You’ve put the hard work in, talked through your stellar portfolio, reeled off your perfectly polished sales pitch, wined and dined and charmed their socks off, and now you’ve got a brand new client signing on the dotted line.
You dance around your office, treat yourself to the fancy chocolates (you know, the ones kept for “business meetings only”) and get ready to clink some glasses over your most expensive champagne.
Then realization hits – you’ve got a new client. And they’re a really big deal. Nailing this project will boost your agency’s profile in the industry for years. Not to mention, you’ve already put a heck of a lot of energy and resources into getting this far. You really can’t afford to mess this one up.
What on earth do you do?
Step 1: Get Them Onboard
First things first: you need to make sure the client is on the same page as you! You’re talking location and wardrobe, they’re throwing in words like on-trend and location wedding – in short, if you don’t get versed in each other’s language, the project is likely to quickly become a hot mess! You want to get them to get them excited about the same stuff and ideally speaking “creative” as fluently as you.
You need to run a client kickoff meeting.
The kickoff meeting is where you get to talk creative briefing methods, ways of working, discuss communication and collaboration tools and any training and educational resources available during the course of the project to bring both sides up to speed. You want to make it as easy as possible for the client to understand your world and vice versa.
Done right, the kickoff meeting will reduce confusion down the line and lay the groundwork for a great working relationship. Where most agencies would jump right into the project, you want to add extra value.
The kickoff meeting shouldn’t be one-sided – you want the client to contribute as much as they can – so try and make the session interactive, fun and educational. Think leave-behinds, portfolios, booklets, this is your opportunity to get creative!
Step 2: Manage Client Expectations
Clients can’t help being a little design ignorant – they’re experts at their thing, and they rely on you to be the expert at your thing. However, because these clients don’t understand your process or your industry, they often expect impossible things and demonstrate a very “selective” understanding of what exactly you do.
Managing expectations is about getting your new client to understand their role in the creative process, and yours. How can you do this?
You need to establish great communication tools and processes from the outset.
This will help you keep clients in the loop throughout so they know exactly what to expect and when – so they’re not banging on your door hours before the big day asking for final approval of location shots! For example, you could decide to hold regular check-ins via Skype, host monthly working sessions at your office.
Step 3: Use The Right Tools For The Job
Without the right systems in place to manage this new project, things are going to be very, very hard. There should be a method to the madness after all, as much as creatives like to wing it. Imagine if you were relying solely on your filing skills (no matter how amazing they are) and your desktop calendar to keep everything ticking along smoothly? Where would you store conversations against a job? And the notes or documents associated with them? Would endless email chains become the norm? And what about the painful task of time tracking on bits of paper, every Friday evening when the week just been is already a big blur and you begin your weekend shoting schedule? There’s got to be a better way!
There is. We’re glad you asked!
Step 4: Bring In The A-Team
Every office has one – and when their powers are combined…
Well, let’s just say, things get real.
The beauty of the A-team is that it can be customized for a specific project or client. In fact, that’s when the real magic happens! Think about the specific skillsets required for the job and the client. The size and scope of the project will determine how much resource to allocate. Typically (though every agency differs!) you’ll want a strategic hat (researcher/strategist), a creative and an account manager or your main point of contact: the project manager or lead. Sometimes in a smaller creative business this may be 1 or 2 people if you’re lucky! If need be, always know you can bring on a Virtual Assistant to help get your clients in order and keep your business running smoothly.
Step 5: Collaborate!
The client just doesn’t get it…
They don’t understand my creative vision
They’re not creative…
Sound familiar? Unfortunately that’s an overriding sentiment still prevailing in the creative world today. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Big Magic states “if you’re alive, you’re a creative person”. I think it’s a beautiful sentiment, one that we should try to reflect in our work and client relationships. And besides, bringing clients into the nitty gritty of the project is a HUGE advantage, when they know the ins and outs of their lives and relationships better than we could ever hope to.
The good news is technology has made collaboration even easier, with tools where you can collaborate on concepts, dramatically cutting down on questions, quickly get feedback, reduce timelines (and more importantly reduce stress and drama – yay!).