The beginning of a client relationship is like a blind date. You might be set up by a mutual friend, speak on the phone a couple times and then meet face-to-face. You’ve done research so you come ready with knowledge, hindered by a bit of fear. This is where you sail into the sunset together, or, things don’t vibe and you receive that fateful call, “I’ve found someone else” or “it just isn’t going to work out at this time.”
In the rosier outcome, you begin the client-agency relationship. What are some ways you can enjoy the honeymoon but also develop a strong relationship that thrives despite pressure, economic downturns and staffing changes to bring you additional business, recommendations, and a happy day-to-day life with your client?
Do your homework even after you’ve done your homework.
- After celebrating that you’ve won the pitch, do your ‘onboarding prep’ – ask for all materials of their former agency (if possible), gather background info on the people you’ll be dealing with and the spokesperson of the company. Be genuinely interested in your clients and their businesses to become a brand ambassador.
- Listen for the details of your clients’ days like when they get to work, the busiest times, their preferred method of being contacted and quickly fit yourself into the times that work best for them.
- Try to work out how close your clients are willing to be with you. I find that moments of silence tell more than the chitchat we fill our conversations with. Allow for an uncomfortable pause or two to let your client come forward with a statement or question not directed by you.
Go beyond their expectations.
- Your clients will appreciate the times you do more than what’s required. Listen for opportunities to make their jobs easier. Contact a third-party instead of using them as a mediator. Proactively share ideas for next quarter’s activities. Take action beyond your scope of work and you’ll be invaluable.
- This is particularly true for Thai clients where ‘sabai, sabai’ (chill, chill) and ‘sanuk’ (fun) take precedence over being too serious. What this means for your clients may differ. It could be sharing a Mashable article that’s related to your client’s industry, stopping the e-mail ping pong to invite her for coffee or remembering her birthday by taking her out to eat.
- If you’re lucky enough to share common ground, use that to foster the relationship by seeking out opportunities to share news related to your mutual interest. You’re not only a source for PR consultation; you can also provide benefits to other aspects of life.
Your clients are not just a piece of business. They’re human, too, and appreciate being appreciated. If you approach your client relationship with the goal of becoming a trusted advisor for the long-term, you’ll find that listening well, investing time and resources, researching your client and his business will be reciprocated with a client who listens to you, trusts what you say and has confidence in you as a PR partner.
Erica Campbell is manager at Weber Shandwick Thailand