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How to build relationships with clients

7 Tips for Building Client Relationships (At Scale)

Strengthen client relationships in your growing agency or consulting practice. Develop and maintain long-term relationships as you sign up more and more clients.

by Brian Casel
Updated Jul 8, 2022

Oh, I’m sure you know the feeling…

You’ve signed up another client. You’re over the moon! Of course, you’ve got more work to do, but hey, you’ve grown your revenue. That’s nothing to complain about. 

Then it dawns on you.

You now have yet another client to communicate with. Another person who’s potentially going to take up a significant chunk of your time each week. And another company you have to build a strong relationship with so that the engagement continues. 

And that’s an entirely different thing…and quite scary. 

I get it; I’ve been there too. And that’s also why I created this guide. Below, you’ll find seven powerful strategies I know will help you develop successful client relationships at scale. 

You’ll learn:

  1. Amazing client communication strategies
    Discover how to improve communication with your clients, so it doesn’t take too much time.
  2. Connecting with clients on a personal level
    Learn what to do to build more personal relationships with clients, developing personal connections with them, building trust, and managing clients’ expectations.
  3. Building your expert status
    Find out what to do to become an expert in the client’s eyes, and more 

Before we get to that, though, there’s something I need to make clear…

Client relationships make your business

Funny, isn’t it? We often think that clients work with us because of what we do. We associate customer retention with factors like our products or services, the quality of our work, or the results we deliver. 

But often, that’s not the case.

Sure, clients value our work. They wouldn’t work with you if they weren’t getting the results you promised. However, their decision to continue working with you is often based on something else. 

You see, more and more clients admit that their relationship with the agency or a consultant makes them want to continue working with them.

There’s even research data to prove it. For example:

  • A study by the American Association of Advertising Agencies discovered that the average length of a client-agency relationship is getting shorter and shorter each year. The report states, “Today, the average client/agency relationship has dropped to between three and four years. Worse still, half of these relationships won't even last two years.” And let’s face it, given the average cost of onboarding new clients, such short tenures can severely affect the business’ profitability and longevity. 
  • Last year, a relationship management company, Aprais, published the results of a 10-year-long study into behaviors that drive client-agency relationships. Based on researching 23,000 agencies, the report discovered that clients value qualities like trust, resilience, and communication more than the agency’s ability to do the job. 
  • Another research into the topic discovered that 98% of clients and agencies name trust as the most important factor in their relationship. Further, the study explains that poor communication is the primary issue affecting trust and ultimately ending the relationship.

So, if it’s not just the quality of your work that builds long-lasting client relationships, then what?

Keys to a strong client relationship

Based on the research above, and other sources, we can pinpoint several key factors that build strong client relationships. Focusing on these factors is what will help you develop lasting client engagement in the long run. 

These factors are

  • Communication
  • Awareness
  • Trust
  • Transparency
  • Dependability and
  • Accountability.

And here are the strategies that will help you implement these factors into your agency-client relationships.

7 strategies for developing insanely strong agency-client relationships

Factor: Communication

#1. Scale client communication with asynchronous messages 

Take a closer look at the research studies I cited above. They all name a particular aspect of working with clients that affect those relationships more than anything else - Communication.

Now, in general, the term - client communication - refers to all types of messages and information you share and exchange with clients. This could include anything from phone calls, weekly status updates, and monthly reports to your replies to the client’s social media posts. 

However, in this context, when I talk about it, I mostly refer to the face-to-face communication you and the client have - meetings, video conferences, Zoom chats, and more.

All these are immensely important. But they can also be quite problematic, can’t they? 

For one, there’s only so much space in your calendar for client meetings. Try as you might; there’s often no chance to squeeze another call or video conference. 

This problem worsens as your agency or consulting practice grows and you onboard more clients. Of course, you want to give them more face time, but there’s just no way you could handle more meetings. 

That’s also when cracks in client relationships begin to arise. 

Clients expect you to give them the attention they deserve. They want to talk to you, hear about the project progress directly from you, ask you questions, and maybe even bring some new ideas to the table. 

You, on the other hand, feel like you’re being pulled in every direction, all while you’re trying to do the job. 

The result? For you, a burnout, most likely. And for your clients, the feeling of being neglected and ignored. 

Luckily, there is a way to overcome this by leveraging asynchronous communication.

Asynchronous communication happens when you conduct back-and-forth conversations with clients without the need for any of you to be present, live, at the same time.

Email, Slack, and voicemail are all examples of asynchronous communication. In each case, you and the recipient leave messages for one another. However, neither you nor they have to process and respond to those in real-time. In fact, the power of asynchronous communication lies in the fact that you can read and reply to those messages at your convenience. 

Why video is the best way to communicate with clients asynchronously

Asynchronous video messages work like a typical video call. As the name suggests, the only difference is that they happen asynchronously. 

