Client Management: How to convert and keep your customers in 2021
How to convert (and keep) clients using client management
Running a profitable company isn’t just about bringing clients in—it’s about keeping ‘em around, too.
We all know the stats back this up. Time and time again, we’ve been told that it costs about five times more to attract new clients than keep old ones, and increasing retention rates by just 5% can boost profits from 25% to 95%.
Sounds good, huh. So, how can you convert and keep clients in your portfolio?
The answer is client management.
Client management is where you look after your client's needs, know their problems and goals, and make recommendations to help them for as long as they're with your company.
By doing so, client management turns business transactions into long-standing relationships that keep happy clients around for years 😊
In this piece, we’re going to break down:
What is client management, and why is it important for agencies?
How to manage client expectations — and make sure they stick around
3 steps for creating a client management process
Let’s get started.
What is client management, and why is it important?
Client management is a process where businesses actively manage and nurture relationships with their customers to be more engaged and aware of their needs, interests, and expectations.
This type of management goes beyond the standard transactional nature of a lot of most business dealings. We’re talking about going above and beyond sending out a feedback survey once you onboard a client.
Client management requires giving your clients consistent attention so that you fully understand their needs. It's not just what customers want. They expect it, and they're happy to pay for the effort. Salesforce studies show 76% of clients expect companies to understand their needs, and 67% of them are okay with paying more for a better experience with a company.
To deliver this type of relationship to your clients, you need a process, which can be split into some core areas:
🧐 Understanding what your client’s needs and wants are before they come to you
🗣️ Having regular, targeted communication with your client (no generic blast emails, please!)
✔️ Following through on solving their needs and meeting their expectations
Ticking off these boxes of relationship management can mean the difference between having a client that sticks with your business for years—or one that leaves you for a competitor.
That's because with a good client management process comes one of the most powerful parts of any relationship with your clients—trust. It sets expectations and makes your working relationship more transparent, so instead of feeling like they are just your client, they feel like you are on their team.
Like many businesses, telecommunications provider Strencom found managing projects and meeting expectations with customers using email, spreadsheets, and documents wasn’t as transparent as they needed to be.
The company wasn’t just struggling to meet deadlines. They were also suffering from frequent communication breakdowns with their clients.
"We reached a point where managing projects using email and spreadsheets had become a total nightmare,” Director of Operations Colum Buckley said. “Setting expectations with customers and not keeping them is a major hindrance to a positive experience. “We knew we had to find a better way.”
And that’s exactly what they did 🥳
The company created a process using Teamwork that focuses on client collaboration and transparency.
Each time Strencom starts a new project, the client is added as a collaborator to review and add comments to things like team tasks, deadlines, and deliverables. Clients can also check on the project's progress in real-time, which was impossible with the company's old process.
“We win over even the most skeptical clients once they see they don’t have to hang around until 5pm on a Thursday waiting for an email or phone call to know what’s happening,” Buckley says. “Not only are we completing more projects in less time, but we’re getting a reputation for on-time delivery and reliability.”
We know what you’re thinking. This all sounds great… but how do I build a client management process in my own business?
Let's start with some basic client management parameters you should be following.
How to manage client expectations — and make sure they stick around
1. Get on the same page
The first part of managing your clients is to make sure their expectations are not just realistic, but that you can meet them.
The worst thing your agency can do is have your clients expecting a level of service or product performance that you’ll never be able to deliver for them. On the flip-side, overdelivering on their expectations can put you in a good position to build on your client relationship and earn their trust.
To get on the same page with your client’s expectations, follow a couple of simple rules:
Get a clear idea of what their expectations actually are: Sometimes, clients come to you with unrealistic asks or wants. And that's okay, as long as you correct them and bring them back down to earth. For example, a client may come to you wanting a 50% increase in online traffic in a month. It's up to you to set a more realistic tone and outline how you can meet their expectation in an achievable timeframe.
Don’t offer (or talk) about products and services you can’t give them: Don’t exaggerate your product/service or offer something to a client that you won’t be able to live up to. If a client mentions a product/service that one of your competitors has—be honest and say that you don’t offer it.
Once you’re on the same page with your client, it’s easier to bounce ideas around and know what you can realistically achieve together.
2. Don’t wait for them to come to you with a problem
A successful management strategy means you have to do more than pick up the phone every couple of months and call your client.
Instead of doing the obligatory quarterly call to check in on them, be proactive with your communication and touch base if you think a product update will help them or you see a blog post that might be useful to them.
