Keeping the trust of your clients is important in every industry, but perhaps even more so in digital marketing, where complex data and rapidly-pivoting strategies make short-term value hard to demonstrate.
2015 was a year rife with dramatic search engine updates, so I've had my hands full maintaining the trust of my clients as we worked to restore stability to their accounts after each update. Between successful and not-so-successful attempts, I've identified the three main strategies that made the biggest difference in keeping my clients' trust.
Have Constant, Substantive Communication
My loyal clients are the ones with whom I've communicated most often and effectively. Communication really is everything. I established regular monthly meetings with several clients, and they were the ones who were the most patient when it came to changes in their account. Since then, I've tightened my focus on getting people to set up meetings and made it an essential part of the account management process.
It's very important to be disciplined when it comes to establishing a meeting process. If the client doesn't have time for meetings, find another way to create structured weekly communications. Even an email or weekly briefing can provide the kind of focus you need. Sending monthly emails through your CMS or setting up a Slack channel can also work wonders.
Another lesson I learned is that the clients who are most difficult to communicate with were the ones who've had the most problems. If you can't keep the lines of communication open, you may want to reconsider doing business with them.
Deliver Data Reports on a Consistent Basis
Data packages are also key. Deliverables (and how they're measured) were a common cause of misunderstandings with my clients. The clients who asked out of curiosity ended up having a much better idea of what we were doing and how we were measuring it. We needed to spread that awareness to everyone.
Our solution was to create a monthly deliverable designed to answer, "What are we doing for your money?"
Each month, our clients are given a simple sheet that explains what our obligations were and how they were fulfilled. For example, our big deliverables are content, links and leads (our primary measure of success). Our data shows:
- Links to the content we published that month
- Links we built in-house
- Leads we generated, with comparisons to last month and last year
The client, for his or her part, gets a monthly reminder of exactly why they hired me, and a case for why they should want me to continue. This is a very helpful paper trail if a client wants to have a better understanding of your progress.
Package Deliverables Appropriately
I've noticed that deliverables are interpreted much better by the client when the formats are consistent. We used to customize our approach to the type and number of deliverables we prepared for our clients' accounts, but the flexibility wasn't worth the confusion it ended up causing.
As a result, we've begun offering packages of defined deliverables. Our clients are happier now that they're clear on what is being sold or received, and at what time. A not-so-obvious benefit was getting good feedback from my clients more often. I underestimated how reassured they would be to see their investment come back to them as something tangible.
Transparency is another game-changer. Many of our clients come to us after becoming disenchanted with digital marketing agencies. Now that our customers are better educated, they expect a lot more from agencies -- and rightfully so.
Fortunately, that isn't a problem if you're doing work you're proud of. We use a combination of Trello and Google Drive to offer transparency to our clients. Clients can see the team assigned to them working daily on their project, communicating with each other, and occasionally pinging the client for help.
Our clients have loved this new approach to deliverables. Pair that with the collaborative use of Google's software office suite, and you have a winning formula.