10 Client Management Strategies for Agencies

Managing clients.

Just those two words placed together is enough to send shivers down the spines of some agency managers, especially the many who’ve run into challenges with their clients before. And we say “many” for a reason. Over half of agencies – 55% – say that waiting on their clients is one of the main pain points. Throw retention into the mix – 5% of agencies say that’s a challenge – along with issues related to cashflow that poor client management can bring with it, and you have a major hurdle to overcome in your own agency.

It’s time to jump that hurdle.

Here are 10 client management strategies you can employ in your agency today. But first…

What Is Client Management?

The technical definition of client management is simple:

It’s the term used for the processes you have in place for coordinating your agency’s interactions with its clients.

But it’s what those processes are supposed to achieve that gives us the real definition of client management. It’s about building relationships – from the moment the client first starts interacting with you – with the goal of leveraging that relationship to keep the client onboard and have them refer you to their colleagues.

The 10 Client Management Strategies

The idea behind client management is simple, but the actual act is often far more challenging, especially for those agencies with retention problems or issues with establishing solid lines of communication. If you’re left scratching your head wondering how to manage clients, you need these 10 strategies.

Strategy 1 – Create a Communication Schedule

Taking a ramshackle approach to communication isn’t how you manage client relationship levels. A client shouldn’t have to wait for random calls – or start those calls themselves – to discover how a project is going.

Enter a communication schedule.

Ideally, you’ll be speaking to your client at least once a week, even if it’s for something as simple as a catch-up when they don’t have an active project with you. How you communicate is up to you – emails, calls, and even instant messaging are all options – but what’s imperative is that you and the client agree on the how and the when.

It’s all about keeping a dialogue running – great for helping you gauge a client’s satisfaction level as well as keeping them updated on their work.

Strategy 2 – Keep It Transparent

Your clients believe that transparency is more important now than it’s ever been before. That’s especially the case in the United States – 86% of people say they need businesses to be open and honest with them in order for trust to form.

How does that apply in the agency setting?

Projects often run into unexpected roadblocks. A key team member may get sick – necessitating a delay – which compromises the initial projections for the project. Be open about that. Rather than leaving your clients in the dark when the unexpected happens, be transparent about any issues that arise and, crucially, what you’re doing to resolve the problem.

Strategy 3 – Follow Up on Everything

Has your agency completed a project? Follow up with the client – perhaps with a debriefing call – to figure out how they feel about the work they’ve received.

That’s the obvious setting for follow-up calls or emails, but there are so many more. When you send a proposal – and especially when you don’t receive a response – you have grounds to follow up. The same goes for clients who get in touch about your services and even lapsed clients who may need you again in the future.

The point is to show the client that they’re at the top of your mind. As with the first two strategies, it’s all about one thing – strong communication.

Streamline and Improve Client Relationships Today!

Use the client engagement worksheet to map out strategy and plan opportunities to wow your clients along the project pipeline; keeping them impressed from pitch to project completion.

Strategy 4 – Set (And Manage) Expectations

How can you expect to manage client relationship parameters if you don’t set expectations from the beginning of the relationship? It’s the lack of firm expectations that lead to so many agencies experiencing scope creep – over 50% of projects go beyond their initial scope, with 40% going over their budget.

This is where you see another crucial side of how to manage clients:

Ensuring your relationships don’t negatively impact your agency.

Setting expectations involves defining exactly what you’ll deliver to the client in return for the money they’re paying. It also means ensuring the client understands what you need from them – and the issues that arise if they don’t deliver – and what will happen if they want to bolt anything onto the original project’s scope.

Ultimately, a client relationship is a two-way street. Without expectations in place on both sides, you’re just as likely to get frustrated with the client as they are with you – a recipe for a relationship that’s destined to crumble.

Strategy 5 – Throw Pettiness Out of the Window

Speaking of frustrations, they can lead to an agency becoming a little petty with its clients. You may have experienced this yourself – every roll of the eyes when you receive a phone call from a troublesome client is an example of that pettiness at play.

The problem here is that what you may think about the client in private can spill over into the work you deliver to them. In the above example, it’s far too easy to just ignore the call – you might decide you only want to talk on your time – which can leave the client on the other end starting to feel just as petty as you are.

There’s no place for that kind of behaviour in an agency.

So, remember this one thing – just because a client is somebody you may not want to hang out with, that doesn’t mean they deserve any less of a service from you. They’ve paid their money – and you accepted the work – so you have to treat them with respect.

Having said all of that, the end of a project is a perfect time to evaluate your relationship with those types of frustrating clients. In these cases, client management may be about letting those troublesome clients go – at an appropriate time – so you can focus on delivering your best to the clients you do want.

