How to Grown and Nurture Client Relationships
As a leading advertising agency, Zion & Zion relies not only on our entire team to build and nurture client relationships, but specifically on our account management team. As an account manager, I often like to think of my relationship with a client as a friendship or romantic relationship. Although business relationships are much different than personal ones, you must trust, nurture, and communicate in order to keep any relationship strong—and the same goes for client relationships. In order for the agency to be a successful business partner, they must truly act as a partner to their clients. It’s important to keep communication frequent, create timelines and concrete deadlines, understand your client’s business goals, and always ask questions.
Set one point of contact
Account managers work with a lot of people at our agency on a daily basis. You can manage the hundreds of emails and meetings you participate in each day and prioritize, respond, schedule, and act in a timely fashion. Don’t expect your clients to do the same. From the beginning, make it clear to the client that you will be their go-to guy or gal when it comes to planning, questions, feedback—you name it. If each person working on the account communicates with the client separately, you run the risk of important information getting lost in translation or slipping through the cracks. Serving as your client’s main point of contact keeps communication streamlined and avoids confusion on both ends.
Create timelines and set deadlines
Creating a detailed timeline and setting deadlines for your team and the client will not only help everyone stay on track, but will help the client understand the many steps that go into planning and executing projects and campaigns. Assigning tasks with deadlines to each department at the agency, as well as to the client, allows each person to be held accountable. For example, if you give a client a week to review website content and they get back to you with feedback two weeks late, it’s easy to show the client that the entire website process has been delayed and will no longer be on track. However, without setting that initial deadline and explaining the reasons for said deadline, the client may get you the feedback two weeks late and still expect the website to launch on time. One simple email can go a long way when it comes to account management.
Ask questions, listen, and learn
90% of agencies say they truly understand their clients’ business, but only 65% of clients agree. As an account manager, you should strive to learn everything you can about your client’s business and industry. Your client knows their business better than anyone else, so take the time to do your research and create a list of key points with questions to ask during the kickoff meeting with your client. This will serve as a great starting point for you and your team to reference throughout your entire relationship with the client. As you continue to work with clients, you’ll learn more about their business, as well as their industry. Subscribe to industry emails or publications, talk with their employees, and dig in to consumer feedback.
Work together to set goals
As I stated earlier, understanding your client’s business goals and industry before you begin working on a strategy is essential. Have you done market research? Do you understand the company’s identity and positioning in the marketplace? Once you have done your research, work closely with the client on setting not only marketing goals, but business goals as well. These two types of goals should closely align, as they somewhat depend on one another. If you have a business goal related to increasing sales in a particular product area, but no marketing goal to align with it, then you’ll most likely never accomplish your business goal. The client’s business goals should serve as a starting point around your overall strategy, and your marketing decisions should support these goals.
Don’t be afraid to push back
Account managers must have guts and act as experts when it comes to making decisions for their clients. Oftentimes, we come up with a great idea that is perfectly aligned with a client’s strategy and goals, but the client isn’t 100% on board. While it’s important to listen to your client’s feedback and take their ideas into consideration, you should push back if their feedback goes against what you are working towards for their brand. Back up your choice with all of the reasons why their idea may not be best for their brand—after all, you’re the expert. Many clients will appreciate your thoughtful response and see your side of things. Sometimes they won’t, and that’s okay. The client looks to you to be the expert, so voice your opinion when necessary, even if it goes against what the client is thinking. There’s a fine line between wanting to be right and actually being right, so make sure you have done your research and have facts to back your statements up when pushing back on clients.
Continue to nurture
Even if you’ve been working on an account for years, an account manager’s role in client relationship building is never done. Check in frequently. Ask questions. Fully understand their business and goals. Pay attention to what’s happening in their industry. Take them to lunch. Ask them about their lives outside of work and really get to know them. Not only will your clients appreciate all of this, but it will allow you to continuously learn and strengthen the relationship you’ve worked so hard to build.