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Your Clients Think The Program Isn't Working, But You Disagree. Now What?

Posted by Mike Lieberman on Jul 10, 2019 8:28:00 AM

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Tips And Techniques To Make Sure You Are Always On The Same Page With Your Clients When It Comes To Results

Inbound Agency Unhappy ClientsA lot of what I write about comes from my conversions with other agency owners. As part of my consulting and Cohort Coaching programs I talk to roughly 30 agency owners each month and one of the most consistent challenges is helping clients understand their own results.

In full transparency, Square 2 is challenged with the same set of issues. I think ALL agencies deal with this, some more than others and the common denominator in all these situations is—the client. This makes the key to helping clients understand their results ALL about you and how your team works with your clients, day in and day out.

Here are some ways to ensure your clients are always on the same page with your team, when it comes to understanding where their program is and what progress they’ve made with your agency.

Weekly Status Updates

It’s important to know whether you’re working with a CEO of a smaller company, a CMO of a mid-sized company or the marketing director at a larger firm, they have work that does NOT involve you. They have their own distractions, other priorities, and personal issues that distract them from give you their full attention.

Therefore, documenting the engagement weekly is so important. At Square 2, we send weekly update status emails to every client on every Monday. This regular communication is designed to do achieve some very specific objectives.

Remind them what we’re working on – as I said, they’re NOT just working with us, so reminding them what we finished last week and what we’re working on this week is a good reminder in case they forgot or were pulled in a different direction.

1. Confirm priorities – the smaller the company the more likely they are to switch priorities or change their mind. This communication reminds them and allows them to reprioritize if need be.

2. Get their attention – they might be pulled in 100 different directions, by sending them an update email every Monday, you refocus their attention on you and get them into the rhythms you need to move the engagement forward.

3. Remind them of anything we’re waiting for from them – it’s very likely you’re waiting on them for something and this allows no more than a week to go by without a gentle reminder and education on the consequences of a continued delay.

4. Inform their bosses – if you’re not keeping your contact’s bosses in the loop on what you’re doing, you’re closer to getting fired than you even know. Leaving it up to your contact to share what’s going on with their bosses is risky. I’ve seen agencies thrown under the bus for decisions they didn’t even make. Weekly touches with the higher-ups, keeps everything above board and keeps them informed.

5. Highlight upcoming meetings – these regular emails are also a good time to remind clients of upcoming meetings. Again, they might frequently cancel meetings, or they might even be habitual miss meetings. This is highly inefficient, and you want to prevent this at all costs. Reminding them of upcoming meetings is smart.

6. Documents the engagement – finally, this regular communication provides a paper trail of everything you’ve done. Every approval, every conversation, even changes in priorities provides you an overview of the entire engagement. Should anything go wrong, or should the engagement run off the rails, you now have a chronological snapshot of the entire engagement.

That’s a ton of value from a simple weekly email update. With a few different update templates, this takes roughly five to 10 minutes per client and also give you a clear picture of what you’ve committed to for the week and what your agency team needs to complete for every client.

Monthly Planning

Different agencies do client planning in different ways. Some plan 90 days at a clip, some weekly, I even heard of an agency that does four-month plans (not sure why, but they probably have a reason). The key to knowing the frequency for planning is both execution and client engagement.

Planning work every 30 days allows this to be done frequently enough to keep the client engaged and allow you to accomplish some significant movement before planning comes around again.

If you’re doing this correctly, you’ll be co-creating the 30-day plans with your client about two weeks before the month starts—which should keep them engaged and excited about what you’re doing for them.

This frequency also allows them to drive priorities and when their business goals or direction changes, you can quickly change your direction too. Anything longer than 30 days runs the risk of being too far removed from the client’s own planning process. Anything shorter is too time-consuming for the client and won’t allow you to make enough progress to show value.

Monthly Progress Reports

Everyone already knows progress reports are key and I’m sure almost all of you are doing some form of progress reporting for clients. But just like the weekly status emails, there are other objectives that need to be woven into your monthly progress reporting process.

