5 Simple Ways to Stand Out with Your Clients

“Stop trying to fit in when you were born to stand out” – What a Girl Wants

Have you ever met someone who stood out so much that their presence was not only apparent, but remains your paradigm for remarkable?

The first time I met such a person, he walked into the room and said a genuine “hello” to everyone – even the people he didn’t know. He asked, “how was your weekend?,” and stayed to listen to the response. He was warm, kind, and honest when answering questions. He tried to relate to others. Best first impression I ever had.

My encounter with this person taught me about what good client service looks like, and why clients abandon some companies, but praise others and refer their friends.

Here are few simple things I think we can do to stand out with our clients as well.

1. Personalize the client experience

Whether addressing the principal or the most junior person on their team, your ability to personalize their experience is one of the easiest ways to create a lasting relationship. When working in Investor Relations, I kept notes about my conversations with clients, including little details about their families or hobbies. Sending something as little as a birthday card can also go a long way. Although your ultimate goal is to demonstrate results, your amiableness and understanding of what they care about shows them that you are always listening.

2. Be intuitive and proactive about client needs

If you know your clients, you can anticipate what might help them achieve their goals or make it easier to complete a task, even when it means going out of your way. Over-delivering demonstrates just how committed you are to their success.

3. Present a logical story and never hide in times of need

There are times when things don’t go as planned, and you need to deliver the bad news. In these times it is important to be there for your clients and to relay the problem logically. In late 2007, I interned for a financial advisory group in an investment bank. I remember how appreciative clients were when their advisors reached out to them in the most difficult times to explain the situation and deliver a plan of action.

4. Never answer a question without knowing the answer

When you don’t know the answer to a question, it is professional to say that you don’t know, but that you are happy to find out and get back to the client. Pretending that you do might destroy your credibility. It is impossible to know everything, and clients will appreciate that you listen to their concerns and get back to them with the right answer.

5. Be detail oriented

It’s on every job description, and it’s a great way to stand out. There are many ways your work can go wrong, but a spelling mistake shouldn’t be one of them. Mechanical or simple math errors are easily avoidable if you have the right tools for checking your work. A reputation for mistake-free work builds a foundation for trust.

What other simple tactics can make you stand out from the crowd?

About the Author:
Marina Tsipenyuk is marketing professional with experience in the financial services, music, and beauty industries. She currently works in the marketing department of a french beauty company, and has previously worked in the marketing department of a fund of hedge funds and interned in a Public Relations firm during her time in Rutgers. Connect with her on Twitter via @msipen

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The Most Important Word PR Pros Should Use More Often: “NO”

This is going to be one of my shortest posts. Not because I don’t have a lot of thoughts on it, but because I don’t think you need a lot of words to get the point across on this one…

At times, there are clients (and even PR pros) that sound like nothing more than an infomercial.

“We want a mobile app that is going to let you do 20 different things with just the touch of a button.”

“Lets suggest the client build its blog on Tumblr because WordPress is so 2010.”

“Have you heard about that shiny, new social media tool that was launched last week according to Mashable? We really want it.”

Whether the client comes to you with an idea for a new social media campaign, or a suggestion for a PR event, if it doesn’t make sense for the brand, doesn’t meet the company’s goals, and measuring its success is going to be an obstacle, say something! Don’t be a ‘yes man’ and nod your head at everything the client says just because they are client. As Paul Roberts mentioned to me today, ask “why” or “why not” when discussing ideas. Clients hire you for your support AND counsel, they want (or should want) to know your thoughts.

The same goes for internal brainstorms with your colleagues. Don’t be afraid to speak up just because you are the most junior person in the room. If you don’t agree with an idea or have a different take on it, let your voice be heard. No, don’t come out and say, “That idea sucks,” but be polite and share your opinion. That’s what brainstorms are for.

At the end of the day, clients/colleagues are not always going to agree with you on many issues. However, it’s important to develop your own voice and give your perspective on things. If it’s an awesome idea, say so. If it’s not, speak up and be prepared to state your case in a professional manner. Either way, nobody wins if you keep your mouth shut, go along with an idea you don’t agree with, or never offer any feedback or suggestions.

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What Do Companies Really Want from a PR Agency?

Have you ever asked yourself this question?

Sure you have, because it’s easy to get frustrated in this business.

Maybe it was the time the client made you put together pages and pages of reports, you sent it off, and never heard about it again that made you question their true intentions of how they wanted to utilize your team? Or maybe it was when you pushed back on a client’s campaign idea and they decided to move forward with it despite your concerns?

