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When choosing clients to take on, or approaching potential new business, it's vital to identify the best-fit clients for your agency. Choosing the wrong clients results in a doubly-negative situation – not only do you end up working with a client who isn't a good fit (meaning you're not able to do your best work) but that client takes up time and resources that you could have devoted to a client that WAS a good fit.
Below are ten questions to ask yourself about any potential client. This client blueprint will help you assess if a client is right for your agency before you sign on the dotted line:
1. Do They Value Your Expertise?
A client needs to be able to trust that you're going to do the job you say you can do, and what's more, that you're qualified to do the job. If the client is questioning your reasoning behind every suggestion, and trying to tell you how to do your job, then are they really the right client for you?
2. Have They Identified Their Need?
Every project begins with a need – a simple business problem that needs to be solved. But some clients don't understand this concept – they just believe "it's time for a new website" without any reasoning as to why or what they hope to achieve. A client without a need is a client who changes expectations and parameters throughout the project, and no one wants that.
3. Can You Solve Their Problem?
Once you've established the client's need, the next question you need to answer is "can you solve it?" Admittedly, we are all guilty of trying to fit a client's need around our available services, and you can certainly hire in a freelancer for the areas of the project your agency doesn't specialise in. But are you definitely the right agency for the job? Are you a specialist graphic design agency when the client really needs a web development firm? Often clients don't understand the difference.
If you come clean and admit you might not be the best fit, and suggest another agency, you might lose the client's business for that project, but they will remember your honesty the next time they need work done.
4. Will They Provide Ongoing Work?
Is this a one-off job, or will the client likely return with more work for you in future? When looking at acquiring new clients, it is always prudent to prioritize those that are keen to forge a long-term relationship.
5. What is Their Budget?
Clients – especially those who haven't worked with an agency before, might have unrealistic expectations of how far their money will go. You don't want clients who are nickel-and-diming you every step of the process, so set accurate budgetary expectations from the beginning to ensure no one is disappointed.
6. What Are Their Expectations?
An important part of an agency's job is to manage client expectations. In a client/agency scenario, these expectations have mostly to do with budget, process and timeframe. What will the client get for their money? Is the timeframe acceptable? What is the process and what is expected of the client at each step?
Client expectation issues come to the fore during edits and revisions. Many clients don't understand what constitutes a revision, and might request a complete do over during the revision stage, instead of the concept stage when new ideas should have been discussed. It's important these concepts are managed correctly from the onset.
7. How Do They Communicate?
Communication is the most vital tool in a successful client/agency relationship. If communication breaks down, so does your relationship. How does your client prefer to communicate? Are they happy with your preferred methods? Do they have one central point of contact, or are they more of a "decision-by-committee" client? Make sure you and the client are on the same wavelength before you have them sign the contract.
8. Will Their Project Enhance Your Portfolio?
A purely selfish question, but an important one. An agency lives and dies by their portfolio – it's what you use to attract new clients and showcase your expertise. Your portfolio needs to be constantly updated and to each project carefully chosen to demonstrate your agency's strengths. Some client projects might be good to keep the business ticking over, but might not add something useful to the portfolio. Think about what you need most right now.
9. Are They Fun To Work With?
Is the client a great fit for your agency? Do they have a fantastic product and great ideas? Are they genuinely nice people who get on well with your creative team? A good relationship with a client who shares your values is what all agencies dream of.
10. Is The Project Creatively Challenging?
Your creative team don't want to do the same old jobs every day, and that's not why you hired them. Is this a client that can provide a unique creative challenge? Sometimes projects that do not meet your needs in other ways but provide your team the opportunity to stretch their creative muscles will result in a stunning piece of work for your portfolio and a reputation as an agency who gets results from creative ingenuity.
What questions do you ask yourself when taking on a new client?