Managing client relationships, expectations, and deliverables is critical to a business. Whether big or small, poor client management gets you a poor business owner. And I think you will agree that poverty is not the business of business.
Business Model Clarity
Be clear as to what clients can expect. Your business can’t and won’t offer them the moon, stop lying and exaggerating. Just as you, as a business owner, wouldn’t want your hires to inflate their credentials and then fail to measure up, your client isn’t too different. Be clear about what your business can and can’t do.
Your client will tell you what they want, and part of your job is to look at their market environment and estimate if you can deliver up to expectations. A client may want to dominate the market and pressure you to help them achieve that. Fantastic, but if you and the client are up against entrenched billion-dollar mega-cap industry leaders, there should be no illusion they can outspend, out-advertise, and perhaps under-price small and medium businesses. Manage clients easily by promising them some measure of growth, but not dominance or a bottomless economic moat to fend off competitors.
A customer account management tool doesn’t sound as much fun a weekend in Cancun, but it’s a necessity. It helps you clarify expectations and the resources, in terms of time and money, that you will need to reach them. Thus, you can put together a clear, comprehensive contract. Remember that contracts can and will be scrutinized in court in case of disputes come up. Get details clear, down to the grammar.
Also, put in contingencies for missed deadlines or sub-par deliverables. It doesn’t seem productive to remind clients of the possibility that your business will make mistakes and fail, but, honestly, no client should be under the illusion of a fail-safe guarantee on a project of any substantial complexity. The Pentagon and giant defense contractors always go back and forth with billions of your tax dollars being thrown around like confetti when something is past due date or not up to performance standards. Your business may be good, but it won’t consistently out-perform in a field where even the nexus of politically connected industry giants and the Federal Government is constantly frayed at the edges.
Your customer account management tool should keep track of client satisfaction and the possibility of future work. If you can anticipate client concerns beyond what they tell you, your business will stand out. Cement a long-term relationship even if it means compromising short-term gains. A client will realize that your business is exceptional for trying to accommodate them more than the competition.
Profitable client management is like walking a tight rope. Mediocre results and grandiose promises are both perilous. Good luck in figuring it out. When you do, remember me when you want a sailing partner on your private yacht.