To truly manage their expectations and success, you shouldn't just be solving your client's problems—you should be predicting them, too. The best way to do this is to regularly talk to your client and keep on top of their issues.
Every time you talk to your client, ask them what their team is struggling with and ask if you can help. No matter how big or small the issues are that they raise, make a note of it so you can find a way to help them to keep building their trust in your company.
If you can get a better grasp of the issues that your clients are regularly running into, you’ll also get an idea of how to solve them for your client.
3. Be a team player in helping them reach their goals
Client management isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it type of strategy.
If you add a new product feature or service, don’t be afraid to reach out to a client to let them know how it could help them in their industry by:
Knowing their company’s quirks: Has their business been growing? Have they recently launched a new service or hosted an important event? Keeping on top of what’s happening in your client’s company makes it easier to showcase any new products or services you release and tie it into their goals.
Selling your product/service as a solution: No matter how much trust you build up with a client, it's still a business relationship. Likely, new products or services that you *know* will help them reach their goals will require an upsell. If you can show them that it'll genuinely help them get more customers or make their team happier and you’ve earned their trust—they’ll hear you out.
The best thing about setting and following these client management parameters is that you can build them into a process for your entire team to follow.
Time to get down into the nitty-gritty of creating that process 👇
3 steps for creating a client management process
Step #1: Outline a baseline for their expectations
We’ve talked a lot about the most important part of client management—setting the right expectations.
So it makes sense that your client management process starts with a way to find out what those expectations actually are. Before you sit down with a client for an initial meeting, you can get a head start by asking them:
What are your goals?
What problems do you hope we can solve together?
What level of collaboration/transparency are you expecting out of the process?
How involved do you want to be and how often do you want to be updated on progress?
What is your ideal end result out of working together?
These initial replies will give you an idea of their baseline expectations which you can then use to build on. Next, you need to lay out how you'll deliver on those expectations.
Step #2: Create a rock-solid process to meet expectations
Successful client management comes down to having everything organized.
If you are managing your clients' projects in email threads and messy spreadsheets, it will be difficult to invite them into the project and let them see how your team is working on it in real-time.
Instead, clearly outline with your client how you will communicate, collaborate and update them on a project each time you work together. You should have a clear process for:
📞 Communication: How often will you talk to your client? Will you call them, drop them an email, or ping them on Slack? Make sure they know they’re not going to be left out in the cold
🖇️ Organization: Will you organize their projects on a Google Doc, or are you going to use a Kanban board? Gantt chart? Spreadsheet? It’s important to show your client how any work will be organized before you start
🤝 Collaboration: How will your team work together, and where will project documents be kept? Are you going to use project management software, or will you collaborate using Dropbox? Will the client have access to the work in real-time?
📈 Results: How will you communicate to your client that your project meets the results you discussed before you started working together? Are you going to meet for monthly meetings? Are you going to keep them updated with quarterly reports?
The best part about creating a process is that you kill two birds with one stone. It’s not just your client that will have an organized process to follow—your team will, too.
Step #3: Share your process with your clients
No matter if you’ve settled on spreadsheets or project management software for your client management process—you still need to implement it and share it with your clients.
This is called the client onboarding process, where you introduce your client to your process so they know exactly what working with you is going to be like. Whether you walk them through it over the phone, send them an email outlining your process, or create an entire walkthrough for them is up to you.
The most important part of sharing the process is so that your clients know what’s happening, when it’s happening and what they’re paying for. When Marketing IT Consultancy YOUNITY was struggling to find a way to be more transparent with clients and share information with them, they turned to Teamwork Spaces.
Thanks to Spaces, each YOUNITY team member has a secure workspace where documentation is stored and reviewed in real-time. And they can invite clients into their workspace to comment on anything they're working on in real-time, add suggestions, and check in on progress.
“With Spaces, what really caught our attention is how easy it was for ourselves and our clients to comment on a document and discuss it, just like we would with a normal PDF on our laptops,” Co-Founder Mario Kotschner says.
“You can immediately see who changed what, and that’s exactly what we need in order to collaborate on documents with our clients.”
To share information about a project or to gauge a client’s feedback on something, all YOUNITY has to do is send a unique link to give them immediate access. And when it's time to wrap up a project, Spaces also plays a vital role in managing client expectations.
“We hand out Teamwork Spaces pages at the end of a project or job, to show results, charts, our analysis of the work and details of work-in-progress,” Kotschner says.
“With the shareable links in Spaces, you can just send it to the client and say “Hey, there’s all your information.”
Check out how you can manage all of your clients’ expectations under one roof using Teamwork Spaces here 👇
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