Advice on Managing Client Relationships
It’s no small feat when you win new business. However, like many things in life, that glorious honeymoon period will undoubtedly come to the end and the focus will shift to building and maintaining a working relationship together for the long term.
First Things First
When it comes to signing up clients in the first place, being realistic and honest will prevent heartbreak in the long run. If what they are looking for simply isn’t realistic on the budget they have provided, then you need to say so. Otherwise it’s a recipe for disappointment and potential distrust. For instance in MedComms terms, you cannot run an international diabetes conference if the funding will only cover a small KOL (key opinion leaders) meeting.
Once strategy, goals and timelines have been agreed upon, ensure that you and the team have a strong understanding of the brief. Set out multiple agency contacts for your client and be certain that everyone is clear on their role within the project. There are a wide variety of techniques and products to help with this, for example project bubble. Some of these apps are excellent for long and detailed tasks and even let you provide the client with access to certain areas, thereby providing them peace of mind.
At the very least endeavour to put internal failsafe systems in place. In particular plan for your presentations and meetings. Be sure that anyone attending meetings with the client has a clear and predetermined role otherwise you run the risk of making someone look superfluous to requirements which won’t go down well when you bill for their hours. For instance medical writers or copywriters in on pitch meetings should be contributing ideas rather than using it as a learning opportunity.
In any relationships, business or otherwise, communication is key. You need the ability to be able to listen to what your client is saying, but also when they cannot quite put their feelings or ideas into words. Occasionally clients will approach agencies with an ambitious concept that they cannot quite articulate or will provide vague feeling on feedback relating to a project. In these situations you will need to rely on your intuition and experience of the client to help translate it into a plan of action. Although once doing so make sure you relay the plan back to the client to ensure that is what they meant. Never make assumptions!
Whilst taking on board your client’s comments, it is also important to let the client know your thoughts and feelings throughout the relationship. Keeping them in the loop with what’s going on is the best way to build trust. If you can be proactive with delivering both business wins and snags in the project they’ll know that you’re part of a responsible agency.
It’s a tricky tightrope maintaining that delicate balance between generating new business and looking after existing accounts. Get everyone in your business on the same page when it comes to your client retention plan. Do your team members at all levels know precisely who you’re working with and what you’re doing with them? Are the most appropriate people for the job being assigned to the project?
Just because you’re working on a specific brief for a client doesn’t mean that all communications need strictly pertain to updates on it. Bear in mind that you are not just a ‘yes’ person, accommodating every whim of the person at the other end of the phone line. You should be able to provide them with advice, direction and input. Primarily because you know their business inside and out, your subject knowledge and market awareness is so profound and you know full well what they’re trying to achieve. Keep posted on their competitor’s latest news or the future of their specific drug market. After all this insight is partly why clients will use outside agencies.
As assignments progress and draw to a close, keep a very firm grasp of the finances. Ensure that you’ve prioritised well and that no one has to run themselves (too) ragged in order to keep all the plates spinning. The best way to build credibility is to deliver on time, under budget (if possible) and an end product reflects what the client provided in the brief. You can’t do that if you’ve been too wild with your initial promises.
At the end of a project do you’re utmost to get feedback. Are they happy with how the agency performed? What could have been better? Understanding your client and their business will naturally help in this endeavour. If you know what drives them then your solutions will be more in line with their company ethos and this in turn will help gain repeat business.
In summary, maintain good communication and planning of all projects. Naturally no two clients or briefs will be the same. But keeping the advice mentioned in mind will help you come to grips with maintaining those important relationships.
If you handle the accounts side of your medcomms agency or are looking for some advice to progress your career in medical communications our newest consultant Jordan Gomaz will be happy to help:
or call 0118 9522 792