By Sarah Clark – President of Mitchell.
In an age when consumers view brands with an air of suspicion, what you communicate to your customer base must come across as the real deal.
Customers and clients know when they are being “sold” to, and they yearn to connect with people who take the time to understand their needs beyond the surface. They want to see the human side of brands. Forming an open and responsive bond with clients gains you not only long-term customers, but also unpaid spokespeople.
Just as consumers want authentic product stories, clients want authentic agency relationships. To develop these, you have to ensure your brand is making a real connection with real people. This is a guiding philosophy at my firm, Mitchell, and the idea supports agencies in helping clients meet their end goals.
The concept holds that individual needs and values are respected, and agencies and clients establish honest two-way communication. Time is spent understanding each company’s needs, challenges, and plans for future growth. Each solution is as unique as each client.
Agencies that develop real connections benefit from long-term commitments from clients. Those clients won’t jump ship for a lower offer because they know many agencies talk a good talk but fail to deliver.
Insights and feedback from clients can even assist your agency in creating new products and packages. In fact, 42 percent of Millennials are interested in assisting companies with the development of products and services.
Foster a dialogue. Discover how to better meet client needs with genuine conversation, and your company will enjoy a stronger level of authenticity, allowing you to keep those clients you work so hard to get.
The American Consumer Association found that it’s five times costlier to gain a new customer than to retain a current one. Can you afford to exist on new clients alone?
Agencies that focus on authenticity do what they say. This applies to their communications, their people, and their brand. Any claim is followed by the promised action.
This will help you to organize the necessary resources and decline work that’s outside your wheelhouse. Not every client is ideal, but clients have to be people you can actually work with and help. Budget, resources, and urgent deadlines are to be noted.
Your preliminary efforts will allow you to select suitable clients and get the program right the first time. That’s why it’s so important to get the full picture of:
All your efforts to cultivate relationships are wasted if clients find you unavailable the moment they reach out. Take steps now to avoid potential roadblocks later: Ask for a client’s preferred method of communication (e.g., email, Skype, or phone), and nail down desirable calling times for issues that aren’t urgent.
If you say you’ll return calls within 24 hours, do so. Build trust by establishing on-time execution and delivery of products and services. Furthermore, always take time to solicit client feedback. If you’re competing for new business, be the agency that stands out in potential clients’ minds as the one that was most responsive. All other things being equal, this will put you over the top.
Our company encourages client service leads to regularly check in with clients to address feedback and discuss new opportunities and challenges. We personally invite clients to attend company open houses or to work from our offices to engage them and give them a glimpse into our process.
Identify client problems before they have a chance to snowball, and work toward a mutually beneficial solution.
Waiting for approval or reacting to a client change? Give clients a heads-up that deadlines may be shifted or additional resources may be required to adjust for changes. Ask for their thoughts, and agree upon a course of action.
Take ownership of your operations and conduct. Problems will crop up, so it’s important that an agency be nimble enough to adjust to any unexpected circumstances.
For example, when food recalls occur, our company must shift into a supporting capacity to assist major retail clients. If you are a true counselor to customers and know your business well, steps should already be in place to combat these problems when they pop up.
When your agency draws in a new client, be prepared to put in the work to make that relationship succeed. Satisfying clients doesn’t end when they sign on the dotted line.
By Sarah Clark – President of Mitchell