This post is a PR 20/20 team collaboration.
Last month, AdAge featured an article on agency-client relations, in which corporate marketers shared their plans to improve agency partnerships in the coming year. Predictably, these answers sound similar to what you might hear from anyone involved in a relationship: communicate openly, be more thoughtful, say thank you and reaffirm appreciation, to name a few.
As an agency, we flipped this article and brainstormed how we as consultants can be better partners to our clients, leading to mutual growth and success. In the spirit of celebrating and showing gratitude for your relationships, we encourage you to take a moment to assess your professional relationships as well.
Put these tips into action to nurture your consultant-client relationships.
1. Be a Jack of All Trades
Just like in any relationship, both parties have to be willing to wear a lot of hats, and adjust positions based on what the other needs at any given moment. At any given time, you may need to be a strategist, producer, copywriter, student, educator, innovator, analyst or friend.
Prepare yourself, and structure your schedule, to be proactive when new opportunities (or emergencies) arise, and shift focus to take on a different role without hesitation.
2. Don’t Get Comfortable
Both parties in a relationship need continual excitement and motivation to avoid stagnancy. Clients, campaigns and processes suffer when program activities become stale and status quo.
Work on ways to take the extra step. Bring fresh ideas to the table, and help clients find the time and resources to move on new ideas they have. Push your clients to take calculated risks, try new things, and expand out of their comfort zones when they can’t push themselves.
3. Make It Personal
Get out of the email rut, and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Be the type of person your clients like to talk to. Ask about their days, share stories, send personal notes and show that you care. Ask them questions about how they got into the business, how they got to where they are today, or what it's like balancing work and home.
It's likely that they’ve gone through some of the same things that you are going through. Find some commonality and look to foster friendships; show that you value your relationships beyond business transactions.
4. Show Some Backbone
In any relationship, there are times when both parties don’t see eye to eye. Don't be afraid to respectfully challenge a client's position, so long as you can make a case for your suggested approach. You’ve been hired as a consultant to provide clear, objective thinking—better your relationships by living up to that role.
Have the confidence to interject with recommendations or enhancements that take ideas to the next level, and show that you have your clients' best interests in mind.
5. Give Yourself Some Alone Time
Dedicate time every day—or at least every week—to sit back, clear your mind and just process recent events, conversations and articles you've read (marketing- and industry-related), while keeping in mind your clients’ campaigns and objectives.
In a dynamic industry where learning (and learning-by-doing) is at the forefront, remember to let new knowledge sink in, and apply it where it can make an impact. When your mind is relaxed, it may be easier to make connections and identify opportunities.
6. Ask, “Are You Happy?”
Like any relationship, you’re only going to be successful if everyone involved is happy. Consultants should always welcome feedback from their clients, and even ask for it candidly when it isn't openly offered. Immerse yourself in your client relationships, and make an active effort to put all you can into them.
At the end of the day, you get what you give. Remember to under-promise and over-deliver, and always strive to provide respect, solutions and results.