Generating new leads is at the heart of most agency strategies. Whether relying on paid avenues, referral sources or social media, you are most likely approaching it as a numbers game - more leads = more customers = more revenue.
But what about your current clients and protecting those relationships?
Of course, attracting new customers is a necessary part of a successful business. However, they are not the only essential part. In the push to bring in more customers, don’t neglect your current accounts and the value of maintaining those healthy client-agency relationships.
Long-standing clients give your company stability and longevity. According to R3 research, the average client-agency relationship lasts just over three years. How does your agency compare?
Knowing your average client duration is important to help recognize when your clients fall off and how you can improve. Keeping your client-agency relationships going project after project comes down to three important things:
If your business can grow with your existing clients, you won’t need to spend as much time, money and energy seeking out new clients.
Failure to communicate effectively causes the death of any business relationship. Each party enters the relationship with a set of expectations. It is the job of both the agency and the client to let the other party know what these expectations are and have ongoing checkpoints. Create a detailed communications plan and stick to it. Design a standard template for you and your team to use as a starting point and then tweak depending on the client.
You most likely already outline project scope, deliverables, due dates, payments and billing, but where things tend to go off track is when ongoing feedback is not given. You and your clients discuss expectations when initially meeting or beginning a project but expectations can be miscommunicated, misinterpreted or simply change. It is up to your agency to continue to ask the right questions at the right time and take action. It is also important that you provide clients with a clear line of communication and responsive contacts so they feel like they have a direct path and will be heard.
Being honest and transparent with your clients builds on the previous concept. Communication between the parties is great, but if either side begins to feel like they are not being told the whole truth or misled, the relationship will suffer.
Trust is the cornerstone of every successful partnership and must be earned. If there are going to be delays or other issues with your agency's agreed-upon responsibilities, the client must be alerted to these problems as soon as they become apparent. If their work is delayed and no explanation is given, they will immediately begin to suspect the veracity of everything you ever told them. Suspicion and doubt are not part of a healthy relationship. Even worse if they feel like you are giving them the brush off or not valuing their business, they will go searching for an agency that does.
The best way to prevent this is to start having everything properly tracked on your end. Sometimes projects might have hiccups or get off track without our knowledge, especially when juggling multiple projects, working with different collaborators and managing freelancers. There are systems specifically designed for client work management, some like Accelo even built specifically for agencies. These solutions have features to manage your unique client needs. Look for a platform with a client-agency portal that gives clients direct access to project status. This gives a high level of transparency, and as a Forbes' article highlighted transparency reigns supreme in successful client-agency relationships, helping agencies and clients stay in sync.
Your agency is responsible for completing the work you were hired to do, and that means being held accountable for meeting deadlines and quotas while also delivering the high quality of work your clients expect.
The uncomfortable reality is that we sometimes fall short. It happens and it’s disappointing every single time. Your clients aren’t happy, you're disappointed in yourself and your team, you’re stuck doing damage control and you’re frustrated because this isn’t the first time.
Two key factors become imperative here: your ability to start getting ahead of issues and your ability to take responsibility in a way that satisfies your client. Being preventative goes back to having all your ducks in a row and having a system in place to truly manage your business and client work. We can’t be everywhere all the time and know every project and status on command. That’s why you need to rely on technology with the necessary tracking and reporting capabilities.
The next part involves taking ownership when things do go wrong. Yes, sometimes clients don’t deliver on their responsibilities, don’t provide information on time or are slow to respond, but it won’t serve you well to put blame on them. If things go wrong, your agency must be willing to own their part of the issue.
If there are going to be delays or deliverables that are not up to the standards you and the client agreed to, act fast. Alert the client to the problem and come with a solution to make it right. Clients can understand and forgive errors as long as they are not habitual. They are unlikely to forgive an agency that does not take responsibility for their mistakes.
The three pillars of a healthy client-agency relationship are only effective if you maintain them and put forth the ongoing effort. Keep communication flowing and continue to have frank conversations with your clients - it will best serve both parties. "Set it and forget it" doesn’t cut it when it comes to agency work and you will lose clients to competitors with this tactic.
Maintain the mindset that you and your team are ultimately responsible for getting the job done as expected and you are responsible for your client’s happiness. Continue to show clients that you are committed to growing your relationship with ongoing collaboration, developing a true partnership.
If you are looking to improve your client-agency relationships, consider a client-agency portal. Clients gain a controlled level of access while making them feel more involved and assured that their projects are moving along, on track and on budget. Along with bringing an added layer of transparency, client portals eliminate the need for your team to provide unexpected status updates. It creates a joint system. Accelo’s client work management platform makes it easy, even allowing clients to submit any questions or concerns directly in the platform. Sign up for a trial to see how the solution works.