We’re thrilled to announce the launch of our first sweepstakes and brand campaign JUST LET ME DO MY JOB.

  • Home
  • Articles
  • Client Management Strategies for Agencies That Make Everyone’s Lives Easier

Client Management Strategies for Agencies That Make Everyone’s Lives Easier

Good client experiences in the agency world aren’t always the norm. Here’s how to make them yours.

Horror stories about poor client experiences make the rounds online, in friend circles, and between colleagues. These stories can include anything from a lack of communication to being scammed out of money for deliverables. Either way, your brand reputation extends beyond just your work; it encompasses the entire client experience.

One of the best things you can do for your business is give your clients a great experience from the start. But managing clients in an organized manner isn’t always easy, especially if you’re just getting started.

For 20 years, Basecamp has helped agencies of all sizes make client management easier. During that time, we’ve learned what it takes to manage clients in a way that leaves them happy and excited to recommend your agency to others.

Let’s explore some of these lessons.

Start with Principles

You can’t effectively manage your clients if you haven’t yet figured out how to manage your business. The principles you hold and how you operate behind closed doors impacts how your clients are taken care of.

Your standards become your employees’ standards. Which means you’ll have to codify how you work:

  1. Decide how you’ll get things done: What’s your mode of operation? Do you make a couple drafts of your work (web pages, blogs, social media posts) and get client feedback before finalizing, or do you do your best work and ship it off to the client, making small revisions when necessary? These decisions impact your client’s expectations, and therefore your team’s work.

  2. Figure out how you would respond to certain situations: Say a client wants an extra two revisions on something they’ve already met their revisions quota on. How does your team handle that? Who do they go to when they don’t know how to handle it? Document these decisions for your team to reference when they come up.

  3. Find the line of when you need to fire a client: Not everyone is destined to work together forever and you’ll have to fire a client eventually, but what will determine that? What is the criteria? Knowing this can help your team alert you to these lines being crossed and keeps your roster full of clients you and the team like working with.

  4. Determine the operating principles you use to make decisions: Most established (and growing) businesses have guiding principles or values. Ours are right here. It helps remove decision fatigue when we can reference these. Does it align or not? The choice is easier.

  5. Decide who is the go-to when it comes to saving a client: Not everyone is a fit to talk a difficult client off the edge. It helps if you have a dedicated person in charge of the challenging conversations that can get emotionally heated. They’ll be able to communicate empathetically, notice trends, and bring that to the team to iterate and improve.

There are more areas to focus on, but these will get you started. When everyone in your organization is on the same page, client management becomes infinitely easier.

Elements of Client Management & How to Do Each Well

Maintaining your client roster is one of the best ways to grow as an agency. When you’re constantly trying to add new clients just to keep up with the status quo, that’s less time and energy you can put into serving your current clients, research and development for the services you provide, and general growth strategies.

But keeping clients means giving them a great experience. That starts with quality client management.

1. Onboarding

After the initial call and agreement to work together, the onboarding process is the first time you get to show your client what it’ll be like to work with you. First impressions matter.

If your client onboarding is messy, unorganized, and they have to email five times just to figure out how to see the project’s progress, you’re off to a rough start.

We cover client onboarding here, but this is a brief of what you need to include:

  • How and where to communicate what they want delivered

  • Where they’ll receive the work

  • How and who to communicate with for updates

  • When you’ll invoice and how

  • How you accept payment and when it’s expected

  • Any account logins or accesses

  • Any other expectations, guidelines, or questions they need answered

Preferably, you’ll do this all at one time in an organized manner that includes an email and a phone or video call to make sure everyone understands.

2. Communication

If you’re not intentional about managing client communication, your relationship will fall through the cracks. They need to be able to reach out and connect with someone should they have questions or to change something you delivered.

It’s really easy to think, “they’ll just ask if they need something.” But ask who? Through what medium? Can they reach out in an email or will you ignore emails because your business is forgoing the distraction of emails altogether?

If they’re ignored and you deliver work they don’t like, will they be charged extra for doing it again? That’s a quick way to create a client that’s difficult to work with.

There are a lot of options to manage communication, here are some popular ones:

  • Use the project management software and add your client to it, keeping all communication in a single place

  • Use an internal communication software like Slack and create a channel for each client

  • Set expectations for where to go and what timeline they will hear back from you

This guide to client communication has more suggestions, but honestly it isn’t as complicated as people often make it.

Communicate. Listen. Make it easy for them.

3. Project Management

Every good agency will have a project management program to help them stay organized. A system of Google folders, emails, Facebook messages, or other communication softwares don’t cut it.

When you try to do everything in various places, you’re bound to make mistakes, not communicate with clients, forget to give certain feedback, and more. It’ll be a huge mess.

Pick a software that does everything in a single place so work stays hyper organized on your end. Basecamp does this easily and you don’t need any third party communication software, either. It’s all built in.

You can organize your client list as projects, with each project containing the name of the client, and all other information within that project view like a messaging board, project updates, a files folder for invoices and other important information, and more, as you can see below.

One central place for all your client assets, documents, tasks, and communications.
One central place for all your client assets, documents, tasks, and communications.

4. Invoicing & Payments

You need someone to manage this system and ensure you’re sticking to the expectations you set for this process. Your invoicing should happen on the same day and if payment isn’t collected from your client by the agreed upon deadline, that person needs to follow up and make sure it does.

Depending on what type of invoicing software you use, you may be able to automate this and schedule invoices to be sent out at the same time each month. Just be sure to update any of the information based on changes beforehand.

5. Client Relationship & Ongoing Work

There are a couple different instances that you’ll need to manage the client relationship:

  1. Overall management of individual clients: In some larger agencies, there are different managers of the accounts. One person may manage the overall workflow and output of a few clients while another does so for a few other clients. This just ensures someone is overseeing that projects get completed and move forward on the expected timeline while meeting clients needs. It also means that there’s a single point of contact for each client so they’re not trying to message every person working on their account.

  2. When things are going poorly: How do you manage when a client is upset with the work? Maybe what you delivered completely missed the mark or maybe they tried to get in touch and haven’t heard back from you for a week. Either way, you’ll need a process for managing when clients are unhappy. Figuring out a person or system that’s replicable and easy to follow for each client manager is your best bet for longevity.

  3. When it’s time to end the relationship: Who communicates that a client is being fired and how is this handled? Who announces it to the team? What work do you deliver or finish from that client? This might be a system that you’ll “cross that bridge when you get to it” but fumbling this process has ramifications.

  4. When it’s time to renew a contract: If your agency goal is growth, you’ll want to retain as many clients as possible. Sometimes agencies will place a 90-day or 6-month contract as the very first, other times they’ll start a client on a one month test run. Either way, the longer the contract you secure, the more you can calculate business projections to help you plan and grow. Prioritize deciding how you want to move through this and make sure your clients are aware when it’s time to renew so it doesn’t sneak up on them.

Obviously you’ll be communicating at other times but these are three key moments where you’ll need a specific method to manage them. The fact is, you’re not just a business. If you want to keep that client around, you have to build a relationship with them.

That extends beyond “Here’s those blog posts you asked for!”

Client management isn’t complicated, but it does require preparation. Don’t try to build this bridge too late. Start on this early in your business and you’ll see how smooth an agency can run.

Learn with Basecamp.

In addition to our books and blogs, we write articles filled with practical
advice on project management, remote work, honest marketing,
building a business, and making work a little less crazy.

Read more

We’d like to use a cookie to help us understand if our ads are working or not.