How do you solve a problem like... maintaining client relationships?
In this new opinion series, we ask readers of The Drum – from brands, agencies and everything in between – for their advice on a real problem facing today’s marketing practitioners.
This week, we ask readers around the world about how they’re keeping clients happy.
Physical meetings are off the table and handshakes a potential hazard. And while the stakes for many businesses and brands are higher than ever before, agencies are having to prove their worth to clients to ensure their own survival. So, how are they keeping client relationships hale and hearty?
How do you maintain good relationships with clients in a pandemic?
Dimi Albers, chief executive officer, Dept
Comms, comms and even more comms. Daily check-ins for the client teams, bi-weekly newsletters, a lot of virtual events, like our Dept Talks and Industry Leaders Lunches, give them the opportunity to get inspired by fellow industry leaders and share thoughts.
Now, even more than ever, our clients are looking for ways to build and accelerate their digital business. And we – as an industry – are here to help.
Rowena Curlewis, chief executive officer, Denomination
Working through Covid-19 has really tested the strength of our existing client relationships, and the fact that our business has been unaffected thus far is testament to our clients’ loyalty in all three regions in which we operate.
This year has created a very rare situation, in that all of our clients are in exactly the same position as we are: working from home, adapting quickly to the new norm. Workshops and meetings abroad have been replaced by Zoom, and we have found that our clients – both new and old – are actually even more open and personable as a result of everyone working from home.
Jamie Wynne-Morgan, UK chief executive officer, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment
It’s only a problem if we assume client relationships can only be maintained face to face. The debate of working from home/not working from home, meeting clients face to face/not meeting clients face to face will rumble on and on, but regardless, good client relationships are based on two key factors: doing great work for them and having regular open and honest communication.
We had a pitch two weeks into lockdown, which thankfully we won. We have since created and launched two successful campaigns for a client that we have never met. And yet the relationship is great.
I am not advocating we never meet clients face to face again, but in the last few months, without any face to face interaction, we have let clients into our lounges, our kitchens and, yes, whisper it quietly, even our bedrooms. I’m not sure we could have got away with saying that pre-March 23, so I would say the relationships are pretty close.
Both clients and agencies have gone through the same shared experience. The end result is a much closer relationship with our clients, which should benefit us both when we are finally able to meet up face to face on a regular basis again.
David Bates, chief executive officer and creative director, Bokeh
The same way you do with your employees: by communicating. Be honest and true and human. We are all going through this uncertainty. Be patient and kind and compassionate. We all have kids running around in the background of our Zoom calls.
If there was ever a time to rid yourself of agency ego, it is at this moment. Where is there room to impress with optics when you are working out of your new office/closet? So be real, and then be adaptive. Your clients are hurting, but they still need your help to power solutions. Perhaps that may require you to scale back before you can scale up again.
Whatever it entails, be open and understanding and present in the needs of the now.
Stephen Knight, founder, Pimento Agency
Job security and the ongoing impact of Covid-19 is playing on everyone’s minds, which means that many have never before been as much in need of support. As agency owners, we have an obligation to give as much assistance as possible – and flexibility is key.
While some tough conversations will have been had already, there are inevitably more to come as budgets get tighter. Now is the time to build on the good relationships you have in order to ensure that, when we do come out of the recession, you still have a business – and better relationships to build upon.
Sarah Cutler, partnerships director, at Makemepulse
Everyone’s circumstances are changing constantly, so keeping communication open and being flexible really helps when building loyalty and trust. Being friendly and approachable and having empathy toward everyone’s individual circumstance is key, so it’s important more than ever to create a personal approach to each relationship.
Matt Bland, co-founder, Ragged Edge
We’ve adapted the ways in which we run virtual meetings to ensure that our clients get to see the whites of our eyes as much as they do the work itself. We avoid email at all costs and ensure that we’re in constant contact on the phone or in real life.
In times such as now, our role is to help our clients raise their heads and proactively provide them with ideas and insights on how their businesses could look in 12 months. This approach always gets them to open up and strengthens relationships.
Clive Howse, managing director, MI Media
The obvious answer is ‘communication’. The way MI Media works automatically lends itself to regular client contact. Our planning is highly outcome-focused, so we are speaking to clients almost every day about lead volumes, sales and revenue.
Technology has actually allowed us to extend these conversations across a much wider group on a regular basis. These sessions tend to be very work focused, but that’s probably appropriate when everyone is navigating their way through unchartered waters.
I’m sure the people-side of things will pick up when the time is right for us to all meet up again.
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