New clients are what keeps a business growing and evolving. They are the lifeblood of a company, bringing in new ideas and opportunities as well as funding. Yet, creating enthusiastic clients who are loyal to your agency for the long haul takes effort. You need to build real trust before that kind of commitment is possible.
Building such trust can be harder than it sounds. How can an agency best build long-term relationships with delighted clients? Below, 15 members of Forbes Agency Council share their top tips for an agency looking to gain a new client’s enthusiasm and loyalty.
1. Stay Focused On The Client And Their Needs
Design your approach so that it is always focused on the client, what their business needs are and how your expertise can help. Explain why working with you is the best decision they’ve made for the future of their brand. Show that you have their back and will do whatever it takes to bring results. Eventually, be clear, honest and transparent about what they should expect from your team. – Daniela Pavan, The Ad Store New York
2. Show Them You’re On Their Team And Share Their Goals
When you are looking to build trust with a new client it is very important to make sure that you are explaining to them that you know what their goals are. That means that you are sharing your goals with them and letting them know that you are aligned with their needs and goals in a very real way. Without this little bit of reassurance, you are not going to have a team mentality. – Jon James, Ignited Results
3. Make Them Feel Like A Part Of The Process
Your customers should know what your product or service will require, not just the end goal. Involve them in your plans. It’s going to be much easier for people to demonstrate support and let you do your thing if they know what to expect. And they’ll feel more connected if you give them a chance to contribute. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
4. Offer Complete Transparency
Report back on your work. It’s one thing to present a killer strategy at the beginning of the project, but it’s another thing entirely to demonstrate your client’s return on investment at the end of the project. Follow through by providing metrics that speak directly to the objectives you set and report honestly—even if you didn’t hit all your goals. This sort of transparency is the ultimate trust builder. – Sarah Mannone, Trekk
5. Keep It Real
First, we provide proof of performance in the form of client reviews, real-world case studies, testimonials, etc. to show what we’re capable of and that we’re not “all talk.” Second, we strive to be 100% transparent. Recently we launched a new program that gives clients access to their current campaigns and results at any time. This way our clients feel like they’re part of our team. – Bernard May, National Positions
6. Deliver Results
All the required elements of a trustful relationship—understanding the client’s business, listening, strong counsel, honesty/transparency, the right account talent and staffing, well-defined strategy, and memorable creative—don’t make a difference if you don’t deliver results that help grow their business. – Jim Heininger, The Rebranding Experts
7. Keep Your Promises
Trust takes a long time to earn, and a short time to destroy. Too many agency professionals make promises that they simply can’t keep. Instead, focus on what you can control. Do what you say you are going to do. When you can demonstrate a pattern of keeping your promises, you build a reputation for trustworthiness. Stop making guarantees about things that are impossible to guarantee. – Gyi Tsakalakis, AttorneySync
8. Stay Realistic
Sometimes clients come to you with unrealistic goals. As professionals, it’s your job to be honest and realistic. You know what is actually achievable. Provide alternate solutions and promises that you can actually keep, because doing so will help build long-term trust, which is absolutely essential to maintaining strong client relationships. Plus it helps to show that you are experts. – Lisa Arledge Powell, MediaSource
9. Give Them Some Quick Wins
Generate traction with quick wins while you perform foundational research that is required for long-term success. Clients understand the value of the research phase conceptually, but usually don’t want to wait six to eight weeks to dive in. Build goodwill and enthusiasm with low-hanging wins during the early stages of the relationship. This buys the agency runway to get the important work done. – Mike Skeehan, Salted Stone, Inc.
10. Define Success
Half the battle to a great relationship and building trust is ensuring there is definitive alignment on what success entails. Having a clear dialog that not every announcement is going to garner press coverage is imperative. Understanding the stage the company is at and the type of press that will advance its brand to the next stage is critical. Be proactive and check in with clients weekly. – Ethan Parker, Treble
11. Respond To Questions Quickly
One of the best ways to earn your client’s trust is simply to be open and honest with them. More importantly, you always need to be open to their needs, so sending them a phone line to contact you personally or meeting in person every now and again are great ways to open up the lines of communication. Always respond to requests within 24 hours and get on the horn with them, if need be. – Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com
12. Be Straightforward About Your Concerns
We are straightforward with clients regarding any concerns we have about mutual fit or concerns we anticipate them having about working together. We’d rather raise a concern we anticipate proactively and early and have them decide up front whether it’s an issue, instead of investing a lot of time with a client where there isn’t a strong fit. Clients appreciate this, and it builds trust in us as advisers. – Elissa Liu, Influential Executive
13. Flesh Out Your Onboarding Process
A lot of agencies and companies expend a lot of time, energy and resources moving their clients through a sales funnel but don’t have a great funnel in place for keeping new clients connected and advancing in the relationship. Make sure that you’re providing regular contact to your customers and building that relationship actively even after you’ve already booked them! – Brandon Stapper, Nonstop Signs
14. Offer References
The bottom line is that you need to show that you can be trusted. What that may mean is putting them in a communications path with someone who can confirm it from the outside, such as another client. Trust level in agencies, in general, is a crapshoot; proof is everything. An added bonus is coming off as a straight shooter who can be trusted. Be forthright in your approach and you can’t go wrong. – Paul E. Benninghove, Phalanx Digital Inc.
15. Have The Hard Conversations
No matter how great your team, delays will happen, scope issues will arise and there will be times that your team’s direction doesn’t align with client wishes. All are difficult conversations to have. Not communicating issues is a surefire way to lose credibility. Be straightforward, confident and honest and it will earn your client’s trust and go a long way to building a long-lasting partnership. – Keri Witman, Cleriti