Have you ever looked at other businesses with a healthy roster of long-term clients and wondered, how do I get that?
To foster positive client relationships is both a skill and an art.
Even after negotiations are complete, the dotted line signed and onboarding underway, you still have your future relations to consider.
Imagine your ideal client relationship. What does it look like?
Here’s our take: communication is frictionless, terms of service are clearly staked out, and both parties deliver on their end of the bargain. This leaves you to produce your best work and significantly reduces stress.
Of course, it’s good for business, too.
A strong client bond deepens your mutual trust and can ultimately help your bottom line. Think renewals, expanded contracts, referrals and testimonies. So, how do we reach that?
To help your business make the most of your current contracts and to nurture new client relationships, we’ve compiled some best practices to keep in mind.
What’s in a strong client relationship?
Any client relationship is a two-way street. But you can lay the foundations for a positive one and start your client relationship journey one step ahead.
Keep in mind that client relations are based on interactions between people. To build strong relationships, people need trust, respect and commitment. This also translates to the business world.
From our own experience, fostering a strong client relationship requires:
- Excellent communication
- Delivery on promises
- Mutual respect
In the next sections, we’ll dive into each point and measures you can put in place to stay on top of them.
If you treat these measures as standardized business processes, rather than slapdash improv, you can thoroughly analyze your client approach. Is there something that works especially well? Are there recurring sticking points?
Remember, relationships are ever-evolving. It’s a good idea to come back to them, see what’s changed and ways to strengthen your ties.
Cluttered processes strain relationships. Show clients they can count on you.
Organize the way you collect files and content from clients using Content Snare. Client work stays in order, your client relations stay strong. It’s a win-win!
Exceed your client’s expectations with great communication
Not enough can be said about proper communication. Learning how to communicate with clients efficiently is a must for any would-be entrepreneur or budding agency. There’s almost nothing more paramount to strong client relationships.
If you’ve run an agency or have freelanced before, you likely realize the value and scarcity of time. This is important because poor communication is a bad use of time. One that easily leads to frustration for you and your clients.
So, what goes into excellent communication? We can roughly divide this into three categories:
Timely communication is a hallmark of professionalism. It can make all the difference in how you’re perceived by your client. Trust us, no one wants to be left in the dark.
Set a maximum response time limit and stick to it religiously. If you’ve promised to respond to all emails within 48 hours, heed your word. This keeps the ball rolling and helps conversations and ideas stay fresh.
If you’re consistent with your response time, clients will know what to expect from you. It also shows them you value their time–important for building mutual respect.
Just be careful not to let stress get in the way of quality. Instead, dedicate time for your business communications and practice regular communication.
Clarity is all about intent. We're fans of letting your personality shine through in your communication, but make sure it doesn’t fog up the essential details. Be upfront and clear about the important things, like budget and project objectives.
Before any project commences, you should clearly define:
- Your deliverables
- Your responsibilities
- Your client’s responsibilities
- Any limitations to your services
Answer this key question: what does success look like for you and your client? This helps manage your client’s expectations and avoid confusion down the road.
Clear communication during the onboarding process is vital and sets a positive tone for your client relationship. To help you nail down client onboarding, we’ve created a whole bunch of free client onboarding templates for industries ranging from design to digital marketing.
Throughout the client relationship, keep dates, figures and milestones clear in your messages. Avoid approximations and loosely defined targets, which may lead to confusion.
If you’re uncertain what is asked of you, or find some details too muddy, the best thing you can do is to ask for clarification. Clarity removes the guesswork from your communication.
If you’re mindful of how you organize your information and disperse details, you can deliver clearer messages in a timely fashion. The more clients you have, the more important this becomes.
Emails are great, but attempting to run your entire business through email is impractical. This is especially true if you’re dealing with file transfers and other mixed media transactions.
No one likes scrolling through their entire inbox for that one file. And constantly nagging clients for an important file (even if you really need it) can actually hurt the relationship.
We would see these issues arise all too often when it came to collecting files and content from clients.
That’s why we made Content Snare an all-encompassing platform for content collection. It organizes the process of getting PDFs, images, documents (you name it!) from clients, has nifty features like automated email reminders and checklists to stay on top of received files, plus it consolidates communication in one space.
Many of us use multiple platforms for talking to clients, which can lead to overlooked messages or communication fatigue.
To keep your clients up to speed, specify where your principal communication is taking place and for what purpose. Defining your structure of communications goes a long way.
Deliver on your promises
Nothing sours a business relationship faster than broken promises.
Many of us want to say yes to more work. The question is, can you deliver on your word? To maintain strong and long lasting client relationships, you need to accurately evaluate your business’s capabilities, maintain good internal communications, and take a structured approach to your negotiations.
In other words: don’t just say what you think the client wants to hear, be realistic.
Don’t blindly agree to client requests that are difficult to meet with consistency. Rather, be transparent and explain that their wishes exceed your current capacity. You can counter with an offer that’s feasible for you and work towards a compromise.
After all, a contract is a summary of your combined negotiations—not a wishlist.
With that in mind, only promise what you can deliver with certainty. Know your own data. What do you have the capacity for? What are your costs? How many employees can you assign to the project? Understand your business inside-out, so you can promise deliverables with confidence and set your client relationships up for success.
And remember, think beyond the initial agreement with a new client. Instead, try to imagine what value you can offer each other long-term. This does wonders for your reputation and sets you up for higher yields in the long run.
Throughout your client relationship, focus on consistently delivering quality services and professional conduct. Clients will appreciate you all the more for it.
Show mutual respect
Trust and transparency build respect.
1. Trust is the foundation of strong client relationships
To build trust in a relationship, heed your word.
Your contract should be guiding your expectations. You should have provided reasonable goals and milestones which can be met without a hitch. Your clients should have specified what they want from you and how you fit into their vision.
Now you’re armed to prove the value of your services.
The best way to nurture your client relationship is to honour your contract and communicate frequently. That means carefully sticking to your milestones and keeping your client up-to-date on project developments.
2. Practice transparency throughout the relationship
Transparency is one of the most important qualities of a healthy client relationship. To be fully transparent, you need to be honest about the good and the bad.
A simple way to avoid future friction or ‘bad’ client experiences is to be mindful of your boundaries.
Some clients tend to scope-creep (incrementally asking for more work outside your written contract) which is a sure source of frustration and an argument waiting to happen. You want to make sure you and your client are on the same page. So if you feel this happening, be transparent and address it. Explain that your services are limited to the contract you’ve agreed upon.
Similarly, if your communication isn’t where it should be, it’s up to you to identify the problem and figure out a solution.
Usually, transparency is part of the solution.
It might feel uncomfortable to confront a client, but remember what you’re trying to accomplish: a positive and long-lasting client relationship. This is only made easier if you nip any potential issues in the bud.
Of course, you have to be open to change and stay receptive to client feedback. If your client wants to alter the scope of your services, do your best to accommodate them. Just make sure that you rework your contracts to accurately reflect your new responsibilities.
Nurture successful client relationships
Client management can be a tricky business.
There’s no guarantee that you’re a good match for each other, but you should always do your utmost to build a better connection.
The good news is, there are a number of measures you can take to give yourself a better chance at a smooth sailing business relationship. From clear communication to easy onboarding and transparency—being proactive pays.