Nothing Beats Face Time With Clients

Last week I jumped on a plane and spent the week at my client’s office. When my client services director initially directed me to take this trip, I was a little worried: What was I going to do with myself? Wouldn’t I just be in the way?

Once I was there, she was delighted to have the marketing peer she had always wanted right next to her. In short, impromptu meetings, we were able to breeze through a long list of tasks that had been in the queue for weeks. In another unplanned meeting over coffee one morning, we brainstormed the entire 2013-14 marketing strategy for our vertical. The client was so pleased to have me there, she had her colleagues queuing up to spend a little time learning what I do and vice versa.

The outcome: I was able to hear my client’s pains and joys over lunches; so I began to understand more not only about the business, but about her. My client no longer had to trawl through e-mails to get answers to questions; she just had to turn her head and ask me throughout the week. I was able to understand more about what went on behind the scenes for my client and how I can help support her as we continue to work together.

Over the course of the week, I met with several new contacts from outside the marketing team. The business-development team talked me through their concerns regarding new product launches and tight deadlines, and I was able to talk them through the agency processes to put their minds at ease. I spoke to local marketing teams and learned what works in their countries, gaining local knowledge I previously never had. The sales team chatted with me about their wish list of sales-enablement tools, without anybody telling them to “just work harder” or “there’s no budget.” And finally I was able to hear a real customer’s real thoughts about the products that we create the marketing for. The honesty and passion that came out made me feel real pride in the job I do.

I rounded out the week feeling part of the client’s team. I have a deeper understanding of my client’s typical day and the demands that she faces, as well as the business itself, including its challenges and opportunities. I was able to get under the skin of my client and proactively find ways that we can help deliver on her goals and KPIs.

The key thing I learned from this week-long visit: You just can’t beat face time with your clients. The depth and insight this has given me is absolutely invaluable, and the client and I have a much stronger relationship for it.

My 10 top tips for client visits:

1)    Listen.

2)    Be brave and talk to everybody (I mean EVERYBODY).

3)    Ask lots of questions. People love to talk, especially about themselves.

4)    Be human and open up. It’s a chance for your client to get to know you too.

5)    Accept every invitation for coffee, and strike up a conversation on the way.

6)    Listen…okay, I know I’ve said it twice, but it’s really important!

7)    Take notes.

8)    Say hi to everybody you can.

9)    Don’t forget those business cards.

Oh, and finally, number 10: Do it again, soon!

Elaine Bramall is an account director at gyro London.