A guide for agencies: Building client loyalty and keeping the wolves at bay8 minute read

Beware the wolves. Credit: Noma Bar

With Valentine’s day just around the corner, it’s a timely reminder of how important it is for creative agencies to show client love 365 days a year, not just one.

It’s a given that your agency is producing the best creative work that it can do and is constantly striving for exceptional results for clients. But, sometimes execution of creative is just not enough to keep a client.

Clients are being hunted by hungry(er) agencies and there is nothing worse than the gut-wrenching feeling when your client announces they’re going out for pitch. So how do you make sure your relationship is a long-lasting one and the hungry wolves are turned away?

Assuming your creative, results and entertaining skills are top-notch. What else can you be doing to encourage long-term client love

After working with the creative industry for nearly 50 years between us, my co-founder and I have distilled conversations with agencies large and small from all corners of the world, to four key themes for displaying maximum ‘client love’.

How do you make sure the hungry wolves are turned away? By investing in knowledge, time, activity and an ‘all hands in’ approach to your agency’s client love. Click To Tweet
  1. Knowledge
  2. Time
  3. Activity
  4. All hands in

1. Know your client’s business better than they do themselves.

You won’t be privy to a lot of insider client knowledge, but you can portray that you’re the best employee they have outside of their own organization.

  • Keep tabs on their core competitors and send through strategy and business changes you think they should be mindful of. Google alerts are great for sending regular emails on keywords, but top agencies also use tools like TalkWalker and Mention to tune into social mentioning of brands.
  • Stay on top of trends that could influence their space – from product innovation, new customer experiences, flavors, packaging design, market strategies, even new customer segments. Events and research from Trend Watching is a worthy investment, as well as ensuring you attend your client’s own conferences.  The savviest agencies will understand their client’s business right now and their possible future – and drive additional projects through the agency to address these insights. 

  • Influencer marketing is still a wildly popular strategy for brands, so know your client’s current social influencers and utilize features on software platforms such as Klear and Traackr to identify and suggest new ones (as well as track the success of existing).
Make sure you’re the best employee they have outside of their own organization. Click To Tweet

2. Show them that you value their time.

Everyone is busy. Everyone hates inefficiency and being inadvertantly slowed down. How can your agency help your client have more time in their day? Show them you value their time.

  • Use couriers to collect things on your client’s behalf. Offer to organize pick up of that new product sample, signed contract or focus group report. It’s a gesture that always gladly received and notably distinguishes your effort over other creative suppliers.
  • When you’ve invited your client to visit the agency, think about the experience you can give when you arrange an Uber to pick them up rather than them. If they do prefer to drive, have that carpark ready and waiting for them, have someone great them, and if it’s their first visit to you, email through that well-designed map of directions (alway take small moments to showcase the talent of your designers and your own brand). Not only will you make sure the meeting begins smoothly and on time, but you’ve prevented your client playing catch-up throughout their day.
  • The flourishing agencies think hard about email. They send far less and make their communication meaningful on the ones they do send. They don’t send emails with attached creative files for approval – instead, agencies at the top of their game have carefully considered how to streamline the approval process by introducing their clients to online review and approval. This gives clients all their creative files in one place to approve, and has easy tools to provide feedback. PageProof is one of these platforms and reduces collective reviewing time by up to 75% because everyone can comment on the work at the same time, and ensures ease of approving work of all types (websites, artwork, presentations, video, audio, and even 3D content). Online proofing is also used to prevent internal errors from occurring, and keeps them out of the client’s sight (and their effort of pointing them out).
  • Slack is a popular choice for leading agencies, with many of them creating specific channels for their top clients to use to avoid unnecessary phone calls, texts emails. This communication channel caters perfectly to clients often out of the office, and on the run. It also brings visibility of client communications to the forefront of non-client facing staff allowing more people to respond if the usual suspects are absent.
    Moving to the latter end of the client experience, ensuring your client can quickly and easily pay your invoice is essential. Xero really does stay true to their tagline of ‘beautiful accounting’ and lets clients pay with a click. This is just one example employed by agencies who are redefining their client experience by looking wider to include reception, accounts and legal teams.

3. Show love even during the quiet times. 

How would you feel if you didn’t hear from a loved one is a week, a month? Keeping those touch-points up regularly even when their activity is quiet is important – even if it is not direct contact. For example, share tweets and posts (this is easily set up using a tool like Buffer to monitor your client’s social news). Pop in with that coffee as you’re going by – heck, even send them a wave in Facebook.

4. The more love the merrier.

 Your whole team should be behind creating happy and loyal clients, not just those who are client-facing. And, extending the touchpoints at the client end is just as vital.

One top indie agency would send a box of smarties along with their courier packages to their client, knowing it was memorable gesture with the receptionist who would share them with her colleagues. A small, but effective touch.

Memorable gestures don’t need to be pricey bottles of champagne. Smarties anyone? Click To Tweet

Each person in the agency should know who your clients are. Can you say that now?

Everyone in your agency really knowing your clients extends to finer details such as:

  • Always spelling their company name and contact name correctly on invoices
  • Using their product or service where possible inside the agency
  • Recording details on how they like their coffee, their children’s names, and where they’re going on holiday. 
  • Congratulating them on their recent campaign, award or product launch when they arrive through the door. Just to name a few examples.

This client focus keeps a client for life and if you’re consistently delighting your client everywhere possible you will make you a formidable opponent for any competing agency romancing your client to shift.

Consistently delight your client everywhere possible, then you'll make a formidable opponent for any competing agency romancing your client to shift. Click To Tweet

Author: Gemma Hurst, co-founder of PageProof.