Client relationship management takes a lot of time and effort, but when executed effectively it can help you create strong bonds with your clients. Not only will your clients want to stick around long-term, they will give you word-of-mouth referrals, which is the most effective way we’ve found to get new business and a great way to build your reputation.
Most clients have an idea of what their resources look like from the beginning of the conversation. They may not have all the details worked out but they have a rough idea of their budget and timeline. Listen to their needs and ask them the big questions prior to quoting the project. If throwing out a ballpark budget makes them hesitate, give them one at this stage. This is a critical step that allows the budget to drive features you scope for them.
If their proposed budget is too low we will suggest cutting features and when it’s too high we will suggest a more appropriate budget as we’re scoping (this might mean making less profit up front but it builds trust between you and the client).
When quoting a new project and having to work within budget constraints don’t ever let quality slip. Just because a client doesn’t have deep pockets doesn’t mean they should be stuck dealing with interns.
When we’re working on tight budgets we prioritize features that need to be built. You should be able to quickly figure out what the “core feature set” is and what can be built after launch and offer to build in phases as more budget becomes available.
It’s also important to remember that sometimes the budget and scope simply won’t line up. It’s better to turn a project down than to deliver something that may not be up to standards. Releasing poorly done projects can kill your business quickly.
One of the greatest challenges clients and agencies face is simply getting on the same page. It can be difficult to have a clear set of expectations for what needs to be done and who’s responsible doing it. It’s pretty common to address this by having the agency draft a scope of work (SOW). The scoping process should not stop there, you should set aside time to collaborate with your client on the SOW to make sure everyone is on the same page with expectations.
In addition, your SOW should always be written in “plain English” so that all parties involved know what’s being communicated to them. It can be accurate and technically detailed, but a CFO should still be able to read it and understand what he or she is paying for.
Alternatively, it’s also worth noting that SOW’s are not always appropriate. When a scope of work can’t clearly be defined up front make sure you spend time resource planning with the client so budgets and expectations are still clear even if the scope isn’t.
Sometimes the most nerve-wracking part of contracting out a project on the clients side is thinking about what happens after the project launches. Other times clients may think of post-launch support as an afterthought and only bring it up when an issue arises.
Be straightforward and let clients know that websites and apps need to be maintained in the long-term and work on creating a strategy that works for both sides. If you offer support from the beginning of the conversation it may reduce their anxiety and help you book retainer hours that can be critical to your business’ success.
I used to be convinced that if I responded to emails too quickly clients would get the impression that we’re not busy with other work, which would make them value my time less. This is not the case at all. As we’ve started working with larger companies, especially in the Fortune 500 space, I’ve learned that time is of the essence and they’ll appreciate speedy responses as sometimes they’re hard to come by in the agency space.