Selling your time and skills can be hard. Without a tangible product, you’re solely relying on your expertise, and the trust and goodwill of your clients. And even during the best of times, clients can ask awkward questions, leaving you scrambling for answers. Remember — it’s important to explain your strategy in a clear manner so that clients know what to expect (and when). Manage expectations from day one, and you will find yourself getting caught out much less often. Here are some common scenarios to help you.
What’s in it for us? How will this impact our bottom line? What’s the real ROI of influencer marketing? Yes, that’s all very well and that — but are we making any more money?
These ‘show me the money’ questions are some of the most common questions that marketers and other service providers like PR managers have to field on a monthly basis.
Though they can be tough ones to answer, especially if you’re of the more ‘creative’ mindset; it’s important that they are covered and addressed in detail. After all, if what you are doing for the client has no clear commercial benefits, why bother at all? It’s all about showing clients value.
Here are some ways to tackle and answer the ROI question:
- Deflect the question back to them — “what would ROI look like for you” — and see whether you can meet their requirements. It’s a quick and painless way to get into your client’s head and find out what they’re benchmarking you against
- Calculate the value of one lead for your client (look at customer lifetime value & factor in their conversion rates), and estimate how many leads a certain placement or campaign would yield. It’s not perfect, but it can give a rough ballpark idea of what the company stand to make back from your efforts
- Re-define what ‘ROI’ means. Is what you’re doing more of an awareness or engagement campaign that’s difficult to attribute to direct sales? Explain this and make the parameters of what you’re doing for them (and why) crystal clear.
Fight the plateau
Why are we not moving in the search results? Why are we not seeing the same results as in the last quarter? It feels like we’ve stopped gaining ground — what are you guys doing for us right now?
All of the above questions betray a common anxiety that clients have over STAGNATION. At first, campaigns can bring exponential growth and results, but as time moves on, things tend to slow down. Cue client panic.
This is where your skills as a negotiator, and the trust you’ve established with the client, come in handy. It’s important to be honest about current growth, and acknowledge anything specific they bring up that is causing them concern. Just dismissing their fears as ‘that’s how it is’ (with no explanation), will have them shopping for a new supplier in no time.
A new campaign idea or direction can often spice things up at this point. It’s time to bring out the next ‘big thing’ and let your client in on the long-term strategy if they are feeling like they need some good news.
Frequent updates to the client on what you are doing and being ‘one step ahead’ will make them feel loved, giving them no time to question your current rate of work.
Keeping it clean
Strategies can get muddied as more and more people get involved, and unnecessary (or even necessary delays) can frustrate clients who see a ticking clock and wasted time. That’s why it’s important to always communicate very clearly and firmly with clients when it comes to changing the goalposts mid-way through a project. Explain that even small changes will incur a delay, and always lay out any delays from your side as essential.
Having too many people involved in the same project can leave the client feeling confused,and perversely, un-loved. Have a dedicated client manager who understands and knows the client so that they feel like they’re in good hands.
Results, results, results
When are we going to see results? When can we expect X to happen? When is this going live?
It can be hard to keep clients interested in the sometimes erratic world of digital marketing. They sometimes just don’t ‘get’ the timelines that online marketers have to deal with. Though everyone knows that communication is essential (and good comms takes its time), some brand managers are too impatient for their own good.
To help ease the client’s anxiety, show progress in increments, and never promise something will be done ASAP if it’s actually out of your control. Again, managing expectations early on is a much better way to field this question than having to suddenly come up with answers during a high-pressure situation.
Keeping clients happy about pricing is never easy. Some clients may feel that the charges are too high, but this often comes from a lack of appreciation of the time and talent that’s being invested on their behalf. They may get tempted by a cheaper supplier — in this case, I would highlight the fact that you pay for what you get. Low quality PR and marketing is usually not worth it, and won’t bring them any tangible results.
Scope creep is the enemy of all friendly client relations — and it’s easy to fall into this trap. The best way to get out of it: have watertight contracts and agreements that explain in plain English what you will and won’t do for the agreed price. Whenever the client shifts the scope, alert them to a price increase there and then. No one wants to be slapped with an unexpected bill, so make sure that you are comfortable with addressing price openly. (But also, know when to back off and give the client some space).
Treat your clients more like customers and delight them as and when you can. This will help you have the right customer service mindset, rather than begrudge a client for asking too many awkward questions. Also, if your service is stellar — they will be much less likely to question price.
“You’re the expert”
When clients don’t ask any questions or really don’t engage — you’ll wish they were a lot more vocal (trust me)! Leaving everything to the ‘experts’ means that clients distance themselves from the whole exercise — leading to a disjointed and less effective strategy.
You need to get clients excited and involved in the project — if they sit on the sidelines too much, they won’t ever like anything you create for them! Explain that you need them to adopt a collaborative approach, but that you will make information sharing as easy as possible for them. If they are not ready, or willing, to engage with you, explain that you won’t be able to guarantee results. It’s a two-way street after all.
Whether it’s PR, marketing, SEO, or copywriting — client and customer trust are paramount. Learn how to respond to difficult questions openly and honestly in order to improve and solidify client relations.
Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she shares tips on ecommerce and how companies can improve the way they represent their brand.