Managing a relationship with a client is like baking a lemon sponge cake - a single misstep, and it can all fall apart.
While a new client is unlikely to expect you to deliver a perfectly baked cake, they will expect you to understand their business and their complex needs and expectations. Healthy client relationships are the ones that last. You must be prepared to put in the necessary time and effort to ensure they’re happy with the service you provide.
In this article, we’ll offer up five strategies to help you build strong client relationships. You’ll be a client relations expert by the time we’re finished.
What happens if you don’t put energy into your client relationships?
First, it’s important to understand why investing time and energy into building client relationships is crucial to the long-term success of your business.
Great client relationships lead to great results. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that retaining clients will drive greater revenue for your company. On the flip side, failing to build strong client relationships can have disastrous consequences for business owners.
An inability to deliver exceptional client service may compel your customer to leave you. They'll soon be aware of your competitors that can provide better processes. A high churn rate will drastically reduce your revenue. In fact, the Harvard Business School showed that increasing customer retention by 5% can result in a 25-95% increase in company profits.
On top of revenue loss, there‘s another significant knock-on effect of losing a dissatisfied client. Word-of-mouth remains the most trusted form of marketing. And negative word-of-mouth can damage the reputation of your company in an instant.
Clients who suffered a bad experience may reprehend you on the most public sphere available today: social media. A case study found that 26% of consumers posted a critical comment on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn after a poor customer experience.
It may require you to optimize your organization’s processes and structures. Yet, developing healthy long-term relationships with clients is fundamental to the success of a business. Let’s get down to business and see five ways you can build great client relationships.
1. Have a smooth onboarding process
An efficient client onboarding process is critical for starting a business relationship on the right foot. You’re welcoming new clients and making sure they understand the professional services available to them. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to build lasting relationships with clients if they leave you for a competitor with a better onboarding process.
Client-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on their customers. Understanding your client’s needs and expectations from the get-go will place you in a much stronger position to provide a valuable and personalized service.
The onboarding process paves the way for clear communication and ensures you’re both on the same page going forward. It’s the touchpoint for establishing great client relationships. It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your agency’s expertise and value during the exciting early stages.
Taking the time to optimize your onboarding process can significantly reduce churn. A positive onboarding experience translates to a satisfied client, and a satisfied client quickly recognizes that they’re in safe hands. To learn more about onboarding clients, check out our seven-step guide for marketing agencies to onboard new clients.
Pro Tip: Streamline your client onboarding process by using Leadsie. Take the hassle out of getting access to your client’s marketing assets. With Leadsie, you send your client a link, and they log in to their accounts and grant you the access you need. It’s as easy as that!
2. Know your client and respect their time
Getting to know your client inside-out is the first port of call for developing a good client relationship. You must study your client and understand their operations so you can always approach them from a place of knowledge.
Whether they’re a small business or a large corporation, you’ll have to earn your place as an expert. This requires digging deep during the onboarding process to learn as much as possible about your client, their business model, and their short and long-term goals.
It’s also vital to keep in mind that your client’s time is valuable, and wasting it can lead to a breakdown in your relationship. Start by always giving your client your undivided attention when they get in touch. Consider ways to best manage your and your client’s time to optimize productivity.
Find out their preferred method of communication. You can bet that they won’t enjoy unnecessarily long-winded back-and-forth emails.
Some clients may prefer to communicate via phone calls, and others on Slack. It may be inconvenient for you in the beginning to change your processes. Yet, moving forward with their preference will immediately help strengthen your relationship.
Milestones are an essential part of project management. Making the extra effort to deliver on schedule is the perfect way to demonstrate that you value your client’s time.
You could also use an automated scheduling tool to set up clear and consistent timelines for meetings and follow-ups. That's a much better option than bombarding your clients with countless emails. Make the process as smooth as can be, and you’ll be well on your way to developing great client relationships.
3. Create a personal connection
A remarkable 84% of customers said being treated like a real person instead of a number is key to gaining their business. The reality is that companies that fail to meet their clients on a human level will struggle to forge lasting relationships. Great client relationships are built on genuine connection.
While it’s true that you’ve been hired for work purposes, you’d be wise to go beyond the business connection and get a little personal. Yet, be aware of boundaries because being over-friendly with certain clients can make them feel uncomfortable. Greet them by name and - without being pushy or overstepping the line - make them feel like they are your top priority. Your client doesn’t want to be seen as a paycheck, and there are many little things you can do to build a personal rapport.
There’s no doubt that in-person meetings are better for creating a personal connection. But you can also send them a card over the holidays or to celebrate their birthday. Be there for your clients in the hard times by sending them flowers or a heartfelt text message if they’ve suffered a loss or illness.
