By Steve Randazzo
In any relationship — personal, professional, or romantic — great things happen when everyone commits to speaking openly, honestly, and frequently. Otherwise, key details slip through the cracks, nagging issues never get addressed, and the end result leaves everyone feeling dissatisfied.
This holds especially true when it comes to the sacred bond between marketing agencies and clients. And, just recently, my company — an experiential marketing agency — was reminded of this important fact.
One of our clients made it very clear to us that they preferred a more hands-off approach. When we suggested weekly meetings about the status of the program, we got a quick “Thanks, but no thanks” in return. Instead of pushing back and insisting on our preferred, more frequent communication schedule, we accepted the client’s request and continued creating and hosting marketing events on its behalf … for several wordless weeks.
Once it was time for the mid-program analysis, we finally got back in touch with the client and learned that its sales team was having trouble following up with the leads we were generating. Of course, we responded politely and helped the client address the issue — but in our heads, we were screaming, “It would have been nice to know this a lot earlier!”
If we’d had open communication with the client, its team would have realized the importance of frequent communication. And had we communicated frequently with the client, we could have addressed the issue several weeks earlier.
3 Tips for Talking It Out
Unfortunately for marketers, we can’t just call up Dr. Phil or Oprah when we’re struggling to communicate openly and honestly with clients. We can, however, try out these three tips:
- Give a Little. All healthy relationships require a little give and take. Each client is different, so you can’t run to one tried-and-true communication playbook for all of them. One client might want its space and prefer to exchange messages through email on a weekly basis, while another client might want daily Skype calls. Even if weekly phone calls are what work best for your agency, going out of your way to make clients comfortable builds trust — and pretty much all clients and agencies (98 percent) believe that relationships built on trust lead to better results.
Don’t ignore a client’s adamant request for daily updates; be flexible. But being flexible doesn’t mean throwing your structured business systems and processes out the window or spending tons of time and money doing things that fall outside your wheelhouse. Pride yourself on owning the processes and being the experts, but also show clients you care enough to make an effort to meet their communication needs.
- Don’t Hold Your Peace. Only 36 percent of agency leaders say they feel comfortable speaking their minds freely in uncomfortable situations. Early on in a relationship, letting this fear get the better of you when it’s time to discuss key topics (like deadlines) will only lead to headaches and heartbreak down the road.
Don’t stay silent or bottle up your feelings. The earlier you can establish your expectations, the more you can avoid the expensive and troublesome repercussions of getting off schedule.
- Find Your Common Ground. In order for a relationship to thrive, everyone must be paddling in the same direction. Otherwise, they spin in circles while struggling to achieve what they originally set out to do.
The best relationships result when all parties are able to identify the mutual benefits of a successful pairing. With that shared goal in mind, it becomes so much easier for the relationship to evolve into one that embraces and reaps the rewards of open communication.
A commitment to open communication builds respect, boosts morale, and drives results. It helps brands and agencies grow together, learn together, and, best of all, win together. Sounds like a match made in heaven.
Steve Randazzo is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc., an experiential marketing agency located in Missouri. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Steve has longstanding relationships with big-name clients, including Dr Pepper Snapple Group, The Walt Disney Company, Hewlett-Packard, Duck Brand, Fiskars, Citgo, the NBA, and Tractor Supply Co.