Sr. Content Marketing Manager
Clear communication with clients is the secret sauce to thriving as a creative agency. After all, how well you communicate with your clients will directly impact your results. But client-agency disconnects remain incredibly common.
What exactly is causing these communication gaps? There tend to be two main culprits:
- A lack of visibility across the client journey: Agencies usually have multiple client accounts stretched across several stages that are often being worked on by different people or teams — making it really easy for things to fall through the cracks.
- Minimal transparency with clients: The agency model often involves a bit of theatrics, where agencies curate the information presented on stage to clients but keep the nuts and bolts of the operation behind the curtain. But withholding too much information can be a detriment to your client relationships.
For example, you may worry that if you tell your clients too much about how the sausage is made, they’ll try to do it on their own. Or you may hesitate to reveal the details of your fee structure to avoid prying questions.
These practices might seem beneficial in the short term, but they could actually be harming your business in the long run as client trust and loyalty begin to erode. With 1 in 3 people willing to leave a company they love after one bad experience, and 92% ready to jump ship after 2-3 negative experiences, according to PwC, keeping the client experience positive is critical to fostering long-lasting client relationships. And that all starts with communication.
Foster loyal clients by building a human connection
Transparent and consistent communication helps build a foundation of trust, respect and understanding between you and your clients. It also ensures that everyone is in alignment on things like expectations, goals and billing.
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8 best practices to create a clear communication plan
Healthy agency-client communication helps solidify relationships and drive your business’ ongoing success. These eight best practices will help you get started with a clear plan.
1. Be straightforward about scope
At the beginning of the relationship, you and your client must agree on what success looks like. Be transparent about what your goals are and take time outlining realistic KPIs together. Be open about what’s possible within the allotted budget and take time to listen to your client’s expectations and make sure they align. Be clear about what’s included in the project scope so you don’t find yourself adding objectives along the way or addressing concerns from clients.
2. Set communication expectations and boundaries
Just because communication is important doesn’t mean you need to be communicating all the time. Instead, set clear boundaries and expectations for the engagement. For example, create a calendar that clearly outlines when and how you’ll be communicating about the project. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the client to communicate their needs and ask questions along the way.
Create a client calendar to keep everyone on track
Also, consider establishing boundaries around the avenues and frequency of client communications. Perhaps you reserve status update questions for scheduled weekly or bi-weekly meetings. Or maybe you check and respond to questions once a day. Clarify how long the client should expect to wait to receive a response from an email: 12 hours, 24 hours or more? Whatever works for your agency, establish those boundaries up front to keep things running smoothly.
3. Determine your client’s communication preferences
You’ll need to communicate after the deal is closed and throughout the entire contract. But everyone’s communication styles are different, so make sure to figure out how your client prefers to communicate. The best way to do this is to ask them directly in your onboarding call or questionnaire. Do they like calls, or do they prefer emails? Maybe they like texting or communicating within a project management system instead. Find the channels that work for your relationship and establish expectations from there.
4. Be upfront about failure and issues
Things go wrong sometimes. The best way to handle challenges or mistakes is to be upfront and honest about them. Get comfortable discussing issues and be proactive about resolving them. For example, a marketing agency might have lower results on a PPC campaign than projected. Here’s a good way to handle that: “Hey, [client], I know our results aren’t what we hoped for, but we’re going to try some different ad copy and a new set of keywords to get the results where we want them to be.” Having a resolution at the ready when discussing lack of performance will go a long way in maintaining your client’s trust.
5. Be bold enough to push back politely
Being a “yes” person might keep your clients happy in the short term, but it doesn’t do much for building ongoing relationships. Remember, your clients came to you for your expertise, so it’s important to politely assert your knowledge when appropriate to ensure your clients get the guidance they need to achieve their goals — even when it might not be what they want to hear. If the CEO is claiming that their customers are large retailers while the recent customer survey you performed tells otherwise, for example, gently guide them to be open to a shifting target audience based on the data. And perhaps invite them to attend the next customer interview you’re conducting as part of the research process.
Pushing back politely is also useful because it will make your clients feel comfortable enough to push back when they’re unhappy about a certain approach. If everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas and thoughts, everyone will end up much happier in the end — and the outcomes will be more likely to meet expectations all around.
6. Use clear reports to show results
Reports are crucial for agency-client relationships. Regular reporting shows clients where their money is going and how it’s benefiting them. Use reports to show your clients tangible proof of the results from your efforts, but as with everything, be transparent. Don’t overcomplicate reports. Instead, keep them simple so your clients know exactly what’s happening at all times and be consistent in the format and presentation with each report so they can easily follow along and track progress.
Clear, straightforward reports help your clients track progress over time
7. Be transparent about billing and contracts
Be candid about budgets, costs and projections. Ask as many questions as needed to to make sure your clients are comfortable with the fees and expectations. Don’t try to hide fees in the contract. Instead, be upfront about what clients should expect and how the billing process works. For instance, if an overage fee kicks in when a client exceeds their allotted hours for the month, make sure to mention that — and warn them if they’re close to going over. The last thing you want is surprises when the invoice rolls around. That’s not good for anyone.
8. Use a CRM to keep the communication straight
Don’t try to manage all the communication details and preferences inside a spreadsheet and emails — it’s enough to make your head spin, and cause some balls to drop. And don’t even get us started on the wild goose chase trying to search down critical client documents when you don’t know where your colleagues saved them — that’s where CRM file organization features come in handy. By making the switch to a CRM for agencies like Copper, you can keep communication consistent and ensure your whole team is on the same page. Using a single system to track all client communication keeps you from doubling back or letting important touchpoints slip through the cracks. With the right CRM, setting up a clear communication plan is a straightforward process.
Keep everyone in sync with all customer data in a single place – your CRM
Don’t run away from tough conversations
Your ability to communicate effectively with your clients can make or break your agency’s success. Clear, consistent and transparent communication are the keys to enduring agency success.
Keep these eight best practices in mind as you create your communication plan, and approach all client interactions with transparency and clarity first.
Copper CRM helps streamline agency communication right from your inbox. Copper works in the background so you can keep client projects running smoothly without switching between multiple tabs and tools. Try Copper free for 14 days to see how we can help simplify nurturing your client relationships.