6 vital ways marketing agencies can improve client services with online collaboration
In the last post we shared tell-tale signs that your marketing agency’s communications with clients might be in need of an overhaul.
As marketing agencies grow, they have a tendency to develop ways of working that suit their staff more comfortably than they suit their clients. When this happens, your clients can begin to feel out of the loop, lack understanding of what you’re trying to achieve on their behalf, and can even be tempted to look for a new agency.
The key to making your communication systems fit for purpose is to take a client’s-eye view of the way you communicate. We began to do that in the last post when we reported that growing numbers of clients are insisting their marketing agencies offer online collaboration as an integral part of their account management.
Clients like online collaboration because it allows them to get involved at every stage of your projects, and it simplifies the channels of communications between them and your agency.
From your point of view, it’s a godsend. Not only does it strengthen your relationships with clients and make your workflows more efficient, but it also allows you to improve the quality of service you give to your clients — encouraging them to stay with you longer, and assign more projects to your agency.
These are just some of the ways you can make it happen.
1) Project progress management
If you choose the right online collaboration package, you’ll benefit from tools that can be used to manage your projects. For example, you and your clients could have access to shared calendars, task lists and other tools that help you monitor work and keep to deadlines.
2) Project collaboration
This is perhaps the biggest benefit you can offer clients. With the right online collaboration software you can work closely with your clients at all times, all but eliminating frustrations that arise from poor communication.
However, it’s also the most important kind of usage you need to consider when choosing an online collaboration system. Our free guide, How to turbocharge your marketing agency’s performance, gives you a detailed insight into the tools that are essential for collaborating with marketing agency clients, but be sure to look out for the following as a minimum:
• File sharing. You need an easy-to-use file sharing system that overcomes the problems of insecure emails, corporate firewall blocking and the hassles that arise from people working from multiple (often differently altered) copies of the same file.
• Multi-author documents. If you and your clients can edit copy within the same shared file, it ensures your combined thinking remains within a single document and eliminates the need to combine and compile multiple feedback by hand.
• Commenting. Always choose a system that allows you to make comments about files without altering the files themselves.
- Databases. If you need to compile evolving lists of data, such as keyword research or lists of targeted prospects, ensure you have database powered lists available in your collaboration software. It will save time and eliminate errors that arise from relying on Excel spreadsheets.
- Image folders. Not essential, but handy – special image folders that allow you to rotate, crop and preview images can speed up your workflow.
- Most essentially of all, look for a system that allows you to shape your workspaces to your clients’ needs, rather than changing the way you work to suit the system. If you can add corporate branding to those workspaces, so much the better.
3) Bringing additional talent to client projects
You can use online collaboration to co-operate with — and manage — a wider pool of freelancers. This allows you to source from a wider pool of talent when you are putting together creative teams for client projects, and you can white label freelancers’ services by managing all client communication with them via the online collaboration system.
4) Working more closely with clients’ marketing departments
Online collaboration allows you to work more closely with your clients. Used well, you’ll find they begin to rely on you more and offer you additional projects. Your competitors will also find it harder to get their feet under the table.
5) Offering better-researched campaigns
If you adopt collaboration software that offers you survey and poll functionality, it becomes simpler and cheaper to test creative concepts and ideas on invited, sample audiences. The results give your campaign a greater chance of success and reassure clients that you are headed in the right direction.
6) Creating client extranets
You can sometimes use online collaboration software to set up dedicated client extranets — branded portals that allow you to manage all communications and projects in one place. Although they can be inexpensive to set up, they strengthen the efficiency of client communications and reassure clients that you are willing to invest in your relationship with them.
The six suggestions above are just some of the ways in which you can improve your offering for clients. In our next post, we’ll be looking at ways of using online collaboration to achieve greater business efficiency and improve your margins.
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