12 min read

Game of Communication

We’ve all heard about the importance of client communication, haven’t we? Who am I kidding, it’s like asking if you’ve heard of Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, right?
But let’s be honest for a second, is your agency proactively talking to clients or are you guilty of “reactive” communication, normally caused by something going wrong rather than right?
If you answered a truthful yes, then half the battle is already won – you’ve admitted you have a problem! Now, all we need to do is to fix it.
Did you know that new clients are three times more likely to churn during the first 90 days than at any other point thereafter? Even though that data was taken from financial marketing insights, it is a pretty true reflection on what we have witnessed as a white label PPC agency working with other business owners in the digital marketing arena.
So with stats like that, client communication suddenly becomes paramount in the age-old quest of improving client retention and building up a stack of loyal fans who will stick with you to the bitter end.

via GIPHY

 

Navigating the Turbulent First 90 Days – Anchors Ahoy!

So how do you start on this journey over unknown seas? Well, first of all, you will need to create a client communication schedule for the first 90 days of the client’s journey!  
Congratulations are in order! You’ve won a new client! All your hard work has paid off but now is not the time to take down the sails. You can’t relax yet as you now need to steer them through the “90” days of choppy waters where your client is still at risk of jumping overboard. However, with a 90 Day Communication Schedule in place, if successfully implemented, you should be able to navigate your clients to the calm shores of satisfied clients.
The goal of a communication schedule is to set appropriate expectations right from the first onboarding call and through the first three months of management. Not only will the schedule set expectations – it will provide the required attention and expertise to build a strong client-agency relationship in that critical first 90 days.
So what should your communication schedule look like? Well, every agency has its own processes and procedures to adhere to but the following schedule is what we have found works best for us. It should be stated here that the communication schedule we will be using as an example is for PPC clients but it could be easily tailored to suit other digital marketing services.

 

The 90 Day Communication Schedule Breakdown

Pre-go-live Communication

 

1. Hold an onboarding call with your client. On this call, you should cover the following areas:
– Information required from the client to be able to go live
 – Expectations of the launch timeline
– Expectations of performance
– Expectations of communication
– Explain the communications schedule

 

2. Follow up the call with an email, confirming the agreed points above.

Communication during Month 1

 

1. Go Live Update – cover the following→ What should the client expect
– Has the client got any questions?
– Were there any issues going live?
2. Follow up with an email
3. One Week Update – cover the following
– High-level review – provide the client with an overview of initial performance
– Gauge client temperature by asking for feedback
4. Follow up with an email    
5. Two Week Update – cover the following:
– Formal performance review – provide a more in-depth report and include both positive and negative activities
– Gauge client temperature and react accordingly
6. Follow up with an email
7. One Month Update – cover the following:
– Performance review/progression
– Provide a quality score for the leads generated
– What are the next steps? Are there any changes to be made?
8. Follow up with an email

Communication during the 2nd Month

 

1. 6 Week Update – cover the following:
– Performance review/progression
– Check if the client has got any questions?
2. Follow up with an email
3. Two Month Update – cover the following
– Performance review/progression
–  What is the lead quality?
–  What are the next steps for optimizing the account
– Compare results of month 1 and 2
4. Follow up with an email

Communication during the 3rd Month

 

1. Three Month Performance Review – cover the following
– Performance review/progression
–  Discuss lead quality and quantity – compare with month 1 & 2 results
– Compare expectations with actual results
– How does the client feel about the past three months?
– What is the action plan for moving forward
2. Follow up with an email   

