Lessons in Managing Client Relationships

November 14, 2023

One of the most critical things I think I've learned about managing client relationships is that you have to let people tell you who they are. Then you have to listen (a lot) and really take that into account. You can’t make assumptions about the way things should go, no matter what your experience tells you. Obviously every project and every team is different. So we have a careful “feeling out” process at the beginning of each new relationship. We make sure the client is aware that’s the phase we’re in and that the type of work we do is best served when we are intimately aware of the brand with which we’re working.

We enjoy long-standing relationships with many of our clients, some of which span decades. They trust us implicitly with their brand. They can call us and say, “We need this thing for an event” with little more direction than that and know we’ll deliver what they need. But that didn’t happen on day one. We’ve worked with clients like Disney, Scripps Networks and Weather Channel for so long, we automatically have their syntax in our brains. But we had an intentional system for developing that kind of connection and ruleset.

We tell clients upfront that we’re here to build a relationship and really understand your brand, your voice and your audience. We’re here to be your partner. At the same time, we’re not here to be “yes people” either. We are experts in our field, just as they are experts in theirs. So developing that trust is the key to a successful working relationship that produces the best results. And the results of our work are our core focus. In the end it’s our job to make our partners look great through the creative solutions we bring to market together. That may mean passing on a prospective project when it is clear that the parameters will not permit an outcome that meets the clients metrics for success. As a small business, it’s hard to say no to work. But having a process that helps you truly get to know each other from the start takes the sting out of saying no those very few times – especially knowing that saying yes when it’s not right ultimately won’t benefit either of you.