Are you a morning person? Or do you prefer burning the midnight oil? Do you enjoy research and data? Or would you prefer a dog and pony show? Do you love the creative process? Or would you rather your agency do the heavy lifting and send you the results for final approval? At Imagine, all of these items are what we call “hot buttons.” Managing client relationships well requires more than just doing good work and meeting deadlines. These two items are important, but what makes a relationship stick is truly understanding your client, quirks and all, and making sure you know how and when — or in some cases, how not — to hit their hot buttons.
So, how do you figure out your client’s hot buttons? It’s easy. Ask. This should be one of the first questions you ask, either in the discovery process or once you have decided to do work together. Find out what they want from you, how they want it delivered and their preferred forms of communications. And, if you’ve already begun a relationship and you want to make things run smoother, it’s never too late to discuss expectations. There will always be things you discover along the way, but the more you can uncover ahead of time, the better.
I find myself evaluating my client hot buttons frequently. It reinforces that I am meeting their needs beyond just doing good work. This is the stuff that makes clients stay. In fact, we once had a client that did not want to be contacted on Fridays. You could be delivering the Mona Lisa directly to his office, but if it was on a Friday, he would see it as an annoyance, not as a gift. Once we knew this and followed it, the relationship soared.
If you work in a company where more than one person handles your customers, I encourage you to make this a team discussion. It’s a great team-building experience, but you will also be amazed what your team knows about your customers.
Megan Neri leads the client relations department at Imagine Communications. If she’s not in her office waxing philosophical about client management, she’s probably spending quality time with some of her favorite clients.