How to Identify Problems BEFORE They Come Up In a Client Meeting

by: Colby West

As an experienced consultant, you’ve come to understand that a large part of your job involves customer relationships. It’s not uncommon for clients to either praise you for their high position in the search results, or on the flip side, call and chew you out for a sudden drop in rankings.

Month End Client Marketing Report ProblemsDuring your time as a consultant, you’ve probably run across the following situation. You put together a report and send it off to your client, only to find out that they are upset with the results. Then, to repair the damage, you have to spend extra time explaining the report, how you are still on track to accomplish goals, and why they really do need you. In short, it’s a big pain, it strains the relationship, and you want to avoid this kind of interaction at all costs.

When it comes right down to it, you really are in the business of customer service as much as you are in the business of marketing consulting.

In an effort to help your consulting experience remain positive, here are some ways to identify potential problems and solve them before they even come up on a client call.

Set goals together

The first step in avoiding an upsetting client call is to make sure you are on the same page from the get-go. You do this by setting goals together.

Remember that setting goals isn’t as easy as 1-2-3. It takes time, practice, and a lot of initial communication, but it will make a world of difference in your client relationships.

To set achievable goals, you want to evaluate the current position of your client. In other words, if you are setting SEO goals, for example, and your client doesn’t even have a website yet, you may not want to set the goal to be on the first page within the first month.

Remind them that it takes time for a website to grow organically, and start with a smaller more attainable goal. Then, you can grow from there. In this particular situation, you may want to start with goals to analyze the competition, evaluate keywords, and work on the internal structure of their website before even thinking about search engine rankings.

Once you have some achievable, yet challenging, goals defined, you want to run down your list and also make sure the goals you set together are measurable.

After all, measuring goals is where you come in as a consultant to really wow your client. You want to reiterate that you understand their goals, and then let them know how you will measure their goals. If you identify that you have some goals that don’t seem measurable, then go back to the drawing board, so you can set a goal that is measurable.

As you define your goals and make sure they are measurable, you will be able to avoid running into problems of clients feeling that their expectations are not being met, because you will both know exactly what the expectations are and how you will be measuring those expectations.

Use reporting tools to measure goals

As a highly paid consultant, one of your top priorities it to make sure you are using the right data as a way of measuring the goals you set together.

This includes using analytics and reporting tools in order to give your customers the numbers, effectively explain the story the numbers tell, and provide ideas for improvement.

Not only will this process help your clients know how their campaigns are doing, but it will help them realistically understand how and how long it will take to get where they want to be.

As you use reporting tools and analytics you will be able to show how the deliverables are being attained. As you stick to the goals and KPIs you’ve discussed with your client, you’ll have a happy client.

Document well all your communications

One of the most frustrating experiences in any consultant and client relationship is a lack of proper documentation of all interactions.

As a quick example, let’s travel outside the world of marketing and enter the world of medicine.

Let’s say you have been seeing a physician about an ongoing health issue. When you call their office for a follow up appointment, it’s likely you will speak with a receptionist, or a nurse, rather than the doctor.

The last thing you want to do is spend a considerable amount of time relaying the details of your story and previous interactions with the physician in order to get a simple follow up appointment, prescription refill, or any necessary tests. In order to avoid this problem, you would need documentation of previous visits available that quickly bring anyone up to speed.

While there are laws for physicians that make full disclosure difficult, thankfully, there aren’t the same laws for marketers.

As you document your interactions by taking notes, sending up follow emails, and making metrics available to all of your staff, you can easily avoid this type of client frustration. Instead of clients being upset about having to you and needing to relay all the information about their goals, progress, and future direction to another member of your team, all the information will already be there, and you will impress the socks off of them.

Provide monthly client reports

Another great way to identify problems before they even come up on a client call is by providing your clients with detailed monthly reports.

When you provide a monthly report, don’t just send them the numbers. Send details. This means writing a report that explains in layman’s terms how each campaign is doing.

When you provide a summary of what you have done each month, how well their KPIs are performing, and the progress they are making, they will both have a reference for evaluation and their questions will most likely be answered in advance.

Call often

A monthly report will certainly offer detailed information about their marketing campaigns, but it can’t replace the good old fashioned phone call. To get the best results, when you make your calls, make sure you are leading the call.

Leading the call means having action items pre-planned. Instead of waiting for your client to ask questions about the report, draw their attention to the positive and the negatives, and let them know how you suggest moving forward.

Take the time to prepare for your calls in advance so you are not caught off guard by a question, and schedule additional time in case the call runs long.

Always have a plan of attack

Everyone in the marketing world understands how many variables can affect a marketing campaign—whether it be a social media, paid search, search engine optimization, or email marketing.

Things can go awry with a Google update, a bold competitor move, or even a change in keyword price, and it’s your job to be aware of these changes, and make an informed plan of attack to overcome obstacles.

When you are aware of market changes and monitoring KPIs with analytics, you can preempt problems, come up with a solution, and get things back where they need to be.

Don’t be afraid to share your expertise

Finally, it’s vital to show your value to your client. Remember that you are the expert, not them. That is why they hired you for consulting help. Make sure that you are going above and beyond to share information with them that they either couldn’t have found themselves, or don’t have the time to find themselves.


As you set goals with your client, stay focused on the data, and provide detailed and helpful reports (both written and verbally) to your clients, you’ll find that you are putting a smile on each of your client’s faces.

Colby West
Colby West is the President & Co-Founder of TapClicks
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