But don’t forget the other side of the coin. The times when your client came to you for advice on how to really build up excitement about a new product being launched, or needed your counsel on how to drive people to their social media communities.

At the end of the day (I never said this term before I got into PR), we’ve all worked on something we didn’t fully understand or agree with, but we’ve also worked on some great projects as well, and it’s made me further believe that that companies hire PR agencies to be partners with them and not just to dump piles of tedious work on their plates.

Maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones who’s gotten the chance to work on lots of accounts with clients who primarily want PR counsel and not just worker bees? Or maybe I’m being naive to think this is mostly the case throughout the PR community?

This leads into today’s poll question below:

 

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Just Because The Client Is Always Right, Doesn’t Mean You’re Always Wrong

Getting a client to agree with your counsel is often an uphill battle

If you are a PR pro who’s ever worked at an agency, then you know this scenario far too well.

One of your clients – let’s call them Joe’s Laundromat – has a huge launch coming up. Big money has been invested in it and Joe thinks this is the biggest news to hit the industry since the invention of the steam iron.

Upon hearing this news, the agency PR team gets together and writes out a strategy that they believe will help drive success for this launch. However, the agency’s plan does not involve all of the tactics that Joe is eager to move forward with. Despite the agency’s counsel, Joe wants to move forward doing things his way. The agency agrees.

So what am I trying to get at? For starters, every client (and every agency for that matter) is different. Some clients will do everything you tell them to do, others will do the exact opposite. When this happens, the key is to try and not get frustrated. At the end of the day, you can only push back so much. A client is ultimately going to make the decisions no matter how persuasive your argument may be. Whether their way works or doesn’t is irrelevant. Your job is to provide the best counsel possible no matter what.

There will always be new opportunities to provide counsel to clients, and even those like Joe’s Laundromat will occasionally surprise you and take your advice. So don’t get down and out. Be patient, keep working hard, and good things will happen eventually.

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Time To Fire Your Client? Five Steps to Take When Contemplating A Break-Up

When should a PR agency choose to 'Fire' a client?

At our best, PR people are diplomats as well as communications experts; core to good client service, we are taught, is honing your listening skills. Listen “between the lines” to uncover your client’s real needs, listen even when you disagree with what they’re saying.

After all, the client is always right.

Well, not always, but it’s a good rule of thumb to follow. But what happens when clients go from being challenging to abusive? At what point do you decide the morale of your staff is more important than client revenue?

Several years ago, in what was certainly the worst client meeting of my career, I watched a senior client do the following:

– Accuse us of lying about having secured a “Today” show segment

– Hurl a press kit comp across the table at us

– Dismiss “agency types” as “all the same” and only in it to “steal his money.”

It wasn’t the first time we’d had difficulty with this client, but the hostility in this meeting made it clear the relationship was broken. We reported back to our then-CEO, the savviest manager of client relations I knew. She had a healthy respect for client revenue, to be sure, but in this case her actions were swift. No one, she said, treats my staff like that.

With that, she picked up the phone and resigned the business.

So how do you know when it’s time to end the relationship? Unless there is a clear case of impropriety or ethics abuses, firing a client is complicated. Depending on your agency, it might not even be your call to make alone. No matter what your ultimate say in the matter, consider this as you frame your argument for or against calling it quits:

1. Sprinkle a grain of salt. It’s your job to listen to your account staff objectively. Separate fact from emotion when they complain about the client. Dive in personally to assess the tone and content of agency-client exchanges.

2. Switch it up. Sometimes a dysfunctional relationship is just a function of bad chemistry. Team burnout can happen under the best of circumstances; see if a staff rotation can help alleviate some of the tension.

3. Intervene. Address the issues head-on with the client, ideally in person. Keep the conversation fact-based, bring concrete examples and address the client’s actions – not their personality.  Approach the conversation from a partnership mindset.

4. Weigh the costs. If you’ve worked through steps 1, 2 and 3 and it’s clear the relationship is beyond repair, it’s time to consider operational implications of resigning the account. Are there staff flight risks if you don’t fire the client? How much will it cost in recruiting fees to replace them?

5. Make a plan. If you’ve decided to end the relationship, quietly activate your new business team. Map a prospecting strategy:  there’s revenue to be replaced and you’ve got category expertise to leverage.

Ultimately, you must trust your instincts as a leader. Ask yourself: am I as devoted to my staff as I am to my clients? That question alone may illuminate the right path to take.

About the Author

Stephanie Smirnov is President of DeVries Public Relations, a leading consumer PR firm based in NYC whose clients include P&G, E&J Gallo, Pepperidge Farm and Boston Beer Company. Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her personal blog PR Mama.