Regardless of today’s speed of business, I believe one aspect has remained essentially unchanged: Client management. It can be summed up in one word: Anticipation. I know some of you will associate the idea of “anticipation” with Heinz Ketchup. However, I have always thought of “anticipation” as a key part of building and achieving strong client relationships.
Client management is a high priority in any business, rightly so. How companies manage their clients often means the difference between achieving success or experiencing failure. Although, today’s speed of business doesn’t allow for the slow, nurturing and rapport building methods of client relationship building of the past. The introduction of faster technology, coupled with a tough economic landscape has meant that to some business professionals, the definition of “client management” has changed.
Essentially, in order to achieve successful client management businesses need to be able to anticipate the needs of their clients even before they do.
What’s it like in their shoes? Yes, this is a cute way of saying that you need to put yourself in their position. Every new project that you work on with your client will provide you with a better understanding of the environment they live in day in and day out. Don’t wait for them to ask you about the results of their latest campaign or initiative, anticipate it. Your job is to make their job easier.
Think ahead. When your client makes a request, don’t just deliver what they want, give them what they will need. Go the extra mile and think about what other questions they may have as a result of their request. If you don’t know why a certain request was made, get informed. Thinking ahead saves time and makes decision making easier.
Don’t play volleyball. In other words, take the time to think first. Email has made everyone accessible at all times. It has also allowed for a sense of urgency on all business matters. If your client fires off an email with questions, don’t just shoot back an incomplete response without enough information – your client will be forced to reply back with more questions. After 15 minutes of volleying back and forth, you might end up with 9 emails composed of multiple questions and responses, all in bits and pieces. Instead, take the time to understand what the issue really is from the start.
If your client is asking about the budget for a project, don’t just send the dollar amount. You need to also include the scope and duration of the project as well as any other relevant details all in one email. If you missed the opportunity to provide all the details of a project at the start, take a step back and give this information as completely as possible.
Don’t ask, “How high?” Add value. When a client makes a request, don’t just give them what they asked for, provide context or any other relevant information that can help. Think outside the box. An agency-client relationship is about adding value by being part of the team.
Circling back to the Heinz comparative, in the 70s, Heinz ketchup bottles were glass. That meant that pouring took time and patience. Today’s quick-squeeze plastic bottles have provided us with instant gratification.
Creating a solid client management process is about anticipating the needs of your clients on a day to day basis. The fine art of anticipating involves having the patience, taking the time and being thoughtful, attentive and mindful of your clients needs.