The Art of Client Communication

By Lara Lowery | Production Associate at Hanapin Marketing

Client communication can feel like a battle, a war that never ends, a constant struggle to feel like you have control of the relationship and of the account. There’s an ancient Chinese military strategy book that is considered the ultimate combat guide, The Art of War, written by military general Sun Tzu. When thinking of client communication, I thought of this novel and how it guides soldiers to subdue their foes without really fighting. So apply that to client communication. (Not that your clients are necessarily foes, but sometimes it can certainly feel like you’re at odds with each other). After many client interactions, I have developed my own strategy when facing weekly calls, writing daily emails, and dealing with the ever changing performance. This has helped me to feel more confident when speaking with clients.

 

A few tips to implement a strategy when approaching communication with your client:

  1. Organization
    1. It is extremely important to stay organized. In doing this, find a system that works for you where you keep track of all tasks, notes, emails, etc. so you can reference it quickly.
  2. Documentation
    1. A way to save time down the road or to recall changes that have been made, it is important to document everything. Document and date everything. Any changes that are made to the account, any new campaigns built, any budget changes, any new strategy going forward, be sure to document it all and keep a record. This can save confusion down the line if the client comes back to ask why something changed or what was the cause for a performance increase/decrease.
    2. Keep your documentation organized. An easy way to document all reports you pull and create is to set up a drive folder and share it with your client. That way your client can easily reference things when they have questions without contacting you.
  3. Notation
    1. Take diligent notes of every phone conversation. If the client is a large team, make sure you know who does what on the team. It is also a good idea to write down which team member made a decision, gave you direction, gave you instruction, etc. so that if it ever comes up in the future, you can reference what was discussed and decided upon.
    2. Keep all your notes. Be an email hoarder. Designate a folder just for call notes, agendas, follow ups.
  4. Communication
    1. Clearly communicate any changes that you propose, whether in writing or on the phone. Practice what you are going to say; if you have trouble on phone calls, write down a script to help you remember how to explain a new tactic or strategy. For emails, have a co-worker or supervisor read through any emails you send to be sure it is understood and clear.
    2. Under communication that most difficult thing to do is to communicate mistakes. However, it is crucial that you do so if/when you find one. This may feel scary because you don’t want to upset the client, but it will set the stage for an open and honest relationship where trust can be formed.
    3. When communicating, figure out the way that the client prefers to communicate. Some want daily calls, weekly calls, bi-weekly calls, it all depends on the client and the seasonality of the account (or if there is seasonality). Make sure that the client feels comfortable with how much, or how little, they are in contact with you.
  5. Reiteration
    1. Follow up every phone conversation with a summary of what was talked about and decided on. This helps with your organization, your documentation, and your notation.
    2. Date your follow ups.
    3. In your follow ups, be sure to write who is responsible for what tasks or for follow through with something.
  6. Summarization
    1. At the beginning of each call, summarize the previous week’s action items. This will help keep everyone on the same page and keep everyone aware of what is being done on this account.
    2. This is also a way to keep everyone, you/your team and your client/your client’s team, accountable for tasks to be completed.

Each client is different, just like each account manager is different. However, in having a plan of action in place for when you deal with clients can help to make you feel more confident that you have all your soldiers in line. Create a strategy that is best for you when approaching your clients so that you don’t have to fight and you don’t have to constantly put out fires. Make a treaty with your client so that you can have a relationship of comradery and not animosity.

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