Do You Understand The Words That Are Coming Out Of My Mouth? The Importance of Good Client Communication

By Lindsay Mineo

You could have the most interesting client and the best campaign strategy, but if you don’t speak the same language, you’re gonna have a bad time. When you use the exclusive lingo of Internet Land, you’ll make clients feel like they’re being had by all your talk of ROI and SERPs and meta tags (see?). It’s easy to see that good client communication is important, but what is good client communication?

We tend to discover we have poor client communication after it’s already happened: the client tells us they can’t understand a word we’re saying. Good client communication means being proactive: make sure you’re being understood. If this means leaving the SEO lingo at the office and out of your emails, do it. It might be quicker to type “ROI,” but your client needs to know you’re talking about their return on investment. Good client communication builds trust and confidence between the agency and the client – it keeps you both on the same page, helps to manage expectations (especially in the beginning), and ensures the agency and client are a good fit for each other.

To start, it helps to understand why brands and businesses hire internet marketing agencies.

  1. They know they need interactive marketing to compete, but they don’t understand the intricacies of the industry or have the time to educate themselves.
  2. They don’t have the time to implement what they do know to be truly effective. We see a lot of industry blog posts that promise an hour a day is all it takes with social media or analytics or outreach or writing, but after all that when do you actually run your business?
  3. They have strict budgets and can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars every month on the latest tools or thousands to go to a conference, but an agency can because it uses these resources for multiple clients. They come to us not just for our expertise, but because we have the magic tools to get the job done.
  4. They don’t want to have to worry about internet marketing themselves.

Communicating with Clients Effectively

Using a bunch of industry lingo with your clients will eventually make someone feel ignorant. Level with your clients and try not to make what you do sound more complicated than it already is.

1. Avoid Industry Jargon

Unless you’re positive your client understands SEO lingo, it’s best to avoid it whenever possible. Take the time to educate new clients and try not to say SERPs if “search results” works just as well. Recently, I sent an email to a client about some changes I wanted to make to the website for SEO purposes and mentioned the developer would need FTP access. Her response?

SEO Lingo

We got on the phone and I described what I needed easily. Even words you think are widely understood can be confusing and you don’t want to make your client feel uneducated. If you can’t make a phone call, send a screenshot and use Microsoft Paint (or Photoshop, if you’re fancy) to highlight what you’re talking about.

2. Meet in Person

We’ve found we’re more effective in a face to face meeting than we are over email. It’s easier to explain a concept to a client in person by physically showing him than it is to send a dozen emails back and forth. In single hour-long meetings we’ve come up with far more content ideas than we had in the previous weeks of email communication. So it’s worth it to take the time, and it’s usually very appreciated. However, as an agency you’ll probably have clients from all over and meeting in person won’t always be possible.

Take advantage of unexpected opportunities to meet face to face. Max travels to the East Cost somewhat regularly and almost always makes a point to touch base with a client. This shows our clients that our founder is involved, that he cares, and that he’s willing to make the effort. If a cross country trip just isn’t in the stars, see if you can set up a video conference once in awhile.

3. Respond Quickly

You get an email or a missed call from a client: do you respond immediately?

overly attached girlfriend

The Thunder Cats strive for a 24 hour response time – at the latest. We want our clients to know we received their communication, but by not always responding right away we’re showing that we’ve taken the time to consider what they need and then responded with what we did, rather than what we’re going to do. This also helps to create an appropriate boundary so you’re not always at the mercy of your inbox.

4. Schedule Regular Communication

If you’re spending all your time answering spontaneous client emails or phone calls, your actual work is bound to get derailed. Schedule a standing call or meeting with your client and make it clear that you’re going to answer any questions he has and fill him in on anything that’s been happening since your last communication. This will give you the time to actually work on his campaign and see results. Let your client know that you’ll be contacting him if something important happens in between your scheduled talks so he can trust that you’re keeping a close eye on things without needing to micromanage you.

5. Follow Up with an Email

When you do get those big meetings in, follow up by email and copy everyone in attendance and important absentees. Chances are the client has forgotten at least one important part of the meeting and will not only appreciate you taking the time to recap the meeting and outline everyone’s next steps, but you’ll all be on the same page with your expectations.

6. Be Proactive

Anticipate what your clients’ needs will be and address them before he brings them to you. This part often gets left behind because we get busy, but if you can do this every so often you’ll really be proving your worth.

Image: Mupplebee

Don’t be that SEO. Make sure your clients understand the words that are coming out of your mouth. Your clients will thank you for it.

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Lindsay Mineo

By Lindsay Mineo

Lindsay Mineo is a Senior Search Specialist at ThunderActive. She lives with a dog, a cat, and a boy.

She likes to talk about animals and food on Twitter and Google+.