You’ve closed the deal – but your job isn’t done quite yet. Managing client expectations can help you make the most of your new relationship and ensure you are striking the right balance. By working together to outline goals, define success, and clearly communicating your progress and milestones, you can increase transparency to build a long-lasting relationship with your new client.
Understanding your client’s expectations will make it easier to fulfill their needs. Since every client is different, taking the time to build rapport and to understand their preferred communication style can help you fulfill their intangible needs as well.
Set Clear Goals
Unless you are both working towards the same goals, you won’t have a very fulfilling relationship. Making sure you and your client have the same idea of what “success” looks like ensures you are directing your efforts correctly in the first place.
Clearly defined goals also help you rein things in; this is particularly important if your deliverable is intangible or you are in a creative industry. Scope creep and other distractions can drive a wedge between you and your client and push you away from your end goals. Referring back to your shared goals, or scope can help you redirect a client who has a last-minute idea that simply has to happen or wants to integrate a new approach into your agreed-upon campaign. The ability to refer back to the goals helps you avoid being sidetracked and ensures that your efforts are not diluted by distractions.
Just like your personal goals, the end results you are working toward need to be realistic and achievable. Setting a lofty goal that sounds great on paper but won’t really be attainable will backfire on you in a big way.
Create a Plan for Each Project
Whether the client requests one or not, a plan of action with details and timelines will help your team create the desired end results. A detailed plan also allows you to give instant updates and ensures your client can tell the status of your project at a glance. If you hit a roadblock or make changes, update the plan so it reflects your new status.
The planning stage is also the time to put expectations in writing and complete any contracts you require. Having these documents to refer back to can help you fulfill and exceed expectations and ensures your client remembers what they were promised in the first place. Handing over a fully outlined plan complete with a timeline also helps boost the faith your client has in you; you’ll be answering questions and providing information they have not even thought to ask for yet. Your client will also be able to refer to this information whenever they need to, making it easier for them to understand your process and to know what to expect when they work with you.
Make Time for Rapport and Communication
If your client is always the one who has to call you for an update, they may begin to feel like they are chasing you down or that you are not really on top of things. Taking a proactive approach to communication ensures you are giving timely updates and puts your clients’ minds at ease about working with you.
Communication is about more than relaying project details, though. The more rapport you build with your clients, the more reluctant they will be to leave. Connecting on a more personal level – whether you find out you both enjoy the same sports team or have a passion for the same types of music – can help you build rapport and cement your relationship with a more personal bond.
Even seemingly random or “fuzzy” connections can boost engagement and buy-in. If your client’s child goes to your alma matter, you both know the same local celebrities or you both support the same charities, you have built-in commonalities to talk about. Take the time to build rapport and actually converse with your clients, and you may find you have a lot more in common than you expect.
Introduce Your Process and Team
You can boost engagement and trust right at the beginning of your relationship by communicating with your client. Make sure they are able to meet the people who will be working on their account, particularly anyone who will be hands-on or helping with day to day tasks. Make sure they are familiar with all of the benefits of working with you and the ways you work to make their lives easier. Familiarizing your client with your process boosts their confidence from the beginning and lets them know their project is in capable hands.
Promise Less, Deliver More
It's old, it's cliché – and it's true. Under promising and over-delivering ensures your clients are delighted when they work with you. Build in a cushion when it comes to both time and budget. If you complete things more quickly than anticipated or for a lower cost, your client will rightfully be pleased. Promise too much and then deliver late and you’ll have an unhappy client.
Taking the time to educate your client about your process, inform them of what is going on and checking in with the right amount of frequency can help you strike the right balance when it comes to your relationship.