Over the years, I’ve found five particular habits I follow make my client relationships run like a well-oiled machine and provide a rewarding outcome for everyone involved.
Remember Bob Hoskins once said, “It’s good to talk”? Well, it is. Continuous communication is essential for a working relationship to function, but it’s also important to gauge which form of communication works best in the given situation. Personally, I prefer just picking up the phone and calling clients. It’s the best way to catch up, and you often find new opportunities arise from conversations.
However, some people simply don’t have the time to spend catching up by phone, and that’s fine. Figure out whether your client prefers to Skype, Hangout on Google, receive daily or weekly updates via email or meet in person for a coffee or lunch. Whichever method you’re using, make sure that communication is consistent and clear – no one likes surprises (unless they involve a holiday to the Caribbean).
2. Share knowledge
The digital world changes quickly, sometimes with little warning. It’s important to keep on top of industry developments, and any changes that may affect digital strategy, negatively or positively. We are a team, and two heads (or indeed lots of heads) are better than one!
Share industry insights with each other. A client should never be the last one to know if there is an industry development likely to impact their business from a digital perspective. Likewise, as a client, if there is a change afoot in your business model or your targets, it’s always good to let your account manager know as soon as possible so they can be reactive and make relevant strategic suggestions.
3. Set goals, targets and kpis
It’s our job to help our clients solve business problems by increasing sales and engagement or helping things run more smoothly within their company, the ultimate goal being a tangible return on investment. Setting out clear targets at the onset means we have something to strive towards. Exceeding these targets makes us feel all warm and fuzzy (especially after the team celebratory drinks).
As an account manager, it's up to me to ask the right questions. If a digital strategy doesn’t involve increasing sales, there is always some target or another we can identify. This might be increased social media engagement, more membership conversions, higher brand awareness, and so on. Designing and building an amazing website with a top notch marketing campaign is all very well, but the underlying goal has to be using these things to achieve tangible results.
4. Manage expectations
If a deadline is unrealistic or a budget too low, talk about it. Never over-promise. There’s nothing worse than being promised something that doesn’t materialise because it wasn’t really achievable in the first place. Be honest and transparent. This is what builds trust and loyalty, and makes for a fruitful working relationship!
If the desired scope of a project exceeds the available budget, we can always look at a phased approach. After all, if we are working towards specific targets and reach them together, it can only be mutually beneficial.
5. Be open minded
Developing a digital campaign can involve a lot of work. It’s a real team effort and benefits from the input of everyone involved, with all suggestions on how to best execute a campaign at least considered (even those you eventually discard). The agency is the digital expert and the client is the virtuoso in their field. This makes for a killer team when it comes to forging ideas and moving a strategy forward. Therefore, both parties should be open to all suggestions and ideas. It may sometimes mean having to find a slightly bigger budget or a little more time. The trick is to reach a happy medium, doing what is right for the project while keeping the best interests of the business or brand at the core of all decisions.
Of course, these are just my tips and in no way a prescriptive list. Please feel free to share your own account management tips with us. After all, it’s a collaborative affair!