You have won the client over; they absolutely loved your pitch, job done, right? This is definitely wrong. Winning the client over is not even half the battle because regular contact is an essential part of building and maintaining a healthy relationship with your client. They have to know that they matter through constant communication and feedback. This can include personal meetings, phone conversations and written reports. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for business occasions to make a connection; you should also take advantage of less formal approaches that include meetings for breakfast, lunch or dinner, which can be an excellent way to build both business and personal relationships. Whatever the case, make sure you are flexible and open to invite these opportunities, because each client is unique and so are the roads to forming a bond with them.
A great relationship doesn’t happen by chance. Client contact should be regularly scheduled, deliberate and well planned. The ideal, of course, is to maintain daily contact, because PR accounts are too often lost through neglect. While no client should ever be taken for granted, use judgment in all your communication because they should not feel pestered either.
You should also make it a point to know the cycle of events in the client’s organisation – dates of board meetings, seasonal sales drives, regular exhibitions or conferences, and so on. By following their developments, along with monitoring those of their competitors, this presents valuable opportunities to call with ideas and advice.
Nothing takes the place of interacting directly with clients, because dealing only through phone calls and emails can be cold. Repeatedly meeting with your client helps to establish the relationship and enhances the bond, by humanising the face behind the voice.
Regularly scheduled meetings also work to the benefit of both the consultant and the client, by involving specialists and enabling the team to introduce new services or ideas that will be valuable for the account. In all meetings with a client, determine who from your agency will attend and make sure they are the right person for the job. Before the meeting, write down things that both you and the client want to accomplish then combine these goals into an agenda that identifies key subjects for discussion and provides ‘action steps’ for you and the client. It should have enough flexibility to allow for the opening of new discussions.During the meeting, each point on the agenda should be addressed, and any action to be taken should be noted. By working together to tackle situations, you build rapport with your client, and gain valuable insight into their way of thinking.
Contact with various levels of the client’s organisation is also important. If possible, the client representatives should be ‘matched’ with the appropriate agency people as levels of interaction are based on position, length of the relationship and the personalities involved. Often, particularly on larger accounts, there may be several layers of account interaction. The goal should be to create a communication network with contact at various levels in the client’s organisation.
It goes without saying, that meetings with clients should always be held at the most appropriate location. Meeting at the client’s office gives you an excellent opportunity to experience the client’s operations first-hand as well as to give you the chance to meet with several different groups within their organisation. Meetings held at your office invite the client to experience your environment and gives you the chance to introduce different services of the firm. They also get the client representative away from distracting phone calls and other interruptions and cuts down on your travel time. There are times, of course, when meetings can, and should be, held at locations other than the office or client facility.Wherever you decide to meet, make sure it’s done right.
Besides being a convenient way to contact a client on a daily basis, a phone call can be a personal way to communicate. Calling to say ‘hi’ or to share interesting information can start a conversation that generates valuable insight you might not have come by in a more formal, structured environment. It also allows for questions and suggestions that can lead to meaningful counsel and perhaps additional business. Make sure to follow up any requests or decisions with an email, to ensure there is written proof of what was discussed.
Another way to keep in touch is through email. While this is more formal than a phone call, written correspondence is an excellent way to suggest ideas and make recommendations that are ‘on the record’. You can send information about the client’s competition or the latest news in their industry. You might forward a clipping or provide insight into political, economic or business developments that affect the client’s interests.Don’t forget to double-check before sending emails out, they should always be professional and proofread regardless of the formality of the client relationship. Discriminative jokes and informal slang are not appropriate, and people have even been fired over using all caps in an email.
Whichever form you use to communicate, it is absolutely crucial that you make as much effort as possible to reach out to your client. Keeping in touch with the client not only makes them feel special, but also keeps you in the loop and in their head as the number one man for the job.
How do you prefer to communicate and build relationships?