If you travel outside the realm of marketing for just a minute and into the realm of human relationships, it’s common knowledge that managing expectations is one of the most important keys to minimizing disappointments.
As a marketing agency, you would probably agree that every action you take is to benefit your clients, but sometimes your clients might not see it that way. No matter how hard you are working to exceed client expectations, sometimes you run into a client that feels you are not living up to your end of the deal.
While it is indeed difficult to master the art of managing expectations, it is a skill that you can acquire with practice. Here are some tips to help you learn how to manage the expectations of your clients.
- Set goals together
The most important thing you can do when starting a campaign with a new client is to set goals. This process, when done correctly, will keep you both on the same page. When setting goals, consider all of the following tips.
- Listen to your client’s goals. Before you set up any metrics or make any campaign decisions, it’s vital to know what your clients actually want out of your business deal. Ask them what they are trying to achieve with their marketing campaigns. Ask them about previous experiences and what they would like to see happen differently this time around. Find out what their overarching goals are by having a candid discussion. Ask them, and then listen. Once you know what your clients actually want, it will be much easier to meet and exceed expectations.
- Talk about your goals. After you have a good grasp on what your client’s goals are, it’s time to let them know what you are expecting out of the campaign. After all, they hired you to offer smart insight into their marketing dealings.
- Decide on measurable goals together. When setting goals together, make sure that each goal is tangible and measurable. This means each goal should have trackable metrics you can send to your client in a marketing report each week. If there is no way to track a goal, then you can count on mismatched expectations. Once you have discussed what each of you hopes to achieve by working together, write down your goals.
- Monitor your progress
After you have a clear set of goals, you need to monitor your progress with a top-of-the-line analytics and reporting tool. When looking for an analytics and reporting tool to use, make sure it:
- Integrates all popular analytics tools (Facebook Insights, Bing Ads, Google Adwords, Twilio, etc.) into one convenient location like a marketing dashboard
- Displays all metrics both numerically and visually (big numbers, charts, graphs, etc.)
- Provides real-time data
- Sets up automated reporting to key stakeholders including your boss, your team, and your clients
- Allows for detailed note-taking
When you monitor your progress, clients can see how far you have come from your initial consultation. You can use real data to explain why you are making certain marketing decisions and to show your progress.
- Educate your client
One of the biggest mistakes marketing agencies make is assuming that clients will understand how you are achieving your goals without giving them any education on the metrics and systems you are using for measurement.
Before even starting your campaign, take the time to quickly familiarize your client with the analytics and reporting tools you will be using together. Let them know why you choose the metrics you did, and what those metrics mean in terms of progress. Also, show your clients how to login to their marketing dashboard, so they can view progress themselves. Finally, tell them when you will be sending reports, what you will include in the reports, and how they can best reach you and ask questions.
Remember that while marketing metrics are second nature to you (which is why they hired you), there may be a learning curve for your clients. When you take the time to explain how the metrics and reporting tools are helping, you are more likely to stay on the same page.
- Communicate clearly and document communications
Have you ever had a you-said/I-said conversation with a client where neither one of you seems to remember exactly what was promised? This situation is all too common in business relationships and usually ends up in a fight where, once again, mismatched expectations are at fault.
To avoid this problem, work hard to communicate clearly by first providing an overview about what you are going to talk about in your client call, talking about it point by point, and then reviewing what you talked about on your call.
When you are done with the call, send your client an email with a quick outline of what you went over and highlight your key points and agreements. Additionally, take notes in your client management software so that other team members can reference the notes when needed. It may seem like overkill, but I promise your clients will appreciate it, and it will help prevent expectations from becoming muddled.
- Underpromise and over deliver
If there is one thing you take from the article, let it be this: underpromise and over deliver. If you want to truly wow your clients, then don’t promise them the world up front and then wait for them to watch you fall short. When you continue to underdeliver, your clients will get frustrated, wonder what they are paying you for, and seek marketing help elsewhere.
Instead, promise the minimum of what you know you can achieve (within the range of their expectations, of course), and then your clients will be pumped when you deliver much more than they were ever expecting to get out of the relationship.
- Send detailed reports
Another great way to over deliver is to send detailed reports. It’s easy to pick up a phone and call your client to let them know how things are progressing, but you go above and beyond when you send them a report that outlines the details of your call.
Remember that not only do you want to send them the numbers, but you also want to explain in layman’s terms (accompanied with beautiful visuals) how their campaigns are performing, what the numbers are saying, and what insights for future actions you are getting from the data. Reporting tools, when used correctly, are your best friends when it comes to winning over your clients.
- Build a long-term relationship
When working day-in and day-out with multiple clients, it’s easy to think inside a small box, complete daily tasks, and forget about your clients until your calendar tells you it’s time to send them a report or contact them.
If you really want to exceed their expectations, shoot for building a long-term relationship. You can do this by calling them frequently, providing them with extra tips for improvement, being personable in your interactions, and working hard to show you care about the progress of their campaigns.
Focusing on building long-term relationships is worth the extra effort, because it means continued business and often referrals. It’s just worth the extra time.
- Have a plan of attack for upsets
As a marketing agency, you are familiar with how often outside variables can affect your marketing campaigns. Just think about Google algorithm updates, keyword bid price changes, Gmail functionality improvements that make email marketing more difficult, SEO changes, updates to analytics tools, and mores. Each one of these instances can upset the balance that your client is used to.
Before starting a campaign, it’s wise to inform your clients that changing variables can affect the outcome of their marketing campaigns, so they know to expect it. Additionally, it’s good to have a plan off attack to overcome these obstacles. For example, when you are aware of market changes and are working hard to monitor KPIs with analytics, you can usually prevent problems and come up with a solution before your client even knows the market made an impactful change.
Since your clients are the ones funding your business, managing their expectations to keep them happy should be your number one priority. As you set goals, monitor your progress, educate your clients, send reports, communicate clearly, focus on long-term relationships, and plan for any potential upsets, you will see your client relations improve greatly.