The secrets of client services and communication
Published: February 29, 2012
Author: Sean Marshall
It’s Leap Day! While I’m sure there will be a bevy of leap-themed content out there today, I’m just not clever enough to capitalize. The only thing I can think of is to write on a different topic than usual. So, with that said, let’s talk client services.
Agencies don’t typically discuss their best practices for client services in the open. I think the fear of having your clients (Hi!) reading this type of content can stop the flow of ideas, and most don’t want to reveal the dirty secrets of the agency world. I’m all for transparency, so, let’s get to it.
The client/agency dynamic is an interesting one. SEM agencies are highly incentivized to grow a client’s spend as it means more revenue for the firm. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want PPC Associates clients to spend more, but I want our team to grow things the right way. The only way to accomplish this is to ask our account managers to treat each account as their own business. By doing this, the client’s goals become our account managers’ goals. While internalizing day-to-day performance as your own can be stressful, it helps forge a different type of relationship with our customers. Ultimately, we want our clients to understand that we’re in this together.
One of the challenges in making an account your own is that, at the end of the day, it isn’t. SEM account managers usually have a clear vision of how to manage the account and adapt to the changing needs of their client’s business. However, this vision doesn’t always align with our customers’ long-term goals. In these instances, account managers should take a page of out the sales rep handbook. Anytime a new idea is introduced, anticipate objections. While the idea might make perfect sense to the person who pulls all the levers and lives in the account every day, it might not be so clear to the customer. Account managers should be able to take a defensible position and effectively communicate the value of their plan to the customer. This requires AMs to buy into their own plans, and this confidence should be projected to clients.
Sales pros know how to deal with the word “no.” Overcoming objections (and rejection) is part of the game. This shouldn’t be any different on the services side, although it should be noted that “no” comes from a different place in client/AM relationships (compared to the sales rep/prospect relationship). Very rarely will account managers receive an outright “no” from a customer. Clients want direction and expertise from their AMs, so “no” is rarely absolute. If anything, it’s an invitation to provide more detail and make a clear business case for one strategy over another. Services team members should evaluate their proposals and try to think of all the reasons this would be a bad idea. It’s the only way to effectively make a case without dragging out the conversation unnecessarily.
The best relationships still require upkeep. In the agency world, this upkeep comes in the form of emails and calls. Over-communication is key. This isn’t just about the volume of calls and emails; it ultimately comes down to substance. One could come up with a dozen ideas in a day, but what good are they if they haven’t been thought out well? Anticipating the objections of the customer forces AMs to consider various contingencies and fully vet an idea before presenting it. One great, fully developed idea, trumps a dozen half-baked plans any day.
– Sean Marshall, Director of Search Engine Marketing