By ENITAN KEHINDE – BHM
According to the 2019 Holmes Report, the global PR industry grew by 5% in the last year. For most agencies, this growth stems from the number of clients and businesses secured and engaged.
While client acquisition is important to an agency, client retention is even more paramount.
Getting new clients is a big deal, but keeping them and maintaining the relationship can prove just as challenging.
Relationships are the bedrock for thriving businesses.
Building successful working relationships requires a lot of effort; a skilled team, the right investments and attention to details, especially for agencies with multiple clients.
If you make a success of keeping clients, you build deep connections, successful and mutually beneficial partnerships that withstand time, economic instabilities, possible issues and even distance.
But before a client decides to sign on with you or your agency, a connection must be made. It could be intellectual, emotional or as a result of your past achievements.
Whatever it is, you have to maintain that momentum and here are some quick ways to do just that.
- Do great work:
Simple right? Well, that’s the thing. While this seems like an obvious thing to do, most agencies get comfortable when they have gotten “the client”. Caution is thrown to the wind and it is generally believed that because they chose you and are bound by a contract, they are going nowhere.
Well, that is false, because every client is on the lookout for something better and if they have the best with you, they most likely will be satisfied. How do you give them the best? By putting in your very best, literally!
For my team and I, every brief, every email and every task is treated like a pitch. Every activity must be treated with the same level of attention to detail, as the first. A client-agency relationship is a never-ending test. Don’t be tricked to think you have won just because you bagged the client.
- Provide support:
You might be wondering what support means for a client that is a profitable start-up, SME or multinational. But as PR practitioners, we are consultants and industry experts. Like my CEO, Ayeni Adékúnlé says, “If your clients could do your job, they won’t need you.”
The only way to prove useful is to provide that support and serve an advisory role. Do not be a yes man. Be a backbone for your client.
For some clients, this might be difficult, but proving your worth overtime and establishing boundaries will go a long way to providing your clients with the right kind of support.
- Be Human:
Sending emails and typing up documents might sometimes have us forgetting that the recipient is human. Asides the salutations and regards, how are you getting to know the individuals you are dealing with?
Yes, this is part of the job.
I always make sure to build a healthy rapport with all my clients. Knowing what they like, what is important to them, their birthdays and their interests and keying into them is important. It shows effort and will help you find common ground, outside of the work you share. It also gets you good graces for when you get into little troubles!
- Take a proactive approach:
Asides playing an advisory role, you also have to enforce anticipatory guidance. PR as a profession in itself is not reactionary. It is planned, maintained and sustained. There is no reason why your work should be passive and almost retroactive.
Being two steps ahead and planning well into the future shows your clients that you value them and are working hand in hand with them to build their brands.
- Value Your Client’s Opinion:
Because you are a subject matter expert, or a consultant, does not mean you have to come off as condescending or disregarding of your clients’ opinions. They understand the brands and the business environment. So while you communicate your stance on various issues and tasks, always value your clients’ opinions and understand them. If they negate yours, help them see reason and value in what you are presenting to them. You are on the same side and should never have to come to blows over anything.
- Transparency No Matter the Consequences:
It is very important to build trust in every relationship. One of the quickest and most efficient ways to do so is by being transparent. There is no need to lie or cover up with your clients because you are on the same side.
This is one key element we prioritize at BHM. We always make sure to be as clear and transparent with our clients as possible. Secrets and lies kill relationships. No matter how careful you are, you just might slip and get caught. And at the end of the day, nothing is ever worth dishonesty.
- A task can not be done as promised? Communicate!
- Your plans and back up plans fell through? Communicate!
- You’re having issues with a certain task and you know your client can be of help?
It shows a certain level of responsibility and vulnerability when you can both work together to achieve the set goals, instead of being dishonest and appearing as incompetent when the plans fall through.
- Promise Within Reason and Overdeliver:
A lot of people like to say, “Underpromise and Overdeliver”, but I like to go with “Promise Within Reason”.
Underpromising means shortchanging your clients. Clients like to know and see that you are doing your possible best to get the job done.
It is very easy to promise your clients heaven and earth when you are trying to win their business. But then all your promises fall on empty when it is time to actually do the job.
In dealing with clients, it is best to be clear on all terms and deliverables with a back knowledge that you can overdeliver on them.
- Set Measurable Goals and Objectives:
Although pre-agreed terms and deliverables were mentioned in the previous point, it is important to note that setting and agreeing on measurable goals and objectives will help both parties evaluate the relationship after a set period.
It also helps to keep you on your toes so you do not drop any balls. Not only does it do this but it insulates you and your agency from any unwarranted expectations from the client.
- Don’t Be Petty! Don’t Burn Bridges:
Dealing with clients can be difficult. You are bound to butt heads, have disagreements and even meltdowns. Trust me I know. But like any relationship, the way these issues are managed can either make or mar that relationship. In my many disputes with colleagues and clients, I have learnt to not be overly emotional but to approach each situation with love and logic. Sounds cliche right? Well, there is nothing a little love and understanding can’t fix. Do not, in a bid to prove a point, be petty and ruin an otherwise beneficial relationship with your client.
In cases, where the relationship has to, unfortunately, come to an end, do not burn any bridges. Do not make the situation so bad that the client or individuals involved cannot come back to you for future briefs and business opportunities.
- Finally, Treat Every Client Like Your First and Last:
In a conversation with Steve Babaeko, the CEO/Chief Creative Officer of X3M Ideas, I learnt to treat every client like they’re your very first and your very last. There is this thing about respect, especially in Nigeria. Every Nigerian (though some may deny), likes to be placed on a pedestal and clients are not left out.
Swift responses, regular check-ins, returned missed calls, and all-round impeccable service, regardless of the size of the account will lead to gratified and happy clients.
According to Steve, little things like always being early and offering to help, go a long way.
It is important to note that to take your consultancy to the next level, you have to prioritize client relationships. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. It might seem like a lot, but the eventual payoff is huge.
Remember, happy clients mean referrals and top of mind for the agency on future briefs and Businesses.