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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pre-Managing Client Relationships

Here's a refreshing topic from Andreas Roell and Sarah Kotlova of Geary Interactive in the iMEDIA Connection newsletter: 6 reasons agencies want to strangle clients. Despite the reference to violence in the title (c'mon, we've all been there), their piece is about how to collaborate better with clients. They provide insights on how to work through issues that are endemic to a B2B service industry and ultimately form positive relationships with clients. Clearly Roell and Kotlova have been around the block a few times and offer some sage advice.

Their suggestions make reasonable sense. Unfortunately, the importance of logic and reason diminish in the relationship-success equation as issues heat up. In my experience, it is extremely difficult to address issues during or following flare-ups.

As a project management lead, I try to instill a preventive medicine approach with my teams. I like to conduct audits and assessments as part of the upstream Initiation and Definition phases of any project. Sessions in these phases usually cover expected and important topics like:
  • defining objectives and strategies,
  • uncovering insights about the target and competitors
  • roles and use of relevant technologies
Importantly, we add an operational component, that seeks to establish the best working relationship between agency, clients and 3rd parties BEFORE and to AVOID strangling or being strangled. We define roles and responsibilities, establish review/approval cycle guidelines, and determine communication formats, processes and document-use (e.g. contact reports, status reports, change orders). Clients are very receptive to this early in a relationship or project and it pays dividends immediately.

Getting client engagements in a healthy place is critical when you're in the service business. Instilling this approach within an agency is important. Topics like this are perfect for running internal sessions with your teams. A simple exercise of breaking into small groups and throwing out a few, " What should you do if . . . " kind of scenarios and regrouping to share thoughts, generates lively interactions that help you guide the culture and personality of your agency - perhaps you'll find out that poison is better than strangling ; )

I applaud Roell and Kostlova for shining a light on these issues.

Update, May 2009: Topic rationally addressed by Bart Cleveland, Creative Director at McKee Wallwork Cleveland in - How to Manage Client Relationships in Perilous Times


  1. Topics like this are perfect for running internal sessions with your teams but we can learn a lot,specially if we are professional in this subjects.

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