Preparing for a client meeting

Walk the Talk

The key to creating valuable conversations is creating and maintaining a level of trust. Here's how to do it.

Whatever task that we undertake for a client, we’re helping them tell a story. Be it a business card, a video, a website, or their social media, we’re using words and images to tell their story to the larger public. Sure, we’re a marketing and media shop, but more importantly, we’re storytellers.

It’s all about communication.

When you look at our roster of clients, most of them have opted to maintain a level of engagement with us. It may simply be the hosting and maintaining of their website. We’ll keep in touch to notify them of updates to the various plugins and gizmos that keep their website humming along. We’re always available to make changes as they experience changes in leadership or evolve their mission.

Many of our clients rely on us for more active engagement. We do regular photo shoots to highlight their products and services. We maintain their social media feeds, providing creative content, moderating comments, and answering questions from their clients on behalf of the business. We may provide content for blogs, or help them promote special events or new product roll-outs.

To do these things, we have to actively communicate with them.

Each client will come with their own quirks and personal preferences when it comes to that communication. Perhaps they need a personal touch, with an in-person visit where they can lob around ideas, thumb through brochures, and evaluate the weights and textures of post cards. Some are comfortable with a regular email correspondence. Most appreciate a productive phone call. A newer tool has been the use of a regular schedule of Zoom meetings. Some clients are content to just let us run with the ball.

How do you know which is the right one for that client, and how do you foster a productive dialog?

Here are some tips:

Determine how they want to talk to you.
At the beginning of your engagement, ask them what they prefer: phone call, email, video chat? Find out when they want to talk. Are Fridays good, and do you want to talk weekly? You’re setting a level of expectation that they’re comfortable with.

Build Trust.
Many of our clients have been with us for a long time, and we consider many of them friends. These relationships started by building trust. We listened to their needs, were empathetic to their concerns, and were clear about our deliverables. We also owned our lane…

Bear the Bad News with Good.
We try to be very clear with our clients about what we can deliver. Truth be told, part of our value proposition as a boutique company is our ability to think outside the box and deliver the unexpected. “Oh. We can do that.” That might be arranging live music or a food cart for an event. We’ve done everything from turning a designer into a bartender for a night to strapping a photographer into a kayak for some quality B-roll film. But sometimes things go awry. The free software you use for client services may no longer be free. A print vendor may have over-promised and we’re behind on your post cards. We’re fortunate that these situations are rare for us, but they happen. When they do, we own them, and are clear about what we’re doing to resolve them.

Check Your Tongue.
The casual tone you take with a long-time colleague or client may not be appropriate for everyone. Start every conversation by being polite. Be professional first, and let the client be the one to break the “friend” ice. You may not like their design ideas, but frame your critique in a positive light. Never assume that your client understands what you’re talking about, or the industry jargon you’re throwing around. If you’re relying on written communication, use the tools the platform gives you – ANYONE CAN USE SPELLCHECK!

The key to creating valuable conversations is creating and maintaining a level of trust. If you promised it, do it. If they’re expecting a call, pick up the phone. If you’ve not heard from them, follow up and schedule that meeting.

Telling a good story is about engaging your audience. Creating relationships is about building trust. We love a good story, and our clients trust us to tell them.

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