Tag Archive for: client relationships

Keeping the spark in your client relationships

client-engagement-slider-watirmelon(image: watirmelon.com)

As with any relationship, the one you have with your client will no doubt have its ups and downs. At the start of a working relationship both parties experience the usual emotions – apprehension, anticipation, excitement. Will the agency do a good job now you’ve committed to six months with them? Will the client always be this nice?

At Ignite we’ve had long-standing relationships with many of our clients. We’ve been Poolwerx’s exclusive PR partner for five years and looked after Hire A Hubby’s PR program for more than two years. The average tenure with our clients is three years. So, what is the key to a great working relationship?

Keeping things fresh is an obvious, yet important, factor. If you’ve been working with a company for several years it can be all too easy to settle into a ‘routine’ – and you run the risk of falling out of love with each other.

Mutual respect is also critical to a successful relationship, as is understanding each other’s needs. If you lose sight of the bigger picture you won’t be helping your client achieve their long-term goals – and you might find yourself getting dumped for a newer model.

We’ve listed out our top five tips for keeping the spark in your client relationships below.

1) Call regularly – while email is the preferred choice of communication for many these days, nothing beats the courtesy of a quick phone call once a week. It will remind both of you that there’s a real, live human being on the other end of those correspondences, encouraging a better relationship. We have a service promise of at least three contacts a week.

2) Have a date night – take your clients out for dinner/lunch/coffee when you can. It’s a chance to get out of the corporate environment and for you to both get to know each other a bit better. Many will attest to the benefits of a social outing when it comes to fostering a stronger personal and, ultimately, working relationship with clients.

3) Role play – if you’re feeling disenchanted with your client, put yourself in their shoes for a while. Imagine the workload and consider any pressure points you might know of. Are you aware of any personal issues? Be understanding and be an adult – if the problem doesn’t seem to be going away, talk about it. It’s much better to clear the air than let a relationship run into distress.

4) Show an interest – don’t just ‘do the job’. Flag items of interest you’ve seen in the news or heard through the grapevine that’s relevant to their industry. Not only will this show your commitment to understanding the industry landscape and where your client fits, it’ll show that you’re continuously on the pulse of industry news and issues. This kind of assurance is critical to engaging your clients beyond the regular day-to-day activity.

5) Make them feel special – agency PR people will know all too well the juggling skills required to manage multiple clients. However, the number one rule in client relations is to never, ever make your client feel like they are anything less than your number one priority – regardless of how busy you are.

Client close-up: Jim Cornish, Nanotek

Welcome to the second edition of our regular feature talking to our clients to find out about their experiences of business, good and bad, and any advice they might have for other business leaders and owners.

Name: Jim Cornish

Job title and company: CEO, Nanotek

Pitch your company and what it does in a sentence: Nanotek (formerly ecowash mobile) is the world’s no.1 mobile waterless car washing franchise system. Utilising liquid polymer nanotechnology Nanotek provides unmatched quality and convenience.

How did you get to where you are now? By learning from all our experiences (good and bad) and continually moving not only industry goal posts but our own – we are constantly refining and developing our system (hence the change to Nanotek).

What has been your worst moment in business so far? Before Nanotek as a Marketing Director of a Multinational Organisation, I watched 10 people get retrenched without notice – it made me appreciate the fragility and insecurity of employment and inspired my passion for personal business ownership.

What has been your best moment in business so far? Most recently our launch in Russia, but any time I see one of our mobile units in a new market it is an incredible sensation.

Have you had any business mentors and what did they teach you? My father, who taught me that clear principles and integrity provide the foundation necessary from which to make sustainable decisions.

How does PR help your business/ why is it important to you? PR tells a story – it gives third person insights and perspectives which are beyond the scope of corporate derived advertising. Advertising creates brand awareness, but PR is far more effective in positioning and developing the personality of a brand.

Why do you work with Ignite PR & Marketing? Barrett and Trina are great – very responsive with a thorough understanding of the franchising segment. It is great to be able to confidently outsource such a critical element of our business and know it will be done right.

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Why businesses should consider outsourcing PR

When it comes to marketing your business, there are a number of specialist areas that need to be looked at including graphic design, marketing and public relations. Whilst you might be able to do the basics in-house, there is expertise attached to these specialist areas. Here are a few reasons why it’s worth investing in your PR rather than DIY-ing it:

1)      We’ve got years of experience and expertise: chances are we’ve done it all before, we’ve written the press releases, we’ve done the media training, we’ve spoken to the journalists, we’ve pitched the stories – we’re doing the job day in, day out, for a varied client list.

2)      We can bring something new to the table: coming from an outside perspective we can put forward new ideas, different ways of doing things and challenge the way you do things ‘just because’. We’re there to make your business grow so we can grow too.

3)      You can get results without another ‘mouth to feed’: the breadth of our experience means that we are often more cost-effective than it would be to get the person/ people necessary in-house to cover all the tasks we can undertake.

4)      We can react fast: if something needs turning around quickly, if you need more hands on deck, an outsourced company should have the extra resource and capability to turn that around for you.

5)      We can help upskill your team: working closely side-by-side should mean that your in-house team learns more and more about PR and what it can achieve for your business.

Outsourcing is an investment and it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before taking that step otherwise you may end up resenting the company that is working for you, rather than using them to their maximum potential and allowing them to work with you and integrate with your team.

The best time to get in the PR experts is if you’re running out of ideas, if you don’t want to make a long-term commitment initially and dip your toe in the water, if your in-house marketing team is overworked, if your head office and marketing function is overseas, if you’re a start-up business and focussed on the core business, if you want to inject fresh ideas and new skills.

