Having quite a unique blend of agency and sales account management experience, I notice that client relationships within agency seem to be a lot more formal than those within sales. Weekly reports/quarterly reviews etc. very rarely any interaction on an informal level.
Everyone knows that retaining clients is easier than finding new ones and with all the competition out there – what really sets you apart is your dealing with clients. Here are some tips on how to solidify those relationships to ensure client retention and even get yourself some referrals.
1) Respect Their Time
As a supplier of services, you are potentially a very small part within your clients’ responsibilities. However you should bear in mind that when you receive an email or a call from a client, they are more than likely focusing on your agency at that time, either gathering information for a superior or working on something that correlates with your services.
- Ensure that you promptly return their phone calls
- There is nothing worse than having to chase! If your client emails you, you should immediately reply (within 5 minutes) even if it’s just to say you’ll get back to them later with a more thorough response.
- Log on to a scheduled conference call 2 minutes in advance of start time – clients hate waiting and listening to powwownow music!
- Keep you commitments! There is nothing worse than having a scheduled meeting cancelled the day before, it shows laziness and lack of care.
2) Get personal
People continue to do business with people they like and the personal touches make all the difference. This could include gifts and cards on holidays such as Easter, Birthdays and Christmas. I used to intern at a digital marketing agency and they used to send funny cards to clients on their birthdays – photoshopping their faces into funny scenarios. This only took the design team half an hour or so but was a wonderful way to get clients talking about your agency within their organisation.
Finding out things such as their children’s names/where they’re based also helps build an emotional attachment i.e. “I bet Jack and Emily are looking forward to the school holidays – are you going to be going on any holidays with them?” This makes you sound a lot more human and reflects that you genuinely care about your client.
Informal catch ups are also a must! Yes your client is busy but I’m sure they have a spare couple of hours each quarter where you can take them out for lunch/drinks. Even finding out about a trendy new popup that relates loosely to their brand could demonstrate going the extra mile.
3) Become an expert in their industry
As an agency, you should be keeping an eye on competitor brands anyway but going that extra mile to become a somewhat expert will help your client tremendously. Set up some Google alerts on key competitor brands and industry news so you can contact them ASAP when something interesting comes up. “I heard today that this regulatory body is doing xx today – is this going to affect our work together? Let me know if you want to chat through”
Imagine your client! Thrilled that it is something they can take to their superiors when you’ve done all the hard work for them – yes it takes a little extra time but the reward will be invaluable.
4) Get realistic
It’s always a bit of a pain when a client moves from a win to account management as you probably have a lot of expectations to adjust. This needs to be made clear as soon as possible within the onboarding process.
Some clients have quite bizarre ideas on where their product sits within demographics and therefore some potentially unrealistic key publications where they believe their product can sit. I.e. An expensive “luxury” toothpaste that combats bad breath – yes its expensive but unlikely to be featured in aspirational magazines such as Vogue or InStyle.
It is important to sit down with a client and discuss where their product realistically sits and what the best publications/influencers are to reach out to. Sometimes it may take a little more budget but can produce a very effective campaign resulting in more sales (and lets face it, sales is what its all about at the end of the day!)
5) Present solutions not problems
It should be a key mantra for every account manager to never present a problem without a solution. This can sometimes mean the agency offering credit for a failure or additional services.
When a problem arises, consider what needs to be done to make it better. For example, a publication producing coverage but using the wrong image – go to town on the publication and you can probably score some additional coverage in the next addition. Ensure this is all sorted before you tell the client about the misprint.
A wrongfully scheduled tweet such as Dorothy Perkins’ post Brexit blunder means that an apology will have to be issued ASAP – but an additional solution would be reviewing automatic tweet strategies and assuring your client that you will now explore different avenues.
We are all human and make mistakes but your client would much prefer an agency who are honest and proactive in rectifying their mistakes rather than one who attempts to pull the wool over their eyes.