Emails, Phone Calls and Texts, Oh my…

How you communicate with the client during the 90 days is fundamentally your choice, but we find many agencies overlook the power of that old-fashioned instrument – the humble telephone.  
This could be due to agencies wanting to be seen as up-to-date digital communicators and the phone seems to fall flat of this. This is a big mistake to make as in our experience many clients have been saved from leaving with a simple phone call.
There are a few more common mistakes that agencies can be guilty of when it comes to communicating with their clients. So try and avoid the following:
1. One-size does not fit all… Don’t assume all clients are the same. Each client will have their own set of preferences for how they like to be communicated with. Some will like a quick, speedy email; some a text message on the go; whilst other clients would prefer a poke on Facebook. So be prepared to adapt to any style.
2. You should fit your communication channel to the needs of the client. For instance, if the client has a lot of questions, communicating with them over Twitter (with a 280 character limit!) wouldn’t be ideal. That’s why we recommend onboarding calls. This way you can have one single call, where you and the client can go back and forth over a series of questions rather than a whole string of emails that can become muddled and disjointed. But to make the communication even better for the client, follow up the call with an email that highlights the key points of the conversation.
3. Tone is very important. Sometimes if we are in a rush, we can forget how a message can come across, especially over email. So when it’s nearly 5 pm and you just want to go home – that quick message to a client could become an edgy or even blasé communication. Try to pay attention to the way the message may sound or simply block special time for emails.
4. Client communication shouldn’t be all about you, the agency. It needs to be a mutually beneficial client-agency relationship, so make sure you are listening to what the client has to say as well as telling the client what you need them to hear. Sometimes listening can speak volumes!
5. As per the 90-day communication schedule, follow up all communications with a polite email to check that the client is comfortable with what’s been discussed and the next stage of the process has been understood. This way, you can nip any misunderstandings in the bud and negative feelings won’t be left to fester.
6. That leads to one of the worst mistakes agencies can make when it comes to client communication. Don’t shy away from having difficult conversations. For instance, if a PPC account for one of your clients is underperforming – don’t be afraid of proactively contacting your client and letting them know. Yes, they might not be thrilled with the news, but they will feel like you are taking their account seriously and are monitoring the situation. This builds trust and embeds the client-agency relationship. However, don’t just give the client bad news – also provide them with actionable feedback.

 

long-term-clients

 

Loyal Clients Are an Agency’s Best Friend

By implementing a communications schedule, you should find that more of your clients successfully make it through the first 90 days and become anchored to your agency – resulting in loyal clients.
The power of loyalty is often overlooked in business and the benefits can be far-reaching:
1. It is far easier to upsell services to loyal clients than spend money on acquiring new clients. ‘The probability of selling something to a prospect is only about 5-20%, while the probability of selling something to an existing customer is 60-70%.’ – Marketing Metrics.
2. Loyal clients make amazing (unpaid!) brand ambassadors! They will enthusiastically spread the news that your agency is great and will be able to reach an audience that you can’t. Free promotion from a client means more than paid-for advocacy.
3. Loyal clients are more likely to refer to other people/business contacts that they know. If your client feels they can trust you with their business, they are going to voice that to other people and you then get the holy grail of marketingpositive word of mouth!
4. Loyal, long-standing clients might sometimes seem like hard work as they feel they can call you at all times of the day (and night!) and they feel they’re owed priority treatment. But with the rough comes the smooth. Loyal clients tend to be far more forgiving when mistakes arise – and let’s be honest, mistakes do and will occur. After all, to err is human! But a loyal client will usually give you the chance to explain and rectify the situation compared to a new client who now has a bad first impression.

 

Conclusion

To lay the foundation for a strong client-agency relationship and improve your client retention, you need to keep communication at the heart of everything you do. This means implementing a robust communication schedule based on the first 90 days life cycle of a client.
A schedule will help keep your communication consistent and focused – you won’t be desperately trying to remember when you last contacted a particular client and what was discussed.
So remember:
  • Clients are more likely to churn during the first 90 days
  • To counter this, build a 90-day client communication schedule
  • The client communication schedule is a good way of setting client expectations right from the start
  • The client communication schedule is also good for benchmarking results against expectations
  • There are various channels of client communication open to you – both on and offline!
  • Take into account the communication preference of the client
  • Phone calls can be great ice-breakers and encourage in-depth discussions
  • Emails should be utilized as follow-ups to any phone calls
  • Don’t shy away from having difficult discussions. Clients will respect negative feedback as long as it is coupled with a positive way forward.
  • Great client communication can result in strong client-agency relationships and build a loyal client base and improve client retention.

 

 

Katy Beardsell is the Marketing Coordinator at InvisiblePPC, who provide innovative White Label PPC services to digital marketing agencies. With over 16 years of experience, Katy can still remember the pre-digital age of marketing! Find InvisiblePPC on twitter.

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