But if you choose to go down the path of outsourcing you must be very clear about the objectives and how you will measure success, i.e. what the desired outcome is. It’s important for you to meet the team who would be working on your ‘account’ – you should get on with them and they should have the enthusiasm and skills necessary to deliver.

The best PR agency-client relationships are partnerships where the business is open and honest with the PR consultancy – being up front about business objectives, praising good work, working alongside the agency team and keeping them informed of everything happening in your business.

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Wrap up 2010 with thoughtful presents to build your presence

 

Christmas is known as a time of giving and showing goodwill. A fantastic way to show you care about the people you have worked with all year is by sending them a simple Christmas present or a Thank You card. In today’s world of cyberspace it’s rare we send a card or a gift to someone through traditional mail. E-cards, Facebook messages and even Christmas texts are sadly all too common.

Sending traditional ‘snail mail’ presents or cards are often overlooked as relationship builders, yet if  used wisely they can help retain clients and show your suppliers you care. Relationships go a long way in this business and while some will argue a client will never stay just because you sent them a gift, a client that feels valued, knows the agency cares and who has a personal relationship with the team will find it much harder to sever the ties.

Before you send anything you should conduct a little bit of research – notice what your clients or suppliers eat and drink at functions, listen to comments about interests outside the office and pay attention to how they react to criticism or compliments.

Our top presents for suppliers or clients:

Fruit can make a refreshing change

1)      Chocolates (you’ll know their favourites from your preliminary research)

2)      Well packaged alcohol (as above)

3)      Quality gourmet hampers or fruit baskets

4)      Gift vouchers

5)      Flowers (if they aren’t allergic – again find out their favourites before hand)

Stay away from:

1)      Heavily perfumed products

2)      Foul smelling food items such as blue cheese or items with garlic

3)      Anything that could smash or leak in the delivery process

4)      ‘Joke’ presents – any item that could be misconstrued and taken offensively

5)      Cheesy photos of your team

Source: Bad Humour articles

Think class not crass

As for choosing cards, our general rule is to stay away from comedy, flirtatious words or the cards with music or voiceovers inside.

Select cards that look professional but still have an element of style that matches your business personality.

You can also get creative with gifts and provide something memorable and different. We give boxes of cherries to clients because they are not typical and it is something they can share with their team or take home for the family.

Merry Christmas!

Treading the minefield of Xmas office functions: tips on how to party ‘professionally’ this silly season

OK so it’s that time of year again – office parties and business networking events a plenty along with the flow of alcohol. Love them or hate them, corporate Christmas parties are an integrated part of business life and perfect for cementing relationships with your clients and associates, as well as being a chance to source new leads and expand your network. However, before you get into the reindeer outfits and knock back the egg-nog, there are a few (PR) partying rules you should follow. An alcohol-fuelled Christmas party is not a good enough reason to throw your professionalism out the window. So if you are serious about setting the bar and keeping your career alive, follow our top PR partying tips:

1) Drive to the party.This way you won’t be able to get drunk as you will have to drive home. You might also become the knight in shining armour as you will be able to drop off any drunk colleagues (or even clients) if necessary.

2) Eat before hand and at the event (if possible). Even if there is only mini-cocktail sausages or deep fried spring rolls, something is better than nothing. If you are running the event, don’t be a scrooge, supply some food!

3) View the party as a time to secure relationships and potentially network with suppliers or clients. Touch base with all of the key people but try not to hassle the boss or Managing Director too much as their job is to also network with their team.

4) Dress appropriately (no boobs, tank tops or thongs visible – and we are not just referring to footwear here).

5) Keep the business talk to a minimum. There’s nothing worse than someone pushing their products on you when all you want to do is enjoy a vino and have a laugh with your colleagues. Have a few topics on hand to make conversation and keep it light.ie. football scores, latest news that day, fun industry stories

6) Balance the timing – don’t leave too early and don’t be the last person there. You want to make an impression and have fun but at the same time you don’t want to be known as the drunk hanger-on. It’s easy to become known as a drinker and this can affect your professional reputation.

7) Have fun. People are more relaxed at this time of year so it’s ok to have a laugh – just don’t make a joke at someone else’s expense. That’s a definite no-no.

Maximising the client lurrve…

In the PR and marketing game the relationship between the agency and the client is paramount. Client satisfaction and maintaining this status quo is the lifeblood of a consultancy and account managers work extremely hard to ensure success. It can be both rewarding and (if we are honest) down-right frustrating at times but with passion for PR as our driver we ‘fight the good fight’ day after day.

Each client is different and there is not a one size fits all approach for client management but there are a few basic criteria both the agency and client can fulfil to gain the maximum potential from the partnership.

Honesty is the best policy

Like in any relationship honesty is the cornerstone of trust and this approach is important to ensure clients get the best advice from an agency, and the agency knows what the client expects. Clients often think they know best but if you can honestly advise against an idea and recommend something that will work better; you will build stronger longer standing trust between both parties.

Regular communication

The more we know about a client the better we can do our job but in today’s busy world this can be hard. It takes effort and attention. The rule of thumb I spruik is contact with a client at minimum three times week and at least one face-to-face meeting a month.  This helps to ensure the agency is considered an integral element of a client’s communications team, and it provides all the fodder necessary for great idea development and thus good results.

Trust your instinct

If you sense something is up it generally is, and this is where tip one is vital. Be honest, talk to the client and ask them if there is an issue they want to discuss. Clients find it refreshing. It shows you care about them and the business. In most cases it results in solving a minor problem rather than a large one.

Be creative

In this business creativity is part of the foundation of success so it pays to have regular brainstorms to keep the ideas and initiative flowing. This can be a fun exercise to do with clients as well.

Follow these simple rules and the love will flow.

Trina McColl, Managing Director