7 Tips for Working with Clients from a Project Manager
In every relationship, you have to take the good with the bad.
Some unique relationships — like business relationships — may seem more heavily weighted on one side than the other.
Part of the time, things suck. A lot of the time, things are awesome! All of the time, things are a lot of work. But establishing a solid working relationship is worth it — both for you and for the client.
As a project manager, I’ve had my fair share of client relations. Here are my seven best tips on working with clients.
1. Set the Standards
The first and most important step in any relationship is setting boundaries and standards. For project managers, laying the groundwork of expectations is essential.
For example, at the beginning of any client relationship at our auto marketing agency, both our team and the client sign a contract agreeing to terms and services. This contract lays out what’s expected from both sides regarding the duration of the relationship and the actual scope of work.
Down the road, a client may want things added, removed, or changed. It’s essential to refer to the contract as a base point to avoid that ever-looming scope creep.
Sticking to the script helps you avoid setting yourself up for failure.
2. Keep Things Moving Along
Okay, not to double back on what I just said, but change is possible. In the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, change is bound to happen.
Most days, I feel like the middleman, trying to translate someone’s wants or needs to another person. It can be challenging, for sure.
We say it often in the office, but it’s my job as a project manager to steer clients away from “bright and shiny” things. Clients can get easily sidetracked by the latest and greatest. But just because it’s the latest, doesn’t mean it’s the greatest.
It’s best to evaluate with the creative team on the logistics of a new tactic or tool, then communicate their advice back to the client in a way that makes sense for everyone.
3. Take the Conversation Offline
There are times when I swear two emails were written in two different languages, and I can only understand the one I wrote.
In order for me to accurately relay a client’s needs to the creative team, sometimes I need to pick up the phone and talk it out. Managing client communication is key.
You’d be surprised by how often a simple email can have so many edits for one project. It’s easiest for me to find my point person at the company and give them a call to clarify.
4. Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated
Seems so basic, right? I don’t know how many times in life my mother or teacher told me this, but it did its job and stuck with me.
To get the respect you want (and deserve), you have to give it.
Diffusing client conflict in order to keep a healthy relationship going is another essential part of the job as a project manager.
5. Manage Your Frustrations
In addition to being the middleman between the client and a team of creatives, I find I am the bearer of bad news more often than I’d like. That can be frustrating.
It may sound crazy to people other than Jenny (my fellow project manager), but I’ll gladly take the heat for one of my creatives. Sure, I’d prefer a perfect world, where no one makes mistakes and everyone smiles all the time, but let’s face it: that’s not life.
Again, you’ve got to take the bad with the good. I’ll be the armor that protects my team if they need it — and protects my client if it means their dealership or business will have success.
6. Keep the Process Efficient
I swear, sometimes getting a monthly meeting together is like herding cats. It pays to be efficient when setting meetings.
Finding a meeting time that works for everyone — and confirming that it still works for everyone hours or even minutes before the meeting — is one of my biggest frustrations as a project manager (see tip #3).
But, once the time is confirmed, it’s best to have a meeting plan laid out to make the best use of everyone’s time. Those meetings are where the strategy magic happens!
7. Don’t Give Up
To quote Jenny on being a good leader:
“It’s certainly easier to wallow in the negative, but a good leader won’t take the simple route.”
Through all the bad (and the good), a smooth client relationship is worth all the work it takes to get there.
I truly get a rush out of seeing a plan come to fruition. Those various emails reporting stellar results or even a simple “Thank you!” from a client are pure icing on the cake.
Help Us Help You
I think I can speak for the entire project management team when I say that we’re excited to work with every client who comes to us.
Every day is a new and interesting challenge. The best part is finding out how to overcome that challenge as a team.
Not sure what your exact challenges are? Wondering if what we do is the right fit for you? Click below for a digital audit with Matt to see.