up for success. You know where they’ve come from and what they want to achieve. Great client relationships are built on quality connections that come from strong communication. And that’s one of the best ways to retain a client and take on additional projects.
Put the right people in the right jobs with the right technology
Have you got someone on your team who is a gifted presenter? Give them the pitch. A compelling copywriter? You know where they go. Who’s good at the schmooze? That’s the account manager who should be constantly nurturing the relationship.
The clearest way to show your new client that your agency has got this is to make sure everyone is playing to their strengths. Your client doesn’t have to see how the sausage is made; rather, you can show them that your team is a well-oiled machine that works together seamlessly. When everyone knows exactly where they step in on every project, you know you’re providing world-class service.
While you’re at it, it’s critical to have an efficient system that allows you to collaborate as a team and keep your clients informed every step of the way. The right technology can help you take this to the next level.
Content marketing agency Animalz uses Front to help build trust with every client with a shared inbox. Although each client has a point of contact, they make sure the rest of the team has full visibility so if someone is out sick, service doesn’t miss a beat. They also route messages to the right team members at the right time by creating team folders and tags and setting up automation. No messy email chains, Gmail extensions, or bulging individual inboxes.
Developing a strong relationship with your clients from the very beginning is integral to ensuring a long and loyal partnership. Putting in place the right systems and technology will help you nurture and maintain those relationships, no matter who comes and goes in your organization or theirs.
As Don Draper once opined, “Success comes from standing out, not fitting in.”
Now, go stand out in the most thoughtful, personal way.
Written by Jonny Parker