Why Client Engagement Is Like Dating

When you really look at relationships, be they romantic or professional, you notice some striking parallels. At Big Sea, we prioritize the relationship we build with each client. Sure, plenty of agencies can take you on a romantic stroll. But we’re here to do more than sweep you off your feet: we’re committed to building something that lasts.

But before we take a look at the stages of a great (client) relationship, first let’s answer…

What is client engagement?

Client engagement is the process of strengthening the relationship between a client and a business — and “relationship” is the right word, because the connection is as much about how a client feels as what they think. Think about the businesses you frequent, the brands you love: you don’t just like what they do — what they do makes you feel good. Client engagement is about clear communication and good working relationships, but it’s also about providing that extra little something.

So what are the steps in building those relationships? Well, I’m glad you asked…

Two people chatting demonstrate that client engagement requires clear communication. (And sometimes valentines.)

What is the role of client engagement?

Just as you wouldn’t expect a relationship to thrive without mutual understanding and investment, the same holds true for nurturing a business relationship with your client. Client engagement plays a key role in

  • Building trust
  • Understanding needs
  • Creating mutual value
  • Nurturing a long term bond

Like in dating, it’s the consistent and thoughtful interactions with your clients that builds a relationship that can withstand the test of time.

The 5 levels of client engagement

There are 5 steps to client engagement:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision
  • Retention
  • Advocacy

Let’s break ’em down:

1. Building awareness (or finding “The One”)

Dating has been digital for a while. I mean, Meg Ryan got mail from Tom Hanks a whopping 24 years ago (whatever, the 90s look great on you). But we all know that meeting somebody new typically starts with a great pic and catchy bio that puts our best selfies forward.

Similarly, when your business needs the perfect partner to build you a website or marketing plan destined to convert customers, your team will swipe left and right until y’all find the agency match that sparks. (You love long walks? I love long walks! You need a website? We build websites!)

It’s not serious yet. You’re doing market research, scouting our prospects. At this stage, client engagement is about getting your brand out there with ads, social media, content marketing: all the initial steps that make sure prospects can find the information they need about you.

But how do you know when you’ve found the perfect client-agency relationship? How do you navigate the ups and downs as you grow together? Well, it starts with…

2. Consideration (or “Sparking a conversation”)

You’re interested enough to reach out and find out more. You schedule a sales call, you look at some case studies. You’re vibing, we’re vibing. Everything is new and exciting. We’re sharing our hopes and dreams for our partnership: building a dazzling website that converts with a click.

Our first impressions tell us it’s time to deepen the connection: we’re paying attention, we’re actively listening, we’re responsive: all good signs that we’re mutually invested in giving this thing a shot. The emphasis has moved from high level overviews to more detailed discussions of products, services, and strategies. And it’s exciting to think long-term and visualize all that we can accomplish together as our stars and goals align.

But does commitment just ruin the magic?

3. The Decision (or “So… what are we?”)

For account leads and clients, the next level of the relationship hinges on defining the big plans: What are we going to do and when will it happen? Do we know what we want for the future and how we both get there together? This is when it’s time to make the big decisions: what do we want and how do we want to achieve it?

When it comes to client engagement, this is when the discussion moves from marketing to sales. Presentations are made, studies are reviewed, and contracts get signed.

With a strong foundation – responsiveness, active listening, open and honest communication, and a pure desire to make the other person smile – we can turn our toughest goals into #couplegoals.

4. Client retention (or, “Relationships take work!”)

We did it! We’re in a relationship! Now we need to work together.

Relationship milestones are important. Many are fun, some are stressful. Those early days of easy communication might get more complicated as we work to build something together. After all, communication is tricky, nuanced, and heavily reliant on individual points of view. As partners, you think you’re speaking the same language, but sometimes it can feel like you’re starting to mean different things. Maybe the budgetary roadblock is actually just poor scheduling. Maybe disarray in design is actually a structural flaw. Either way, finding solutions is the key.

Maintaining our strong relationship is about cultivating trust and a sense of security. At Big Sea, we tackle any problems by developing a shared language with our clients that makes sure our goals and strategies are aligned. We stick to our deadlines and work collaboratively to produce work that wows our clients and continuously demonstrates our investment in the relationship. This builds a foundation of trust and mutual understanding.

5. Client advocacy (or, “Ready to commit”)

So we’ve shown up for each other and made sure we’re there to listen, focus, and work through life’s funny, odd problems. When it comes to our work, this is the phase where the rubber meets the road on all the amazing planning that the strategist and client worked out in the honeymoon phase. The home and service pages are functional and striking. Dreams are becoming things in the world. We’re sending weekly status updates, budget breakdowns, creative problem-solving recs, and holding check-in meetings. Everything’s humming along!

In client engagement, this is when the relationship reaches a new phase. We’ve put in the work, we’re steadily meeting our goals: this is when clients become advocates: when they provide testimonials, write reviews online, and tell the world what’s great about the relationship.

We’ve worked out the big plans: now we’re happily working together to ensure we still share the same goals and are accountable to each other as we progress.

Put a Ring on It

We’re social creatures, humans. We thrive when we have solid relationships to support us. We embark on interpersonal adventures because we believe we’ll find mutual success and shared fulfillment. And when we follow through on our promises, and trust each other, we do feel fulfilled. When we focus on solutions, we do succeed. And when these behaviors become habits, we feel whole. Now that’s a relationship worth holding onto – long term.

It’s around this point that we start to feel all the feels: the nostalgia, thinking back on all of the goals we dreamed up in those early days. Did we meet them? Exceed them? If the answer is, “Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!” then we finally know that the first swipe right was, in fact, the right swipe.

Look, we’re rooting for you. We want you to find the partner of your professional dreams – and that dazzling website with the full-funnel, high-conversion marketing. But maybe, just maybe, that perfect partner was right here all along.

Happy swiping from Big Sea.