Here’s an example of an asynchronous video conversation between an agency and the client:

An example of an asynchronous video conversation recorded with ZipMessage

With asynchronous video, you can record a video clip and send it to someone else to watch later and respond back to you (also on video) without needing to communicate in real-time.

This way, you can still have face-to-face interactions with the client but do it across your growing client base without filling in your calendar to the brim.

Looking to leverage async communication with clients?  Check out ZipMessage, a tool built for such asynchronous back-and-forth client conversations

Factor: Awareness

#2. Get to know your client also as an individual

Although your contract might be with a company, you’re going to work with a real person there. Of course, the person will have to adhere to the company’s processes, policies, etc., when engaging with you. But this doesn’t mean you two can’t develop a more personal relationship.

(A side note - Personal relationships are also what makes the person recommend you to others and even take you with them when they move to another job.)

Here are some simple ways to develop that personal relationship:

  • First, understand the person behind the business. Try to uncover their personal motivations for hiring you. 
  • Learn to speak their language, and see your work from their perspective.
  • Understand their personal situation too. You might find that you have some things or interests in common, and those might help you build a stronger relationship with them too.

Factor: Dependability

#3. Set and deliver on expectations

This is a very simple rule with a profound effect on your client relationships - Do what you say you’re going to do and do it within the time frame you’ve specified. 

It’s that simple. 

Well, in theory, at least…

Things don’t always work out in real life. Stuff happens. Life happens too.  

But there is another, often overlooked aspect to this rule that can help you use any challenges to your advantage. 

The rule is that if you encounter an issue, communicate that to the client. 

First, they might help you find a solution. But also, admitting challenges builds trust, and that’s another incredibly important factor when developing client relationships.

Another tip to help you manage expectations is to keep a threaded discussion logged in a single place where both you and the client can access it anytime. This way, both of you will have access to an archive of what’s been said, discussed, and decided in relation to the project or your collaboration.

Factor: Trust

#4. Become the go-to expert

Clients hire you based on nothing else but a promise. You’ve promised to deliver specific results for them. You also convinced them that you have the experience and the expertise to do it. 

But it doesn’t mean that they trust you, at least not yet. 

So, as part of the process of building and strengthening your relationship with clients, you must also become a go-to expert for them. You must show them that you have broad industry knowledge and use that to inform your work. And ideally, you should become a resource they go to for advice. 

TIP: This is another area where using asynchronous video can help. With tools like ZipMessage, you can set up dedicated video intake pages, allowing clients to record videos to ask you questions and receive replies from you the same way. 

A sample video intake page created with ZipMessage.

Factor: Trust

#5. Own your mistakes

Mistakes happen. You may have missed an important aspect of the client’s project. Or maybe you forgot about something important to the project. 

The problem begins when you’re trying to hide the fact rather than own the error. When you do, you undermine all the trust the client has in you. But if you do the opposite and own the problem, they gain even more trust. 

TIP: Always present solutions when admitting mistakes. For one, you shouldn’t expect the client to solve the problem. But also, presenting ideas on how to overcome the issue changes the tone of the conversation from reactive to proactive. 

Factors: Transparency and Accountability

#6. Be transparent about your work and the results

Having clients wonder whether you’re doing what you promised to do is one of the worst situations you can find yourself in. That’s also a major factor that undermines a strong agency-client relationship. 

Luckily, it’s also something incredibly easy to overcome. You just have to let clients monitor and track your progress in real-time. Here are just some ideas on how to do it:

  • Agencies do this in several ways. Some sign clients to their project management tool. This way, the client can see what work’s been ticked off already and what tasks are still in progress. 
  • Some agencies also set up reporting dashboards for clients. These tools display all the metrics the client cares about, allowing them to track the campaign’s results. 
  • Finally, agencies leveraging asynchronous communication setup threaded conversions for them and the client. With these, every communication relating to a project resides in one place, and everyone in the project can access it at any time. 

Factor: Accountability

#7. Be proactive

This strategy is particularly useful for strengthening existing client relationships. For example, when you’ve been working with a client for longer, you both might have become so accustomed to the relationship that neither side is working towards strengthening it. 

It doesn’t mean that the relationship with that client has gone stale. But, as with any relationship, too much routine might actually be detrimental. 

So, take a more proactive approach to ensure that those existing relationships do not go stale:

  • Share new ideas with clients
  • Bring in new strategies. 
  • Offer advice on how to future-proof campaigns
  • Depending on your relationship with the client, you can invite them for a more casual chat to see what’s happening in their life. 

The key here is to take action now and then to revitalize the agency-client relationship.

Closing thoughts…

Client relationships make your business. This also means that the stronger those relationships are, the more resilient your agency or consulting practice will be. 

In this guide, I’ve shared seven incredible strategies for strengthening the six factors that affect client relationships: communication, awareness, trust, transparency, dependability, and accountability.

All that’s left is to get started implementing them in your practice. 

Good luck!

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