Running an agency is challenging. Senior management juggles everything -- sales, human resources, marketing and more.
No matter how busy you get, however, you can't forget the most important aspect of your business -- your clients. Their needs must be met. The key is to create an experience that adds value to your clients. It’s about building real relationships.
“Building strong client relationships is an integral strategy to improve your agency’s bottom line," says Kerri Molitor, editor of Anchor and marketing generalist at Liquid Web. "It’s a well-known fact that acquiring new clients costs more than growing business opportunities with repeat clients."
Here are five ways to improve the client experience.
1. Create a client experience strategy.
Most companies are driven by strategy. They produce branding plans and execute acquisition policies. But what about a client experience strategy? Documenting your client’s journey is critical to understanding how to serve their needs.
“We use Google Sheets to keep tabs of new micro-goals we're internally setting for our clients that all make sure they're showing progress to the goal the client knows about,” says Johnathan Dane, founder of KlientBoost.
Some agencies work with medium to large businesses. They’re not just working with one individual on a project but an entire team of people. Therefore, it’s crucial to possess a record of how to bring value at every stage of the project.
“It is the successful execution of individual parts of a project that contributes to its overall success. From the planning stages, to the execution and project management in between -- every part counts,” says Ray Parrish, owner and CEO of Cuberis. Customize your client experience strategy to fit individual and organizational goals.
2. Identify client experience gaps.
According to NewVoiceMedia, an estimated $41 billion is lost by American companies each year due to poor customer service. What’s missing from your client experience? Similar to a retail business, agencies should identify customer touchpoints. Touchpoints are how your brand engages with the client. That may include an onboarding email or a phone call from the account manager.
Hall & Partners explored the state of the client/agency relationship. Their “From Mad Men to Sad Men" study noted the following -- “Think about how many people on the agency team, at all levels, communicate with the client. Now, count how many people are involved on the client side. Multiply that by every interaction -- every hour, day, week, month. It equals a huge number of interactions -- each a chance for miscommunication not only in in content but intent as well.”
The report also found three pain points destroying the relationship:
- Agencies do not understand their clients’ business.
- Agencies do not understand their clients’ customers.
- Agencies do not understand technology and innovation.
Work with your team to identify ways to enhance communication and build rapport with your client. You also may need to educate your team about the client’s industry. Your agency can’t solve your client’s problems with a broken relationship. Be proactive and learn how to identify gaps to improve your team’s performance.
3. Push beyond business goals.
Clients hire you to solve their problems. However, providing solutions is only one piece of the puzzle. Any hard-working agency can do that. We live in a relationship-driven economy. Clients expect you to earn their loyalty. To do so, push beyond the primary business goals. Think of other ways you can satisfy your clients. How can you help them reach secondary objectives?
Maybe introduce your client to a valuable contact. Provide a recommendation for the CEO to speak at a high-profile event. Or even mention your client in a press release. Consider non-business rewards. Send a gift during the holiday season. And send a thank you note for their continued support.
“Growth and development bring expansive thinking and expansive networks. Agencies that introduce their various clients to each other and to valuable strategic resources and promotional partners to benefit their clients and not themselves, are sexy,” writes Lorraine Lockhart, founder of The Rojek Consulting Group. Surprise your client with something extra. They will appreciate the sentiment.
4. Conduct an external audit.
Research shows that a typical business hears from about 4 percent of dissatisfied customers. Most agencies will report that their clients are happy. But it’s likely that the information is just based on the account manager’s opinion. No one wants to admit that clients are dissatisfied.
The usual, dysfunctional process goes something like this -- assess if the client’s goals are met, and ask the client if they are satisfied. If you want a real assessment of client satisfaction, conduct an external audit. Hire an outside firm or consultant to speak directly to your clients and to observe client interactions.
Daryl Travis, CEO of Brandtrust, believes ad agencies are making a big mistake. “They can neglect to invest in deep and thorough account planning to truly understand how their client’s customers feel about the category and the brand," Travis said in a recent interview on docurated.com. "They tend to rely too much on intuition and opinion and not enough on actual insight.”
Uncover your client’s actual thoughts and behaviors. Consult with an external resource to find the truth.
5. Focus on thought leadership.
Forrester’s benchmark study detailed that “87 percent of marketers struggle to produce engaging content.” They don’t have a process for managing thought leadership marketing initiatives. Agencies must be forward-thinkers for their clients. Your team should be spotting trends and developing innovative opportunities.
Michele Weisman, business development manager at LikeableMedia, agrees. “But the true value of having an agency partner is making the brand feel uncomfortable in a good way," Wiseman says. "It’s challenging them to think outside the box. Agencies should encourage account managers to share risky, off-the-chart concepts with clients. Bring them their next big idea!”
Advocate for your agency to create thought leadership content. That may include white papers, research studies or even ebooks.
“Creating thought leadership pieces and providing them to your clients not only reflects positively on your knowledge of the industry, but it also arms your clients with the ability to answer questions...This makes them look good in front of their peers,” writes Justin Freid, vice president of emerging media at CMI Media.
Challenge your clients to be better. Push them into the future.
Upgrade the client experience.
Your agency is tackling a wide range of issues. However, the client experience is vital for the success of your business. Develop a client experience strategy. Identify ways to improve the relationship. And conduct an external audit to gain more insight. Treat your clients well. It’s time to upgrade the experience.