This post was originally published in September of 2015. It has since been updated.
This is part 5 of our series “Turning Clients into Creative Partners.” Previous posts in the series include Understanding Client Motivations, Managing Client Expectations During Project Intake, Managing Client Expectations During Creative Execution, and Managing Client Expectations During Review and Approval.
Building and maintaining a relationship with a client is an ongoing process that never takes time off. In the final installment of our series, we review some tactics you can use today to build more collaborative relationships with your clients.
Not Just Ticket-Takers
We frequently hear that creatives feel clients see them merely as ticket-takers. If you want to be able to shape creative strategy instead of just executing the marketing team’s requests, you have to demonstrate that your team has a strategic contribution to offer. It’s a three-step process:
1. Ask your client about their business goals. Not only in front of a specific assignment, but regularly. “What are your team’s sales goals this quarter?” “What overstock of inventory do we need to move?” “What competitive threats or innovations can we address?” You’re not just their designer. You’re also their business partner.
2. Follow up. Show your interest in KPIs. Did the work you produced help your client meet their goals? Ask questions like, “Did orders increase?” “How has on-site conversion improved since we implemented responsive design?” “Did you meet those quarterly sales goals?”
3. Perform competitive research. Do your part in collecting and sharing your client’s competitors’ communication and design strategies. Then discuss how you can outperform them across deliverables.
Let Them In
Ultimately, alignment between teams comes from shared knowledge. Educate clients on your process. An easy way to do that is to provide them with a chart that details your team’s creative workflow. Highlight the parts where they participate (such as the request and approval stages), and make them aware of potential ways projects can hit unexpected roadblocks.
An easy way to show the clients a bit of your world is through “lunch and learns.” Bring the client and creatives together to share best practices, including tips on how they can provide more thorough and effective project requests (i.e. creative briefs) and feedback on proofs. Share design techniques and current trends to find a happy balance with brand standards.
Learn From Each Other
Perhaps the most valuable learning that can come from these meetings is what clients can discover about your capabilities. If you and your team are often relegated to more redundant kinds of tasks while external vendors get the more glamorous jobs, it could be because your client simply doesn’t know you can do them.
Learning and sharing is a two-way street. Encourage your clients to share information about their industry, audience and competitors that can drive your design and communication strategy. Look for opportunities to get to know each other’s processes and motivations.
Make It Fun
Yahoo’s creative team took a novel approach to educating their clients through a series of lunch-and-learns. Since they had a chargeback model in place where brand managers and product managers make requests and accept charges to their individual P&Ls, they were able to use that to encourage participation. If clients came to a lunch-and-learn, they received “purple bucks,” which could be used to “buy” creative services. It not only increased attendance but also provided value to both parties in achieving a more cohesive working relationship.