If agency searches are a lot like dating, then long-term client relationships can be a little like marriage. The best are based on mutual trust and transparency, with some occasional renegotiation along the way.
But what if the relationship has gotten a little… humdrum? Worse, you’re taking each other for granted (which may be fine for the client, but it obviously spells danger for any agency or consultant.)
In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are some practical ways to refresh your mutual attraction and spice up the client relationship.
Shake things up. Continuity is a beautiful thing, but don’t get into a rut. Consider swapping out a staff member, or just inviting fresh eyes onto your latest program or idea. New blood can serve two goals; it injects new thinking into your programs and offers new opportunities to staff.
Listen. Like a longstanding couple, we can sometimes stop hearing what a client’s really saying…or, in some cases, what they aren’t communicating. Internal pressures, corporate shifts, personal issues – all can influence an ongoing partnership. If you sense a change in the relationship, schedule a check-in meeting.
Start over. Just for a day. One of my favorite strategies is to throw everything out (mentally) and pretend to be pitching the business for the first time. Invite the client to participate. Sometimes it helps to forget what you think you know.
Embrace planned spontaneity. Set a goal of delivering a new idea or suggestion every two weeks, for example. Let different team members be the messengers. Make things seem spontaneous, but write it into your plans so it happens regularly, without fail.
Mix it up. Do you always email a memo attachment with thoughts and ideas? Pick up the phone instead. (I remember a client praising a young PR rockstar’s habit of calling her with new ideas, as if she just couldn’t stop thinking about their business.) Or pitch your idea over a breakfast meeting, or invite the team over for a whiteboard session. Small changes can have a ripple effect.
Be there. Invite yourself to the client’s office if possible and wander the halls. You always learn something.
Spend time together. Yes, there’s that quality time thing. Go to lunch, dinner, or drinks. Attend a conference together. Go hear an inspirational speaker or just see a show. It does double duty by enabling easy interaction while also giving you a shared experience or stimulating new thoughts.
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