Simply remembering that your clients are human beings, and treating them as such, will guarantee better lasting relationships. Client loyalty increases when customers develop an emotional bond with your organization. Another big bonus to developing a friendship is that they may be willing to make introductions and referrals to contacts in their networks.
4. Exceed expectations
When an organization fails to meet expectations, 91% of customers will not do business with them again. In business relationships, overpromising is one of the worst mistakes you can make. It’s a nightmare scenario to find yourself in a situation where you can’t deliver on a promise you’ve made.
Instead, you should underpromise and overdeliver when setting expectations. Provide realistic timeframes and impress your client by exceeding their expectations for service, timeline, and delivery.
Actions speak louder than words. Finishing tasks ahead of schedule will show a new client that you honor your commitments and are dedicated to the project. It may be tempting to make lofty promises and ambitious guarantees to impress new clients.
However, strong client relationships are built on what you actually deliver. Set mutual goals together and position yourself as someone they’d like to continue working with by exceeding expectations regarding the project timeline, the results, or your communication throughout.
Providing a consistent and reliable service is essential, but you also shouldn’t shy away from going the extra mile to delight your client. Use all the information you have gathered to anticipate what they are likely to want and need. Going above and beyond to please your customer is a fantastic way to build strong client relationships.
While you should be open and accommodating to client requests, don’t say yes to everything in a bid to please them. Otherwise, you may end up setting a precedent that could cost you dearly.
5. Be straightforward and honest
Great client relationships aren’t just built on delivering excellent results. Trust has long been the glue that binds relationships. Being upfront and honest with your clients is sure to increase customer satisfaction and retention.
A three-month case study involving 632 participants found that 75% of people are consistently honest. If a client thinks you make up part of the inverse 25%, it’s unlikely they’ll stick around for long with your agency.
To earn your client’s trust, you must be transparent about everything, including potential project delays or underwhelming results. It takes guts not to sugarcoat bad news, but you’ll be rewarded with greater credibility and respect. Taking responsibility and being truthful shows clients that your business is built on integrity.
And they aren’t hiring you as a nodding head. They want you to share your honest opinion on a project. Don’t be afraid to push back on clients’ requests if you believe it won’t serve the long-term goals.
Express your informed opinions with confidence and your client will turn to you for valuable advice in the future. As you build credibility and trust with a client, they’ll naturally approach you with new projects and other opportunities.
You want open lines of communication with your client. So always follow up with them and ask for feedback to understand how you can improve the way you work together. Creating an environment of two-way communication where feedback is respected and encouraged allows information to flow both ways. This sets a strong foundation for long-lasting client relationships.
Listening is good, but Pablo Picasso was right when he said, “action is the foundational key to all success.” Failing to act on a client’s feedback sends all the wrong signals. Instead, demonstrate that you take them seriously by implementing the feedback given.
One extra tip for the road: make use of technology
When you’re in the kitchen putting together a lemon sponge cake, you need to make use of the tools at your disposal. And the same is true for managing client relationships.
In 2022, there are lots of online tools that can automate and optimize your processes. They help make collaboration smoother for you and your new clients. For example, ClickUp, is a state-of-the-art project management software that helps businesses manage, collaborate, communicate, and organize all their tasks and projects.
Here at Leadsie, we create a hassle-free onboarding process by assisting marketing agencies in getting instant access to their client's social media accounts. Here's a quick demo for how it works:
Replacing outdated processes with cloud-based software will improve the quality of your customer service and increase client satisfaction. Your business will look more professional, and you’ll save time and stress for everyone involved. Investing in technology is a simple and effective way to impress your clients.
The customer relationship management (CRM) industry has grown exponentially in recent years. That’s because a whopping 92% of businesses claim that CRM played a vital role in achieving their income goals. The right CRM software will improve communication with clients and foster lasting relationships.
Failing to embrace this wide range of innovative tools will see you fall behind your competitors, and it won’t be long before your frustrated clients go elsewhere.
Get out there and put it into practice
Relationships require a lot of work, business relationships are no different. You won’t build great client relationships overnight, but over time you can earn their trust and respect by implementing the advice given above.
Remember that your clients are people first and foremost, and treat them as such. You’ll soon reap the benefits of personifying moral virtues like honesty, reliability, transparency, and personability.
Great client relationships are priceless. So don’t be afraid to embrace technology and optimize your workflows to deliver the highest-quality service to your clients.
Want to impress your clients from the first touchpoint? Give Leadsie a try for free by entering your email here.