Client relationships can be one of the most stressful aspects of working in even the most established design agency. The subjective nature of creativity means relationships can become strained, complicated and above all, frustrating for both parties.
The best creative work arises when agencies and clients are in sync and according to a new eBook by trade printer Route1Print, there are new ways creative agencies can prevent problems from the start to keep clients happy and loyal.
So what tactics can agencies start to use to keep relationships running smoothly?
1. Learn to Say No to Unrealistic Demands
Learning to say no is the hardest lesson in client relationships. The fear of annoying and possibly losing the client due to a lack of resource can mean your team are stretched too thin, especially if they’re a great client. Some clients don’t realise design takes time with a lot of technological processes behind a single project. Walk them through exactly how much effort goes into a website or brochure design. Sitting down with your client and explaining the painstaking processes your team adhere to for their work will help them see design isn’t instantaneous. This should reassure them that they are getting their money’s worth.
2. Be Tactful With “Micro-Managing” Clients
Do clients ever try to push their “expertise” onto you during the design process? If a client wants input, use their concepts rather than their ideas and allow your own creative team to build and tweak these concepts. Your client’s ego will remain intact and you still keep hold of your creative freedom. When a client does suggest ideas that aren’t great, don’t just dismiss them but suggest alternatives. At the end of the day they are the client and it is their money. It’s not worth losing a client over pride! See if you can build upon or tweak their ideas to meet in the middle.
3. Do Outline What You Can’t Do
Depending on the size of your agency, you may be able to offer services beyond design. This could be social media, event PR or a full rounded marketing solution. From the start of your relationship explain to your client which departments they can have access to and which ones will have an additional cost. Introduce them to the members of your team they have access to and their roles to help prevent them from asking for services you don’t provide.
4. Define (Actually) Measurable Goals
As a standard, goals should always be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time based. When discussing your goals, talk in hard numbers. Merely saying your designs will “boost brand identity” or “make the website look better” are subjective and therefore open up room for arguments. Instead, think about how your design can reduce bounce rate on their website, or encourage social shares of their latest post.
5. Manage Expectations and Budgets Once the Project is Underway
Offer alternative solutions if your client wants something that isn’t in the budget during the course of the project. Instead of merely demanding the client pay more, say “if you want that we can either charge you £1000 more, or instead provide X amount of page designs using the same template instead of different ones”. Offering a compromise shows that you respect the client has limited budget, but you also care about the overall success of the campaign.
6. Treat Yourself as a Colleague, not an Employee
By becoming an extension of their in-house team, rather than a 3rd party, your client will see you as a partner rather than an external agency they’ve hired. Use inclusive language such as “we” and “us” instead of “I” to make the client feel as if this is a partnership and show an interest in the wider aspects of their business beyond design.
To learn more solutions your agency can use to diffuse awkward situations with clients including advice from industry experts, get your free copy of Route One Print’s eBook here.