Sunday, July 31, 2011

Digital Client Relationships?

Are relationships with clients becoming more digital? Of course they are. Because all relationships are founded on communication, and, as we know, communication has become more digital.

Are relationships suffering as a result? You bet. Recently, a chief marketing officer I interviewed complained of a lack of direct communication with an agency regarding a project budget. Yet, agency staff said they made many efforts to connect in-person or by phone but the CMO was always unavailable. They went digital and suffered as a result. The CMO ranked the agency poorly about the budget interactions and gave new work to a competing agency. No way to improve client retention.

When building a relationship, like anything else, firms and their partners need define what that is, how it will work, what expectations are. Get answers to questions like,

“How do you prefer to communicate and how often?”
"Do you prefer to access files in PDF through email or use our website?"
“Are you open to a monthly in-person touch base meeting? I think it would really help.”
“Who else should we be directly communicating with?”

Don’t rush into the project with a new client without a half-hour conversation focused just on these matters.  Push hard for some direct contact. Conduct occasional check-ins to assess how things are going.

Client relationships are complex interactions that require a sophisticated balance of diplomacy and doggedness. They need to be purposefully designed and not left to develop unattended, especially in the digital environment.

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