5 Unspoken Lessons in Building Lasting Client Relationships

One growth hacking idiom I subscribe to is that you can’t keep pouring in water to a leaky bucket. In business terms, acquisition of new clients doesn’t become business building if you can’t keep them. If you have a problem with retention your business will just have a swinging door effect with clients leaving you as you sign new ones up. With that in mind here are 5 lessons in the art of building long, genuine, and successful client relationships.

1. Clients Can Smell Your BS From a Mile Away

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Clients are waaaaaaay smarter than you think. Never underestimate how well they can read a situation. If you’re faking it and making up excuses, believe me when I say that they can tell. Not all of them call out the BS outright for the sake of pushing forward with the project.

If there’s something wrong, own up to it. It also helps a lot if you are able to give a decent heads up to the client so they can still help fixing things or if they need to manage expectations of the project stakeholders on their end as well.

Sidenote: if you’re the most senior in the team facing the client you need to be the one to bite the bullet can call. Don’t throw your teammates under the bus but at the same time don’t defend something that was clearly a mistake.

2. Know the Silent Decision Makers

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You need to be able to have a good read of the client political landscape. Apart from the main boss there are key silent decision makers that you need to be able to identify and influence. These are the people that have the ears of the boss. They aren’t as pronounced and obvious at times so it’s best that you always try to observe and study how the politics plays out in your client’s office. You need to find out who these are because your business with their company can grow dramatically or end abruptly depending on what they say.

3. Become their Expert Resource

If you want to be percieved as an expert you need to learn how to share. Passing knowledge along, be it in the form of books or digital articles, is always something clients will welcome and appreciate. Here’s how way to do it so it’s not just mailbox spam.

When sending an online article add a quick note of how the information there can be useful to them. This can be in the form of an insight based on the content, review of competitive efforts, or additional data to give more context to the article.

For a more personal touch, send an actual hardbound book and include some notes pointing to chapters they might find useful.

4. Deadlines are Not Always Sacred

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Nothing kills credibility and trust more than missed deadlines. When you commit you need to move heaven and earth to make sure you deliver.

In the unavoidable event that you do miss deadlines, one way to soften the blow is to overcommunicate throughout the entire process. That way they can get a heads-up on any potential delays and either help you actually meet it or they will be the ones to move.

If ever you will miss the agreed submission date (as long as it’s not FA work yet) and you didn’t give a warning, you can make up for it by delivering exceptionally good work. The last thing you want to do is to submit sub-par, average, or just meet expectations level kind of work when you’re already late.

5. Invest in Good Will Because You Will Make Mistakes

Here’s the sad truth about your job — you will make mistakes. You will miss deadlines. You will constantly stress your relationship with your client. Once you accept that truth, you can plan against it. How? By paying it forward.

If there are occasions where you can go the extra mile (without needing to) so that the work you present will exceed expectations, go for it. If there are situations where you can help out but you don’t need to, go. If you can offer discounts every now and then, make it happen. Those are all “Good Will Points” that you rack up with your client. Each time you make a mistake down the road, those “Good Will Points” act as a buffer. They can even save the business in times of critical failures.

So there you have it. 5 key tips on how to build longlasting and succesful client relationships. If you have other tips hit us up in the comments section below!

This post is part of our “Digtial Agency Series“. More posts to come in the coming days and we will link to them below as well.

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PS: We did an entire series on Digital Public Relations. If you’re interested to read the articles, click here!

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Carlo Ople

Author Carlo Ople

Founder and writer of Unlocked.ph and for full disclosure I'm also the Vice-President for Digital Marketing Strategy of PLDT/Smart, the largest telco in the Philippines. Prior to this I co-founded a digital advertising agency (DM9 Digit) which we sold to Dentsu, the largest single branded agency in the world. I also co-founded one of the biggest tech websites in the country, Unbox (unbox.ph). Views do not represent PLDT/Smart and are purely my own.

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