We’re lucky to have amazing clients. But it takes more than just luck to find, secure and retain an awesome client. It takes a relationship. And just like all relationships, a little work in the beginning can set the tone for mutual respect, shared purpose and positive outcomes.

How to Set the Stage for Positive Client Relationships

Onboard clients early to set expectations.

The onboard process begins long before you actually have the client. As soon as a potential client views your site, you can create a sense of what it will be like to work together. Clearly communicate your processes to give clients the information they need to make a decision. Then, let them see your culture and work style through copy, images and social links to give them an idea of who you are as a company. This will help them identify if your two teams are compatible.

Communicate often and consistently.

This step often falls apart when you’re in the middle of a project with a new client and they make a sudden request. Your instinct may be to say “yes” immediately, then do whatever it takes to make it work. But the positive emotion from this kind of frantic response has a very short shelf-life. Instead, acknowledge your client’s position, remind them gently of your process for changes, then promise to follow-up soon. Showing that you have a system in place to negotiate unexpected issues, that it’s just part of the project lifecycle for your team, instills a deeper sense of trust in your abilities.

Always listen first.

Every client has a problem that they hope you can solve. And every client’s problem is unique. Often, agencies are so focused on showcasing what they can do, they forget to ask the client, What can we do for you? Remember, they’ve already invested some level of faith in your abilities by contacting you. Rather than breaking out the 22-slide deck featuring all your award-winning projects, start a conversation around who this client is and what they’re trying to achieve.

Get to know the people.

Is your contact a dog lover? A proud new parent? A weekend roller-derby enthusiast? Getting to know the people that make up your client humanizes the relationship. It makes collaboration easier and more effective, and diffuses stress if a project deadline or scope has to change. Plus, it’s just nice getting to know other people. This emotional work also increases the likelihood a client will refer you in the future.

Invite clients in on your culture.

Just as important as getting to know the people that make up your client is letting them get to know you. Introduce them to the office dogs, invite them to a quick game of pool after a lunch meeting, or, if you’re lucky like us and located in a craft beer hot spot, take them out for a tasting. Bonding with clients over a good local brew is a time-tested tip for success. Just don’t overdo it, and be sure to pick a designated driver.

The best advice for agencies working with clients, and vice versus, is to remember both teams are made up of people all working toward a common goal. If you’re lucky, those people also happen to be amazing.