Building unbreakable client relationships starts with realising it’s personal

Following their presentation at SAGE, William and Sangeeta Leach remind agencies that the key to a great client relationship is giving value, giving your best, and giving a shit.

It isn’t business. It’s personal.

Forget what you’ve seen in the movies – it’s always personal.

Contrary to expectations, it isn’t the current work you do that will build unbreakable bonds with clients. It isn’t pricing and it certainly isn’t just delivering to a scope of work. You need to build a relationship in the same way you build any relationship, through generosity, care and thoughtfulness.

Even from the beginning. The best sales people are those able to listen and the best new business success will come from understanding your prospective client and building rapport, not from talking about yourself and ‘selling’ your wares.

So what sort of generosity are we talking about?

William and Sangeeta Leach presented a version of this piece Mumbrella’s recent SAGE event

Give a shit

Too many agencies simply expect their client to be loyal, to give them the next project or assignment based on the work done to date. It’s not that the work is unimportant; it’s just that your chances of keeping the business will increase dramatically if you simply remember to communicate with your client. Thank them for opportunities. Celebrate the end of projects. Call them apropos of nothing other than finding out how they’re going. Stay in touch. Share your news. Congratulate them on their achievements and those of their company.

Without this interaction you will remain a ‘supplier’ with very limited opportunities to grow with that client.

Too many agencies are stuck in the supplier trap but have aspirations of being a valued partner. Read on to find out how to move from supplier status through service providers and trusted advisor to becoming a valued partner.

Give your best

To grow your relationship further, give your best. Deliver work on time, on brief, on budget. Be good at the basics – calling back, managing expectations and not wasting time. Do your very best work and try to improve all the time. Communicate well and ask where you can improve.

This kind of operational excellence elevates you from a ‘supplier’ to a ‘service provider’ status.

Give value

Focus not on the time you spend or even the stuff you ‘do’ but on the ‘value’ of the stuff you do – the outcomes. Understand what’s important to your client (as you try to understand what’s important to your friends, partners and families).

Understand what the client company is trying to achieve, what keeps the CEO up at night and what the board has set as its objectives – for the year and longer-term. Be voracious in your quest for understanding. Read company reports, read competitive company reports, read research and read the press. Stay on top of what’s important to the client organisation and how your offer connects in a way that helps them and delivers value.

Try to match your KPIs to their KPIs and to their business objectives. Think scope of value not scope of work.

Give a leg up

Be an advocate for your client and for their company. Use your clients’ products or services. Like and share your client’s social media posts. Find ways to make your client look good within and outside his or her organisation. One of the best ways to achieve this, of course, is to show the success of the work you’ve done together – so enter awards with effectiveness criteria, take them to the awards, encourage openness with them so that together you can win.

At this point you have gained their trust and they rely on your advice, which makes the bond pretty strong. ‘Trusted advisor’ is a status that many agencies would be very happy with but there is one more step that truly cements a long term relationship.

Give the gift of transformation

An agency is uniquely placed to take an objective view of a client’s business and provide a fresh perspective on their business challenges, not just their marketing challenges.

Our understanding of our clients’ customers, of people’s motivations, of consumer sentiment generally and trends in technology, games and creativity can give us unique insights into where to lead our clients. We have the advantage of working across numerous categories, products and services and that experience also adds to our unique perspective.

Our insight and creative thinking applied to delivering genuine business outcomes can lead clients into fresh and fertile grounds and create remarkable, transformational ideas.

Success of this kind, achieved together is what ultimately creates an unbreakable partnership between a client and an agency and assures us a return to the top table.

William and Sangeeta Leach are behind The Leach Partnership.


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