As someone who has been in a client-facing role for over half a decade, I have had the pleasure of working with a variety of clients in many different industries and geographic locations. If I could summarize what I’ve learned as a project manager in the digital marketing space, it would come down to this: our clients are everything and they should be treated as such.
Doing whatever it takes to help them reach their goals should always be our top priority, and offering best-in-class customer service should be the experience we provide everyone.
To help you on your journey to building lasting client relationships, here are six ways digital marketing project managers can better serve their clients based on my personal experience over the years.
Make an effort to communicate in a way that’s digestible
As a project manager, I pride myself on being able to read between the lines and understand things that clients may not be saying out loud. If I get the sense a client doesn’t comprehend the report we’re reviewing or that they are getting lost in the technical jargon analysts are using, I’ll make an effort to adapt the way our team shares information so they will be able to understand it.
Prior to client calls, I share a call agenda for clients to review and add to if they’d like. I’ve noticed that while our internal team can easily follow the agenda as we work in a shared Google document, clients can feel lost with the order. For those clients, I’ll share a link to the call agenda at the top of the call within the chat system of the video call we’re using, and then as we progress through it, I’ll send a link to each item as we’re discussing it in order to make things as easy as possible for the client to follow.
Leave room for clients to ask questions
Project teams can often get into some trouble when they assume that a client understands everything that they’re saying or don’t allow time for them to ask questions. You can encourage clients to engage in this way by not interrupting them, leaving a few moments of silence at the end of an update, or even by phrasing things in a way that solicits a response. I’ve found that asking something as simple as “was there anything in the report we just discussed that is a priority or area of focus to you or your team?” can encourage the client to not only engage but also give feedback that can provide insight as to what is of importance to them.
Challenging questions allow us to flex what we’re able to do, bring in other team members with different areas of expertise, and show value to our clients. Tougher questions can also highlight gaps in clients’ knowledge or indicate their interest in mixing things up. This kind of feedback is really helpful in setting the direction for our work.
Put in the work to understand your client’s business model and industry
Prior to kicking off a relationship with a new client, we spend a good deal of time reviewing their website, reading about their industry, and performing preliminary SEO research. We’ll also set up some time with the person that sold the account to understand priorities that were discussed during the sales process, as well as any potential hot button items for the client. One other idea would be to set up a Google Alert for your client’s business or industry to stay in the loop on any relevant news.
Then, as we start to meet with new clients, we ask lots of questions and seek to understand who their audience is and what they want their audience to know. This is a really important step because it lets our clients know that we understand their business model and helps establish that initial level of trust in our partnership.
Use your position as a project manager to advocate for your clients
Project managers really are like the ringleader of a circus. We assign work to the various analysts on projects, keep track of milestones to ensure we’re delivering upon the proposed scope of work, and review deliverables before they get to clients to ensure they are top quality.
If you notice that someone on your project team might be missing some detail that you know is important to the client, you have the power to remind them of where to focus their efforts. Or, if you see that someone on the team is speaking above the client’s level of understanding, you can coach them to communicate in a way that might be a bit more digestible.
There are certain phrases I’ll keep an ear out for that tend to give real insight into what a client is thinking. For example, I had a client recently tell me they were “very concerned” about keyword rankings related to our SEO efforts. I immediately set up some time with our internal team to review the efforts we’d made for keyword rankings, and to discuss what we could be doing to move the needle further. Keeping an eye on these small things can go a long way in making the client feel heard and understood.
Put your best foot forward on client calls
Calls are an opportunity to really “wow” your clients and show them how hard the team has been working since you last spoke. In order to be prepared for client calls, put together an agenda that details what’s been done recently, what your team will be working on next, and anything that we need client input on. Then, share it with the greater project team for feedback. Lastly, send it off to the client for them to review before the call.
I’ve found that getting the project team to weigh in on the agenda helps them to be prepared for the things they’ll be speaking to and anticipate potential questions before getting on the phone. Allowing the client the opportunity to review it as well gives them the chance to come prepared with questions, or to bring up additional items that they’d like to discuss. Having everyone aligned with the content that will be covered really helps calls run smoothly.
Remember you are an extension of their team
It’s important to remember that you are an extension of your client’s team so you should aim to position yourself as such. Strive to be responsive to their requests, make them look good, and go above and beyond to help them out. If a client mentions an upcoming presentation to leadership, ask if there’s anything you can provide to help them prepare.
When the client knows that you have their best interest in mind and that you want their team to win, it only strengthens the client-agency relationship. And, hopefully, that will lead to a long and prosperous partnership.