First, this is an opportunity to make sure the CEO is part of these conversations. Whether they are engaged or not, this is the once a month meeting that they need to attend.

Next, this session needs to be the bridge from one month to the next that keeps your engagement and retainer going. Remind them of all the value you added last month and all the value you have planned for the upcoming month. The client should be thinking, “wow, that was a lot and they’re doing some very critical work this month, we could never do this without them.”

Finally, and this is the most obvious. You have to show positive up and to the right results. You should have an idea of their expectations and you should be meeting, but hopefully exceeding those expectations. 

However, if you’re not, and you won’t always be killing it, you have to come to this meeting with an action plan on how to get the results back up and to the right. Clients want to know you have a plan and it shouldn’t’ be something that sounds like “random acts of marketing.”

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Databox Reporting

It’s worth mentioning because Progress Reporting is NOT showing Databox dashboards. The dashboards are a great tool, but only for finding insights and recommendations on how to improve performance.

Yes, clients want to see graphs and charts that show progress, but they really want to know what the data means and it’s your job to help them interpret the data.

Telling them you got 30 leads this month versus 25 leads last month isn’t interesting. Telling them what caused the leads to go up by 20% and how you can take that insight and drive leads next month by 25% is what they’re looking for.

It's very likely that those insights are NOT in the Databox dashboards but inside your team’s combined knowledge and experience. If coming up with these insights and recommendations is challenging, consider a tool like MaxG. It serves up insights and recommendations for you allowing you to skip the dashboards altogether.

90 Day Strategy Sessions

We mentioned a few times, clients have shiny object syndrome and are constantly changing their minds, shifting gears and changing their direction. In some cases, this is important to their businesses and a requirement.

Our job is to create an engagement that is flexible enough to change with them. By meeting with them every 90 days to have them brief us on their business, industry, goals, objectives and aligning their marketing and sales execution with their high-level business strategy ensures your engagement is always aligned and on point.

Planning 90 days of strategy and three 30-day sprints give you the opportunity to always sure that your work is tightly connected to your client’s overall business strategy.

Defining Success Every 90 Days

Finally, we started out this article talking about clients who are not on the same page with you around the success of the engagement. We’ve struggled with this too.

But six months ago, we started asking every client, every 90 days to define success. Very specifically, we ask them to tell us what we have to do to make them a reference. What goals do we have to achieve? What specifically does success look like?

In some months, success might be a set of deliverables. In other months, it might be quantitative goals like leads or new customers. Every 90 days the definition of success can change.

The secret here is gaining agreement on the definition of success with the clients. For example, if they think success is 100 leads in 90 days, but right now they only get two or three leads a month, then getting them 100 might be very challenging. Here’s where the conversation becomes educational and where an agreement has to be struck. Your team has to agree on what they can do based on the client’s current situation, their investment and the plan.

In this case, your team might be comfortable with 50 leads. Can you get the client to agree that going from six leads a quarter to 50 leads a quarter would be a very successful 90 days? If you can, you’re ready to go. Now everyone is on the same page, every single quarter.

What you should be feeling is it take a number of different components to keep your clients from questioning whether the program is working or not. Just doing one of these won’t be enough. You have to do all of them to keep your clients positively engaged, happy and referenceable.

Once you get all these playbooks up and running, once you get your team executing the conversations that go along with these motions, and once you get your clients into the rhythms required for a positive engagement, you’ll have a lot fewer issues with unhappy clients.

I know that will make you a lot happier


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Start Today Tip – Keeping clients happy and engaged with the actual results you’re providing them is g them is key to growing your agency. Start with just one of the recommendations above. You might already be doing Progress Reports, so you won’t have to worry about that, but add one of the ideas you’re not doing. Let that run for a month and then add another tactic. Keep iterating on the tactics you are using. You might need to give your team a Weekly Status Email Template, you might have to role play the What Does Success Look Like conversation. But over time you’ll see happier and happier clients. That’s the goal for all agencies and you’ll be well on your way.

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Topics: client results, setting client expectations, Client Satisfaction

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