Small PR agencies, particularly, are given to servicing their clients until the job is done. The operative words, here, are keeping clients happy, and keeping clients, period.
We love our clients and many become friends, because small agencies work hard at preserving the relationship, with frequent personal and phone meetings, and intense servicing that often goes way beyond the retainer or project fee. Let’s face it, almost everyone works at a paid job to earn a living, and if you’re in business for yourself, you’re mindful of ensuring that client service and overhead do not eclipse a reasonable profit.
Here are a few ways to maintain client goodwill, and save precious time AND your sanity:
- When you’re pitching the business, be kind to yourself and don’t make promises to the prospective client that you can’t keep. Though you are presenting to make the best impression and to get the business, be clear on what you can provide for the fee you’ve presented.
- As soon as you win the business, discuss with your client all aspects of what you’ll be handling, then create the PR plan. Invite your client to “buy in” to the program by asking him or her to sign it after all parties agree to the terms. This can even be part of the letter of agreement. Within that plan, reiterate the number of hours you will spend on the account for the range of activities. In our experience, it’s prudent to cover deadlines. For example, how much time will you need to execute each project?
- Cash flow is king; if you bill your client monthly, bill the 15th of the present month for next month’s fee; include expenses for the previous month. If you can help it, don’t mark anything up, unless you get the client’s permission.
- Monitor your time, carefully. If you’re charging a retainer for 20 hours per month and you’re experiencing a lot of client pop-ups, such as requests for unplanned-for press releases, let your client know that there may be a surcharge. Better yet, remind him or her that you’ll need to schedule the release into your business calendar, and for that, you’ll need lead time.
- If you are serving a board of directors, chamber of commerce, travel destination, or a client with multiple constituents, identity early in the relationship who your contact is. Rely on that person to provide you with the material and information you need. They are in the best position to resource everything you require. It’s a huge time-saver.
- Don’t try to figure everything out yourself. If you need office help, virtual assistants are invaluable, and you don’t have to payroll them. We’ve worked with Christine Buffaloe at Serenity Virtual Assistant Services for some years, and she’s peerless. If you need to advance your education on social media, request to be added to Michael Stelzner’s newsletter list; in our estimation, he’s the best. Joan Stewart , AKA The Publicity Hound, is an original thinker and publicity maven who offers some of the best publicity advice to both seasoned professionals and PR newcomers.