It takes time and energy to build good, strong, lasting business relationships. You are a partner to your clients and you want the relationship to be one based on trust. Nailing your client relationships plays a big part in retaining and expanding your current clients and building engagements with new referral clients. A strong relationship goes well beyond just delivering what you both agreed to in the contract and it doesn't just happen overnight. Here are 5 tips for building clients relationships that last and are mutually beneficial.
1. Set Expectations
From day 1, it's important to set the proper expectations with the client. Talk about the timeline, both when they should expect deliverables as well as how long it usually takes to fulfill one-off requests. Discuss your process for execution, including what you need from them, when, and how they should expect to receive the agreed upon deliverables. Give them a clear understanding of your teams' capabilities and limitations. Finally, discuss your communication style. How do you and they communicate best? Is it via phone, email, slack, or text? Set clear expectations on both sides for length of time to return emails and messages.
Don't neglect the client in the discussion around expectations. Get a clear understanding of their requirements and what their standards are for the deliverables you are set to execute upon. Having this knowledge up front will keep edits to a minimum and build that trust that you understand their business and overall objectives.
Tip: Once you know the expectations of your client, continually strive to exceed those expectations in everything you do!
2. In Person Meetings
I highly recommend having in person meeting whenever possible. Having calls via video conference is great, but nothing replaces that face to face interaction. In person meetings are more personal and help you to gain a deeper understanding of each other as humans. You learn more about each other when you are not limited to what you can write in email or discuss in a short cadence. Use this in person meeting as an opportunity to connect with the entire team and focus on strategy together.
3. Ask for Feedback
Don't be afraid to ask for feedback from your clients. It lets them know that you really care about the relationship and the work that you are delivering. Don't just do this as the project is wrapping up, but do it consistently throughout your engagement. Let them know that it's important to you that everyone is on the same page and that you want to strive to always improve how you work together.
The important part about receiving feedback is listening. If things are going well, awesome! But, if you made a mistake, own it. Address issues head on so that they can quickly be resolved and you can move on. That is a big trust deposit!
4. Provide Visibility & Education
Let your clients know exactly what you are working on and where you are in the process. They might not understand why you are doing something or why you chose that route, and that's okay. You are the expert, which is why they hired you. Educate them to make them feel more at ease and give them confidence in the job to be done. After each call with your client, be sure to clarify next steps in a recap so they can feel comfortable with the direction you're moving towards and you each know your role in getting there.
5. Get to Know Your Clients as Individuals
It's true, you were hired by your client to help them hit their goals and that work to be completed is very important. However, successful business relationships aren't just built around transactions, but around genuine connections. Allow yourselves a few minutes at the beginning of meetings to talk about things outside of the business relationship. Small talk allows you to truly get to know someone as an individual. I have found that when you have that personal relationship with someone, they are more likely to open up to you about what's working well and not so well within your working relationship. It helps to develop transparency and builds mutual trust.
I can't promise you that following these tips will help you keep all your clients or that you'll be profitable, because it's also about the work and the results. However, building positive relationships with your clients is part of retention and gives them reasons to sing your praises to other potential clients about how great you are as a business partner.