There are some scenarios that every digital agency universally hates when it comes to attracting or retaining clients:
- Bringing on too many clients who are not a good fit for your organization.
- Losing clients who you really want to be working with.
The problem with each of these is that no matter which way you look at it, they’re costing you clients. There’s the obvious where you can’t hang on to the ones you want, but then there are the implications which go with having too many who are not a good fit. They take up your time and capacity so that you’re less able to bring on new clients who you want to be working with.
While there are a number of factors that can contribute to each of those problems, communication issues tend to be one of the biggest contributors to client situations that we don’t like.
“They” say we tend to deserve the clients that we get, a blunt way of saying that you need to examine your own processes and communication if you don’t like what you’re getting. We’ve broken down some of the most common communication mistakes that agencies make which could be costing you (the right) clients…
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#1. Not Projecting Your Values Well
If you fail to appropriately let the world know what you do and what your business values are, you can end up with a lot of clients who are not a good fit for your business. It’s much easier to communicate up-front rather than to find out the client is not a good fit part-way into their project.
How do you project those values? One of the simplest ways is in all your content and copy. Use your website blog to write honestly about what you do, how you do it and why you choose the preferences that you do.
Your website “about” page is another good place to communicate your values and let your personality come through. Many websites are not making the best use of this page – it’s a good opportunity to help potential clients self-select as to whether you’re a good fit with them based on the information you share.
HubSpot put together twelve examples of “about” pages that have been done well. Each of them succeeds in displaying values and personality rather than coming across as a generic, “just because” filler page.
Another thing you can do on your “about” page is use it to explicitly exclude certain types of clients. For example you could:
- Give an indication of your usual project price range ( “Typically, project prices begin at $5000…”)
- Actually tell people “this is not for you if … “
- Give qualifying statements as to who your service is for.
- Give an indication of what the client role usually is in projects.
#2. Lack Of Clarity On Fees
This mistake tends to be one that will cost you any kind of client, including those who you would prefer to keep. No client enjoys being surprised by the invoice you send them, so set them up with clear communication from the beginning.
We wrote about getting everything in writing and using clear documentation recently; make sure your scope is clearly defined so that the client can see in black and white exactly what they’re getting for the price you’ve quoted and what it does not include.
It’s also a good idea to make it a policy not to go ahead with work that is outside of scope unless you have discussed it (including any extra charges) with the client first. We’d even go as far as to indicate in your contract how you will charge out any additional work. This helps to keep everything very transparent with the client.
#3. Lack Of Clarity On Timing
Don’t try to make excuses with clients if tardiness on project deadlines is your fault. They can just as easily go to an equally skilled agency who do not miss deadlines.
On the communication side, were you clear in the first place about achieving desired deadlines on the project? Have you clearly laid out any contingencies that meeting the deadline rely upon? This may even include things like receiving timely feedback from the client to continue.
If it’s looking like a project may be held up, make sure you let the client know as early as possible. One of the key things they don’t like is being surprised at the last minute.
#4. Going AWOL
Agencies that take on a project then disappear without so much as a peep until they’re near the project’s end do not tend to hang on to good clients. They’re investing money in you, they’ve probably paid you a deposit up-front, so they want to hear from you regularly enough that they’re reassured their project is in good hands.
Not only does communicating regularly help reassure the client, it’s simply good practice if you want to meet client expectations. It’s much better to find out early that something needs tweaking rather than have a whole lot of modifications at the end.
#5. Not Explaining Reasoning Clearly
No client likes to feel like an idiot. They also don’t like to feel that their ideas are ignored or not taken seriously.
There may be very valid reasons why something they suggest is not a good idea, but the client doesn’t automatically know that and may think you simply don’t want to accommodate them. Take the time to show them with clear examples why what they are suggesting will not work well for their project.
#6. Unprofessional Language
If you want better caliber clients, then you need to be behaving professionally yourself. That’s not to say all your communication should be stiff and formal, just avoid being too informal.
For example, any kind of text speak (“c u l8er”) should be completely avoided, and most don’t want to begin the relationship with an extended version of your life story. Offer examples that are helpful to the client, but don’t spend half an hour extolling your own virtues.
Speak your client’s language in every way that you communicate. This includes your written and nonverbal communication. You wouldn’t show up to a black tie event in flip-flops – make sure any face-to-face meetings are treated with appropriate professionalism.
Another aspect you should be aware of is anything you put out on social media. Even if it’s a personal account which you think has been set so that only friends or family can see, it’s the internet and people find things out. More people will now Google individuals to find out more about them, so as a general rule, don’t put anything on your social media accounts that you wouldn’t want a client to see.
#7. Failing To Understand Your Client’s Business
Never assume that you understand perfectly the client’s business and the goals they are hoping to achieve. This comes down to how good you are with two-way communication, the questions you ask and what you seek to clarify.
Some of the major project failures of agencies have come about because they didn’t do a good job of homework on the client in the first place. You need to know exactly what drives the client so you are aware of what to prioritize and what will be important to them to hear about. What are their goals and KPIs? Who is their target audience?
Report The Right Metrics
How does the client know the project is a success? Usually you’ll have some kind of metrics to report which help them to understand how what you’ve done has helped their business. Knowing which metrics are going to be the key ones to report is a big part of understanding your client’s business in the first place. You should be communicating how you’ve delivered value in a way that is relevant to them.
Be clear from the start: create your own manifesto. Get our free guide here.
Keeping a primed pipeline of quality clients is a key part of agency success. If you’re losing clients who you’d like to keep or taking on too many clients who turn out not to be a good fit, you really need to look at your own processes first.
Communication mistakes are a common reason for losing clients or for ending up with the kinds of clients you don’t want. To avoid these, make sure you provide clear communication about your business and its values, understand your client’s business well, maintain frequent communication throughout projects and put in place documentation at the beginning of projects.
Remember that communication can also be non-verbal: be professional and be appropriate.