1 Break the ice
When you’ve just won a pitch at the start of a project, arrange drinks or a social gathering with your new client. This enables the respective team members to get to know each other in an informal environment, and is a good way to kick off the partnership.
2 Do work experience
Get to really know what your new client does by spending time immersed in the business – joining the team in the field, on the shop floor or even on the production line is a great way to show your enthusiasm and build up your knowledge.
3 Communicate clearly
When it comes to communication, get the basics right. Regular status meetings ensure both parties are always informed on the project and know what is being worked on, who is responsible and what actions are required. With a strong relationship, you’ll be able to pre-empt your client’s needs, which builds trust.
4 Befriend the boss
Getting as much face-to-face time as possible with key decision-makers and involving them throughout the design process goes a long way. Doing so really helps build the relationship, as well as helping you understand the client’s team dynamic so that you can manage it more effectively.
5 Stay up to speed
Ensure regular business updates from your client are in the diary to keep you in the commercial loop. Understanding your client’s business and showing a genuine interest in it will not only make the work you do for the client better, it will also position you as a trusted partner – as opposed to simply a service provider.
6 Share the news
Similarly, with regular clients show that you understand and care about their businesses by proactively and regularly sharing ‘thought pieces’ on their industries, whether that’s detailed analysis or simply running commentary on something you’ve noticed. Doing so will also help keep you aware of potential opportunities that can be unlocked.
7 Invite input
Every successful project starts with a quality brief, and agreeing the brief up-front ensures both parties are working towards the same solution. Continue involving the client and acknowledging its input at key stages throughout the creative development process. This allows the project to feel open and collaborative, but also provides the client with a forum to raise any concerns early on.
8 Tackle hitches head-on
A clear brief acts as a reference point throughout the project, for which both parties are accountable. But if delays or disruptions to the work do occur, it’s crucial to get together in person with client teams to revisit the brief, understand the nature of the disruption and discuss any risks or implications.
9 Provide a souvenir
Take clients on the journey with you through a project, but don’t leave them behind at the finish: when a project wraps up, make sure they remember you fondly for future work by running a post-project evaluation to discuss the way things went, the effectiveness of your work and the value that you added.
10 Be generous
You may be concerned that doing little extras for a client might impact upon your bottom line, but inevitably situations will arise where you can show a degree of goodwill or help a client out of a pickle. These should never be seen as ‘freebies’, but rather a way of contributing positively to the client relationship.
All illustrations by Joe Todd Stanton
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