Managing your client relationship for long lasting success

June 10, 2013

Successful project management equals a happy client. A happy client equals business longevity and everyone lives happily ever after. This is very simple concept that at first glance is as tranquil as enjoying a fairy tale. But fairy tales are in the realm of fiction, and it takes hard work to keep everyone blissful.

When my smart phone bings at 6:20am, my dreams are replaced by awaiting clients. These very real clients are expecting me to deliver brilliant solutions within or below budget. To turn my fairy tale into reality, I turn to these five basic tips for keeping my projects running smoothly and efficiently:

 

  1. Clearly understand your client’s project goals, needs & expectations, and have proper documentation to support it. To start the project, have an official kick off meeting/call that includes all the key players reviewing project goals, discussing roles and responsibilities of each participant, and agreeing upon the timing, budgets and expectations of project deliverables. Be sure to have a signed proposal that captures all the details of the project plan, and that you have buy-in from those responsible for approvals.
  2. Surround yourself with the appropriate support team – from the client side to the agency side, and all points in between. In completing Step 1, one begins to understand the approval process on the client side. Understand and be an integral part in the approval process. Scope out and confirm the decision makers. Begin a working relationship with complete, open communication with your day-to-day contact. This day-to-day contact is your ally for the life of the project. Internally, select individuals that have the skills, abilities and personalities that best align with the project needs. Seek and confirm the roles of each individual at the start of the project, and maintain or fine-tune any new roles and changes on a consistent process.
  3. Maintain an open line of communication keep everyone up to date and to avoid the dreaded “scope creep”. From the start of the project, communication should be honest, open and clear. Hold weekly meetings with up-to-date status sheets to ensure everyone is on the same page and that the project is moving as anticipated. Raise the red flag when you foresee scope creep by letting the client know, for example, that their recent request is outside the scope of the project – another reason for proper documentation. Inform everyone. Avoid the dreaded, “I wasn’t aware of that” and strategize on how to keep everyone on the same page.
  4. Go the extra mile. Most clients appreciate those little extras thrown into a project, and they go a long way for maintaining a long-lasting relationship. Whether it's a quick additional application of a visual identity, stepping in to help sell an idea to multiple internal audiences, or giving a celebratory gift at the launch of their new brand, showing your client that you think of them beyond the confines of the contract can do a lot for relationship building. Respect your client and they will respect you back. Understand your client is a real person, not a fairy tale character.
  5. Once a project is complete, take some time to analyze what worked and what didn’t work. Discuss the project with your team and use those lessons learned to improve upon your next project management adventure!

 

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