As a senior in college, all marketing majors were required to take a final capstone class from one of the head marketing professors. My capstone professor happened to be my advisor, and since he liked me, he had an assigned seat for me at the front of the classroom so he could harass me (all in good fun of course).
Every day in that class, he drilled a saying into our heads that I can still recite nearly 17 years later:
“If you build successful relationships, profitable transactions will follow.”
That “profit” isn’t always monetary, but it is always beneficial. My approach to all the work I have done since college has been with this in mind. Over the years, I have learned a few things about this. Here are my 4 Tips to Better Business Relationships…
Don’t be that annoying guy on the 1st date that only talks about himself (for you guys that do that…this post may be about more than just business relationships). Clients want to know that you care about their business, and are listening to the challenges that they have. Don’t fill them full of jargon on why your design agency is the best. Find out what they need, how they work, what their company goals are, and anything else they are willing to share.
2. Be A Partner
You should take as much interest in your client’s business as they do. Understand their market position and the challenges they face; then help determine the best solutions to help their business thrive. Help them conserve budget where they can, and place it in areas that truly need it. Don’t be a salesmen trying to make extra profit for your company; your business will grow by helping theirs grow.
Be prompt in responses, up front about timelines, and learn how they best communicate. Some clients prefer to talk on the phone. Others prefer email. Then there are the clients that are so busy, the only way to get a quick response is a text message. Texting should not always be the first resort; use it when you REALLY need an answer quickly.
4. Be Real
Be honest. If there is a problem, tell them. But don’t expect them to fix it. If you’re going to go to them with a problem, present solutions on how you’re going to fix it and when it will be fixed. This will instill confidence that you know what you’re doing.
It’s also okay to show them the non-professional side sometimes. You have a life outside of work, and so do they. Take interest in them as a person, not just a client.
Have fun. Go out for drinks with them. Talk about the kids. Tell them about vacation. Share that embarrassing story about what you did in college. Laugh. It will make those stressful days easier.
There you have it. Follow a few of these simple tips, and build those long-lasting relationships. It will ultimately build a mutually beneficial relationship for both of you. Your conversation may begin with an interactive design problem, but if you get to know your clients, you’ll be a trusted advisor long after that first problem is solved.