At our May Homegrown, Tony Cope, Co-Founder and Executive Producer at Myriad Media shared what he has learned about client relationships during his 22 years as a video producer.
Who are you?
Tony advises when beginning a project with a client, particularly a new client, start with defining who are you, and who the client is. Establish who is bring what to the table for each side. Get everyone on the same page as to what skills are needed, how many hours the project is estimated to take, and what the deliverables will be.
Determine what the clients needs are and define the project. Outline the responsibilities of the client and your team. Together all this information will become the project’s creative brief. Spend a lot of time on this, so that the brief is clearly defined. It will be referred to during the duration of the project, and is the basis to judge the scope of the project, and when things go out of that scope.
When a client starts giving suggestions or asking questions that go outside of scope. Enter those discussions with care. If you give them advice, you own that. If they take it and run with it, they will blame you if it doesn’t work out. And they will likely forget you gave the advice if all goes well.
The Authoritative Arc
Tony had some great advice for how to talk with authority rather than with a question to ensure your clients trust you and have confidence in what you are saying: Say it like you mean it.
He referenced author and speaker, Nick Morgan and the authoritative arc. When you raise the pitch of your voice at the end as you answer a question, it becomes a question in itself.
Instead go down in pitch. It’s a statement of fact. Be confident. Clients will trust that. Answer a question with a statement not a question.
Creating Constructive Tension
Tony suggests that to spur a client into taking action on a recommendation, you need to make sure the client feels a sense of urgency and importance in your recommendations. If they do not feel there is a problem or the issue doesn’t really bother them, they are unlikely to take action. You need to present it in a way so that they see it as a problem. Find a way for it to have meaning to them. So that they get that tension that the issue needs to be fixed. And they need you to fix it. Figure out their pain point and bring attention to it, and how the issue will negatively impact it.
How to approach difficult conversations
All relationships at some point will encounter a conflict, and at times that conflict is the result of the actions of the client. When that happens tell the truth. No sugar, no bull. Don’t be rude, just be honest.
They may not grasp what they did or hear the tone of their voice. If it’s opinion, preface the conversation with that. If it is a fact state that.
How to fix mistakes that you make
When you are in the wrong, admit it, but don’t be an idiot about it. Don’t charge if you mess up. Do what it takes to make it right. You need to rebuild their trust in you.
Think about what you caused the client. Be humble and honest. Give them a chance to say what they need to say. Ask what you can do to fix it. Seeing how you handle a bad situation, if you do it well it can rebuild trust.
When you haven’t heard from a client from a while, keep an eye out for things they like and forward them to them. It keeps the conversation going and you stay at top of mind. Ask them to lunch just to catch up, with no agenda, just to maintain the relationship.
How to set clear objectives and roles from the start
Create processes and documents to keep everyone on track. Know where you are going and share it often with everyone. This is where that creative brief comes in handy. Keep clients informed of the project’s progress. Follow up with updates and reminders. This reduces tension and the client feels like they are being handled well. Good customer service goes a long way in building long-term relationships with clients.
How to develop new relationships from the result of successful projects
Ask for referrals. It’s not a monogamous relationship. Clients take pride in sharing a good resource to their peers. If you do get a referral, knock it out of the park because it’s not just your reputations on the line, it’s theirs too.
Q & A
After Tony’s informative presentation he was kind enough to take questions from the audience. Here are some nuggets of wisdom he shared:
- When clients start to veer off track from the brief. Bring it back up to redirect them back on track.
- Work with them so they feel they have a voice, they feel some ownership in the outcome. Even if you really pare down what their contributions are, show them some of their input.
- Don’t be the one causing the tension, because to get rid of tension the could get rid of you.
- Set boundaries and stick to them so you don’t set a precedent of fluid or flexible boundaries.
- With phone conversations where things are decided, follow up with an email, about what was discussed so you can get it writing and be sure no assumptions were made.
- Sometimes it makes more sense to fire a client.