No matter what kind of company you run, regardless of whether you provide a product or service to businesses or directly to consumers, you will need to prove your worth over and over again.
Being totally transparent will help you foster the kind of trust and collaboration that keeps clients happy, even when things don’t go perfectly. Here’s how:
1. Start with honest value propositions. You know how this works. You really want to land some certain business or sign some certain client, so you throw in little pro-bono perks, often called “value adds.” Each one might seem like no big deal, but after you’ve provided a number of these, you may suddenly realize you’re not adding value; you’re just doing a lot of extra work for no compensation.
When this happens, clients sometimes start to believe they’ll get whatever they request — for free. So, from day one, let people know why things cost money and where that money goes, to proactively defend your value. Clients rarely understand what it actually takes to effectively perform a service, and when you consistently throw in time or money for free, you devalue your work and create a downward spiral. This is why 71 percent of organizations agree that establishing your value clearly up-front is the best tactic.
2. Don’t create “black boxes.” If your partners don’t provide full transparency into where every dollar goes that you’re spending with them (and how those efforts are going), you won’t know what’s working. You don’t want that and shouldn’t stand for it. So, why would clients want to work with you unless you provide the same level of transparency to them?
The owner of an account holds the power. For example, if a marketing agency says, “We’re going to create a separate account that we own for all of your campaigns and all of your ad spend,” it’s effectively telling you that the company not only owns your data, but also controls the illusion of success or failure.
To avoid creating a “black box” where your efforts will be obfuscated from view, use your clients’ platforms and preferred tools, rather than setting up standalone platforms that they can’t access. Describe this best practice and the motivation behind it during the sales process, and execute on it at onboarding — be honest and open, early and often. Your commitment to transparency will be a big selling point for the right clients.
3. Own your mistakes, from start to follow-up. Here’s a hard truth: Only 39 percent of agencies meet client expectations, according to a survey by Bedford Group. To be part of that group, you must be willing to take the initiative when it comes to owning up to mistakes.
When one of our client’s campaigns isn’t performing as well as we thought it would, for example, we’ll say, “So, here’s what things look like so far. Let’s keep an eye on it, and then optimize based on some further tweaks we’ll make next week.”
Related: Owning Mistakes Is Part Of Success
Don’t hide from poor performance. Clients will see it and ask about it, anyway. When you make mistakes or see lackluster results, report the bad news before they ask about it. By pointing out the issues and outlining a solution, you ensure that they can see the improvements happen, which only strengthens their trust in you as a partner.
To keep them coming back for more, be transparent with your value proposition, clarifying how, why and where their money is going to be used. Give clients access to their own performance data, and when results don’t turn out as expected, get out in front of the situation by describing your thoughts on why they didn’t. Then, once you’ve determined an appropriate course correction, tell your clients what you’re going to do, do it — and tell them what you did.