Since making the jump from in-house to agency marketer, I have been fascinated by the intricacies of client, agency and team member relationships. As a Project Manager and Director of SEO, I am responsible for both client retention and the growth of the department. It is essential to my success, and ultimately the success of DragonSearch, to deliver superb work that extends beyond my client’s established goals, project after project, day after day.
The sometimes misguided practices of the minority in the digital marketing industry have given practitioners a bad name, while leaving the clients that pay for underdelivered services a wretched taste in their mouths. I have often felt the animosity and uncertainty caused by the lack of trust when meeting prospective clients for the first time. At Cannes, the creative agency, RPA, delivered the findings behind the survey, The Naked Truth which caught my eye because it examines the agency to client relationship and why the killer variable of trust is missing. Reporting is often our chief communication method with clients, which is ignored in favor of vanity metrics, fancy outreach methods and shiny new tools that aren’t fully understood.
Our industry’s reliance on communication-via-reporting sucks and it kills the trust clients have in their agency, even our industry as a whole. Most projects that I’m involved with begin with a Website Audit and results in what can be a 40-page, 10,000+ word beast that thoroughly calls-out every detail that is wrong with the client’s web site. It feels like calling the client’s baby ugly and telling the website development team that they suck at their job. I will note here that I don’t actually call the client’s baby (web site) ugly, nor do I tell the development team that they suck at their job. However, I imagine that’s the thud they feel within their guts as they review the document. This presents a challenge for building a strong, trusting relationship that must be overcome.
Clients should expect more out of their reporting and agencies should deliver to exceed expectations. To ensure that your reports add value, are actionable and help build trust, follow these 7 essential tips:
Include recommendations specific to the website after each section. Mentioning an issue without offering analysis or recommendations as to why it’s an issue leaves the client wondering. Cookie-cutter analysis can scram.
Give clear analysis. Presenting Google Analytics data without analysis should be avoided at all costs. If clients wanted to look at Google Analytics, they’d login and take a look themselves. They want you to explain the key issues, what they mean, and what can be done about them.
Use visuals to enhance understanding. Screenshots can do more in explaining an issue than a verbose technical answer. They should always include additional overlays, arrows, etc. that highlight the issue. Clients largely don’t know what they’re looking at. Do you want them to spend their time trying to understand a graphic, or do you want them to focus on buying into your solution?
Cap examples at three. Repeated examples of the same thing wastes time and does not drive the point home any further.
Deliver reports that prioritize issues and offer actionable recommendations. Audits cost real money, so reports should maximize the return on this substantial investment and not focus on trivial issues that offer a low return.
Provide clear next steps. The client should never get to the end of a document and wonder “what’s next?” A clear understanding as to who is responsible for what, how it will be fixed, what support is needed and the timeline for completion should be as clear as day.
Respect their input and knowledge. Everyone should feel that they have a seat at the table and can offer their expertise. Ask stakeholders about your recommendations and what they feel needs to be improved. By including them in the conversation, it shows that you respect them. Respect builds trust.
Education and transparency are largely the fuel that feeds trust. Clients should hunger to understand what their agency is doing on their behalf and agencies should go to great lengths to help their clients understand the strategies, tactics and the reasons why those tactics are so important. There is no better SEO deliverable that can connect with a client and set in motion the success of the campaign than the website audit. Transparency and education become paramount, showing the client from the start that you have real value to bring to the relationship, becoming a partner in its success. Value the relationship above all else and the trust will follow.