You’ve put the hard work in, talked through your stellar portfolio, reeled off your perfectly polished sales pitch, wined and dined and charmed their socks off, and now you’ve got a brand new client signing on the dotted line.
You dance around the office, treat yourself to the fancy chocolate biscuits (you know, the ones kept for “business meetings only”) and get ready to clink some glasses over your most expensive champagne.
Then realisation hits – you’ve got a new client. And they’re a really big deal. Nailing this project will boost your agency’s profile in the industry for years. Not to mention, you’ve already put a heck of a lot of energy and resources into getting this far. You really can’t afford to mess this one up.
What on earth do you do?
Step 1: Get Them Onboard
First things first: you need to make sure the client is on the same page as you! You’re talking kerning and pantone swatches, they’re throwing in words like asymmetric shock and back-end ratios – in short, if you don’t get versed in each other’s language, the project is likely to quickly become a hot mess! You want to get them to get them excited about the same stuff and ideally speaking “creative” as fluently as you.
That’s where kickass client onboarding comes in. This is the process of getting your client acquainted with the way you do things. It’s also a great way of introducing them to your awesome culture.
You need to run a client kickoff meeting.
The kickoff meeting is where you get to talk creative briefing methods, ways of working, discuss communication and collaboration tools and any training and educational resources available during the course of the project to bring both sides up to speed. You want to make it as easy as possible for the client to understand your world and vice versa.
Done right, the kickoff meeting will reduce confusion down the line and lay the groundwork for a great working relationship. Where most agencies would jump right into the project, you want to add extra value.
The kickoff meeting shouldn’t be one-sided – you want the client to contribute as much as they can – so try and make the session interactive, fun and educational. Think leave-behinds, training materials, booklets – creative agencies, this is your opportunity to get creative! Make sure you download The New Client Kickoff Playbook for more ideas on how to go about this.
Step 2: Manage Client Expectations
Clients can’t help being a little design ignorant – they’re experts at their thing, and they rely on you to be the expert at your thing. However, because these clients don’t understand your process or your industry, they often expect impossible things and demonstrate a very “selective” understanding of what exactly you do.
Managing expectations is about getting your new client to understand their role in the creative process, and yours. How can you do this?
You need to establish great communication tools and processes from the outset.
This will help you keep clients in the loop throughout so they know exactly what to expect and when – so they’re not banging on your door at 4pm on a Friday afternoon wondering where the final proofs are! For example, you could decide to hold regular check-ins via Skype, host weekly working sessions at your agency and even set up a client login to your project management software for clients to view progress on their jobs. Check out the WorkflowMax Collaboration manager for more details of how to do this in WorkflowMax.
Step 3: Use The Right Tools For The Job
Without the right systems in place to manage the shiny new project, things are going to be very, very hard. There should be a method to the madness after all, as much as creatives like to wing it. Imagine if you were relying solely on your filing skills (no matter how amazing they are) and your desktop calendar to keep everything ticking along smoothly? Where would you store conversations against a job? And the notes or documents associated with them? Would endless email chains become the norm? And what about the painful task of time tracking on bits of paper, every Friday evening when the week just been is already a big blur? There’s got to be a better way!
There is. We’re glad you asked!
You need an integrated project management software like WorkflowMax.
Say hello to complete end-to-end visibility over your projects. This will save you heaps of time down the line – not to mention make the entire process of managing a project from start to finish a breeze. Some of the benefits include:
- A dedicated client manager in the software itself – you don’t want to make a big faux pas by mixing up your new client’s details with a previous client’s files!
- Your information’s in the cloud so you can work easily from wherever you are. You never have to worry about pesky USBs or dodgy server connections again! There’s even a handy WorkflowMax app for iOS so you can take your project with you, wherever you go! (We know how much creatives love their Apple devices!)
- Online time tracking & timesheets made easy (everyone’s who’s ever worked in an agency loathes these with a passion but WorkflowMax makes entering time a piece of cake!)
- Super easy document management – everything in one place so filing is, saving heaps of time
For the full list of features and benefits, get an overview here.
Step 4: Bring In The A-Team
Every agency has one – and when their powers are combined…
Well, let’s just say, things get real.
The beauty of the A-team is that it can be customised for a specific project or client. In fact, that’s when the real magic happens! Think about the specific skillsets required for the job and the client. The size and scope of the project will determine how much resource to allocate. Typically (though every agency differs!) you’ll want a strategic hat (researcher/strategist), a creative and an account manager or your main point of contact: the project manager or lead.
Step 5: Do Your Background Research
Tempted as you are to launch into this project guns blazing, chasing glory, there are benchmarks and standards you should investigate, research on competitors which needs to be done, a whole lot of self-education to achieve before you deem yourself competent to find an effective solution to the client’s problems. You can’t just make something pretty and hope that’s good enough.
We suggest tackling the project with a good deal of curiosity and yes, a dollop of courage! Knowing your stuff will show respect for what the client does and builds trust. You want to show them that you take your work seriously!
Research can be quantitative or qualitative, depending on what the project needs. This “discovery” phase is super important and will let you uncover insights the client may have forgotten to tell you. You’re approaching the problem from a new angle, so ask them anything you’re unsure of or want more information about.
Stakeholder interviews are a great way of doing this while desktop research will give you a fair indication of what’s happening in the industry as a whole. We love using Google Trends to compare what’s happening between us and competitors for example.
Step 6: Collaborate!
The client just doesn’t get it…
They don’t understand design
They’re not creative…
Sound familiar? Unfortunately that’s an overriding sentiment still prevailing in the creative world today. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Big Magic states “if you’re alive, you’re a creative person”. I think it’s a beautiful sentiment, one that we should try to reflect in our work and client relationships. And besides, bringing clients into the nitty gritty of the project is a HUGE advantage, when they know the ins and outs of their industry better than we could ever hope to.
The good news is technology has made collaboration even easier, with tools like Workflowmax, Basecamp and Invision, where you can collaborate on drafts and concepts, dramatically cutting down on iterations, quickly get feedback, reduce timelines (and more importantly reduce stress and drama – yay!).
(Bonus tip: Here’s what NOT to do when collaborating with your clients!)
So there you have it, six steps to follow when you land a new client and set the relationship up for success. What to know what happens after? Check out our tips on client retention.