6 tips for managing clients
Clients. Love them or hate them, they pay the bills.
All digital projects require client involvement. It’s supposed to be a symbiotic relationship working towards the greater good and we all know sometimes – for many reasons – it just doesn’t work out that way. Here are 6 tips about working with clients that can help your projects run a smooth line to success, leave you with hair on your head, smiles on dials and money in the bank…
1. Set expectations and listen
Sounds simple, right? Actually, it’s one of the hardest things to do. We’ve learnt from experience setting expectations and listening to your client has a dramatic affect on the success of a project. Not setting expectations can mean you and your client are not on the same page – which is a train wreck about to happen. Make sure that you’re listening and understanding their needs but at the same time, don’t be afraid to set expectations for the project that are realistic and you can deliver on.
A lot of digital projects go wrong because clients aren’t aware of their role in the project. Before we start any major digital project, we sit down with our clients and go through a graphical representation of our process and what their involvement will be. Apart from being a professional approach, this also allows them to visually see the whole process and understand why we ask for things at specific times. For large projects, this is essential as some steps may require other people within the organisation to be involved e.g a legal team or key stakeholders. If the client is aware this is coming up, they can prepare the right people to be ready at the right time.
3. Set a project timeline
One of the worst things a project can do is drift. This is bad for you, your client and your bank balance. At the start of a project put in place a timeline and stick to it. It’s that simple. If you’re thinking a project may take a long time to deliver, ensure you set project milestones and progress payments that don’t penalise you when your client takes a long time to deliver. This will aid with business cashflow and reduces pressure if a project does drift.
4. Confirm project leads
All digital projects need to have project leads for both you and your clients. Set a project lead for your team, confirm the project lead for the client and ensure that others involved in the project are informed. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity here. If there are questions, all people involved should know who to go to for an answer… which leads nicely onto…
5. Communicate – avoid email tennis!
Make sure communication with a client is effective. You need to understand your client and work out what the best way to communicate with them is. Some people work best through emails, others phone calls. Sometimes meetings are the best way to discuss a project and get answers. Know your communication tools and what works best for your client. We’ve seen communication over simple matters go on over email for days. In these instances you need to step it up. Pick up the phone or organise a meeting. In 90% of cases, a quick phone call will furnish you with the answer you need quickly and easily.
6. Don’t be afraid to change
If a project isn’t working out, quite often – but not always – it will be due to how you’re engaging with the client and dynamics around personalities and relationships. Effective client management relies heavily on a project manager or interactive producer’s ability to manage people. Good working relationships are crucial. If it’s not working, recognise it and change. The worst thing you can do is continue on as you are.
7. Be disciplined
Clients need not be seen as a necessary evil. With a professional approach and good client management techniques, you will end up with successful digital projects, happy clients and less material for clients from hell!