Strategy 6 – Use CRM Software

Communication breakdowns happen when an agency isn’t able to keep track of what’s happening with its existing and potential clients. That’s going to be a problem for any agency that has a decentralized way of managing clients – people get lost in the system (especially as you scale), leading to damage occurring in a relationship. Worse yet, you won’t even know that damage is happening to a relationship until it gets to the point where it leads to the client going elsewhere.

How could you?

The client got lost in your convoluted systems.

That’s where customer relationship management (CRM) software comes into play.

Get CRM software to help you manage client relationships smoothly by centralizing all of the key communication you have with that client. Function Point offers an excellent example of this. Its software keeps track of how you communicate with a client as they move through your sales pipeline – meaning what you learn doesn’t get lost in the ether – and allows you to deliver transparent information through rate cards and client-facing estimates.

Strategy 7 – Understand Your Team’s Strengths (and Its Weaknesses)

Figuring out how to manage clients isn’t just about building processes that facilitate relationship building and communication.

It’s also about figuring out who handles the client.

For instance, let’s say you operate a web design and development agency. You have an amazing designer in your team – they work wonders with client requirements – but they’re not the most personable person in the world. Perhaps they’re shy or they tend to stick their foot in their mouth when they’re dealing with the pressure of speaking to a client.

On the other hand, you have somebody who has the gift of the gab, but they’re perhaps not the best on the technical side of things.

Here, you have a balance of strengths and weaknesses. You have a designer who’s great at the technical side but not so great at the talking and somebody who excels in front of clients but may not have a grip on what’s happening in a project. Understanding that is key. Your job is to facilitate the flow of communication between those two employees – allowing your designer to help your talker to understand what’s happening with the project – so the talker can excel when they’re in front of the client.

It’s about knowing who’s best for each role. Getting it wrong – such as forcing your people-averse designer into conversations with clients – just leads to client management issues.

Strategy 8 – Involve Clients with Goal Setting

Nobody knows better than you what your agency delivers, and the limitations inherent in your services. But by the same token, nobody knows better than your client in terms of what they want and how they operate within their industry.

There’s a compromise to strike here.

What your client wants may not be achievable with the tech you have available. On the other side of that coin, you may be able to do more for a client than they realize – potentially helping them to grow faster or achieve something beyond the scope of their initial conception.

What does all of this have to do with client management?

Goal setting – something you do at the beginning of every project – has to be a collaborative experience. So, get your clients involved. Ask them to tell you about their needs and industry so you can expand – where relevant – or set expectations on limitations from the off.

Strategy 9 – Keep Records

Document everything.

Every meeting with a client. Every phone conversation or email. Any information at all that you receive that informs you about how a client is feeling or what they need from your agency.

Why?

Two reasons.

First, documentation keeps you in the loop with the client. This ties back into the CRM points made earlier – the more you know, the stronger your communication will be.

Second, when you document – and this goes especially for contracts, meeting minutes, and anything else that your client might sign – you have official declarations of expectations. A client can’t dispute what’s in those documents, making it easier for you to manage troublesome clients who may be trying to get you to do more than what they’re entitled to receive.

Strategy 10 – Learn to Listen

According to HubSpot, a staggering 42% of companies don’t fully listen to their clients. Sure, they’re listening during phone calls and meetings. But they’re not sending out surveys or doing anything to gather feedback from clients, which is a major problem:

How can you expect to understand clients – or how to manage clients – if you’re not showing an interest in their experiences with your agency?

Your clients pick up on that lack of interest. They won’t believe you when you say you put them first because you clearly don’t have customer service protocols in place. You’re not asking them what they feel you could do better – which would allow you to actively improve your relationship with them – meaning they’re likely to eventually lose interest in you and work with somebody else.

Learn to shut up and listen. But as importantly, give your client the opportunity to talk without interference so that you’re forced to listen.

Improve Client Management Today with the Right CRM

Perhaps we can revisit our answer to the question of what client management is after running through those strategies. It’s still about building relationships – that lies at the core – but almost every strategy you implement has the ultimate goal of strengthening communication.

Your client has to know that you hear them. They need you to facilitate conversations, be that through scheduled meetings, collecting feedback, or just following up on conversations, and that you’re actively learning about them so your agency can provide a better service.

Function Point helps you get started building stronger communication protocols with its CRM & Estimating Software. Designed specifically for agencies, the software allows you to connect your marketing and sales teams – as well as centralize the information you have about clients – so your communication is consistent and aligns with your need to manage client expectations.

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