As a member of Quantcast’s account management team, I am tasked with managing existing client relationships while simultaneously leveraging our unique data and machine learning engine to identify ways in which we can grow their business. Throughout my years of experience managing client relationships across a variety of industries, I have found that the most effective way to grow accounts is by building deep client relationships. Once you have established yourself as a trusted partner, growth opportunities tend to come organically through consistent communication and proven performance.
Here are a few ways you can begin to build strong client relationships over time:
- Do Your Research: As an account manager, you are a direct extension of your client’s team, tasked with communicating wants, needs, and priorities to your internal teams. In order to provide the maximum amount of value to your client, you should always be well-versed in their business. Go above and beyond just knowing your campaigns: research their industry, build a deeper understanding of their business’s competitive advantage, and always be aware of what competitors may be doing. Stay in the know by subscribing to broader industry newsletters and their competitors’ communications, and always be aware of any long-term business goals you can help them achieve. Once you feel up to speed on their industry, you can take your research a step further by providing your client with timely industry updates along with recommendations on ways they can act in order to gain a leg up on the competition. By establishing yourself as a subject-matter expert on their business, your clients will gain confidence in your partnership, creating a much more collaborative and effective relationship.
- Set Expectations: Account managers seem to always be getting pulled in multiple different directions at once. One of the most crucial skills to develop is the ability to prioritize. Clients appreciate the fact that you have a lot on your plate (because they do, too), so be sure to set clear expectations on when deliverables can be expected. Always confirm receipt of any client questions or requests in a timely manner, and clearly communicate what you anticipate the turnaround time to be. This not only allows your clients to set expectations with their own stakeholders, but also provides reassurance that you are working diligently on their request. Beyond setting those initial expectations, be sure to promptly follow-up with an update if there will be any delays beyond your established delivery date. Providing deliverables on time (or early, when possible!) helps establish you as an efficient and reliable partner.
- Create Personal Relationships: The phrase, “It’s just business, don’t take it personally,” has always irked me. We spend over 2,000 hours annually doing “work”: answering emails, delivering presentations, interacting with colleagues, and crossing items off of our never-ending to-do lists. If you can’t find a way to humanize the people you are communicating with most frequently during the week, you are not going to build a strong partnership foundation. Get to know your clients on a personal level–ask about their weekend or about the dog you see behind them on your Zoom call. Find out what their favorite local coffee shop is and send them a latte on their birthday. If you are able to find areas in which you can relate and discuss topics beyond your work, it will make that high-stakes presentation feel like a conversation with an old friend instead of another stressful hurdle between you and happy hour.
- Be Transparent: Once you’re able to establish a personal relationship with your client, it’s much easier to be transparent. Say, for example, one of your client’s campaigns is not going to launch on time because of an unavoidable internal delay. You’d likely feel much more comfortable sharing details of the delay with a client you know well–someone who trusts you as their partner and knows that you are going to do everything within your ability to get their campaign live as soon as possible. Additionally, always be forthcoming with any bumps in the road. It’s easier to have one proactive conversation about a mistake that was made than having to explain yourself months down the line when the client uncovers that same mistake and its impact on their business on their own.
- Build Strong Internal Relationships: Although the relationships you have with your colleagues may seem unrelated to those you build with your clients, in fact, they are related–and building strong internal relationships is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure you are building strong client relationships. As an account manager, you are the primary advocate for your client when communicating with any internal team member. By building interpersonal and respectful relationships with your internal teams, your colleagues may be more willing to help with your client’s fire drills, last-minute changes, or tedious requests–ultimately allowing for you to deliver items to your client faster than they anticipated and further building the element of reliability.
Additionally, keeping your internal teams up to speed on what may be coming down the pipeline from your client avoids causing your team any unexpected stress, and also can avoid unexpected delays when projects do come up. Although these team members may not be directly interacting with your client on the day to day (or even at all), it’s important to make sure that they feel close to the work that you’re doing to ensure you’re all on the same page about going above and beyond for your clients.
These five suggestions may only require you to make minimal tweaks to your current account management style. However, implementing these small but significant changes can vastly improve your client interactions, and ultimately help you build a stronger and more productive relationship. Establishing a strong relationship with your client can also help make your job–and theirs!–less stressful and more rewarding.