Managing Client Expectations: Picking the Right Clients

Managing client expectations is vital for any agency or service-based business. It not only helps in building trust but also ensures smooth project execution and long-term partnerships.

When clients have clear and realistic expectations, it leads to better satisfaction and fewer misunderstandings. A key part of managing expectations is evaluating the fit of a potential client and determining if they align with your agency’s capabilities.

In this article, we’ll share practical tips and strategies for assessing client needs, analyzing their business environment, and setting clear expectations. These insights will help you choose the right clients and build successful relationships.

Yaniv Masjedi
CMO, Nextiva

Their expertise has helped Nextiva grow its brand and overall business

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Evaluating Client Fit

Understanding your client’s needs and goals is the first step in evaluating client fit. Ask potential clients about their objectives, challenges, and their definition of success. This helps you gauge if your agency can meet their expectations.

Assessing a client’s expectations is crucial. Determine if their goals are realistic and aligned with what you can deliver. Look for any red flags, such as unrealistic deadlines or a history of high turnover in their marketing team.

To make this process easier, consider these specific actions:

  • Ask detailed questions about their past projects and outcomes. Inquire about what worked well and what didn’t, and understand their expectations and satisfaction levels. For example, ask them to describe a successful project and a challenging one. This will give you insights into their working style and expectations.
  • Evaluate their market position and competition. Use tools like SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to evaluate their standing. For instance, if you are considering working with a tech startup, assess their unique value proposition and how they compare with established competitors:

image14 1

  • Check their financial stability to ensure they can afford your services. Review their financial statements and credit history if possible. This can be done through public financial records or services like Dun & Bradstreet. Ensuring that a client has a stable financial background minimizes the risk of payment issues down the line.
  • Understand their internal team dynamics to foresee any potential issues. This involves understanding who the decision-makers are, the roles of team members, and how they interact. For instance, if you are working with a marketing team, knowing who oversees budget approvals, content creation, and strategy will help streamline communications and project workflows.

Key Takeaway: Properly evaluating client fit helps you avoid problematic relationships and ensures your services align with their needs.

Consider the Size of the Client’s Business

In a lot of cases, you may be able to qualify a prospect by assessing their annual revenue and the history of how they’ve grown to where they are when they found you. If it looks like they don’t quite match the output necessary to make it worth your time, it may not be a relationship worth investing in.

That’s not to say that all SMBs aren’t worth working with, certainly not. It’s not always about winning the highest-ticket clients either. It’s more about assessing which ones have a proven success record of rendering their services or optimizing and improving upon their product in a way that can complement the support you can give them, be it marketing, product management, or anything else.

In order for any business to make a good prospect for any agency, the prospect has to demonstrate a certain degree of competency in their field.

In other words, they have to be ready to grow. And the reason they’re outsourcing consulting help from an agency like yours ought to be because they’re so laser-focused on being the best at what they do.

It ought to take up more of their time running their business well to the point that they simply don’t have the time or resources to have a whole internal department to accomplish what your team can do as an agency supporting them:

why companies outsource.

Its these types of prospects that will likely end up being your best clients, since they’re clever enough to realize that they need help scaling certain aspects of their business while they focus on what they’re truly best at doing themselves.

Key Takeaway: A thorough analysis of a client’s business environment helps ensure a stable and productive working relationship.

Setting Clear Expectations from the Start

Defining success metrics is key for managing client expectations. Agree on clear, measurable goals with your client. This ensures both parties know what success looks like.

Creating a detailed project plan is another important step. Clearly outline timelines, deliverables, and responsibilities. This helps keep the project on track and avoids misunderstandings.

To set clear expectations effectively, consider these actions:

  • Define specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals. This ensures that both parties have a clear understanding of what success looks like. For example, if you are managing a client’s social media campaign, a SMART goal could be: “Increase Instagram followers by 20% within three months by posting daily content and engaging with followers.” This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound:

SMART goals chart explanation

  • Create a project timeline with milestones and deadlines. A detailed project timeline helps in managing client expectations by outlining key milestones and deadlines. For instance, if you are launching a new website for a client, your timeline might include milestones such as “Complete initial design mockups by week 2,” “Finish content creation by week 4,” and “Launch website by week 6.” Tools like Gantt charts or project management software like Asana or Trello can be used to visually represent the timeline and ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the project’s progress and deadlines.
  • Set up regular communication channels, like weekly status updates. Regular communication is crucial for keeping the client informed and engaged. Establishing weekly status updates via emails, video calls, or face-to-face meetings can help address any concerns promptly.
  • Document all agreements and share them with the client. This helps preventing misunderstandings. or instance, creating a detailed contract or a statement of work (SOW) that outlines all the agreed-upon terms and sharing it with the client ensures transparency. This document should be signed by both parties and easily accessible for reference throughout the project.

Key Takeaway: Setting clear expectations from the start ensures both parties understand their roles and the project’s goals, leading to smoother execution.

Final Word on Managing Client Expectations

Evaluating client fit and managing expectations are key steps for any successful agency. By understanding client needs, looking at their business environment, and setting clear expectations, you can build stronger, lasting relationships.

Take a proactive approach to client management. This will help you avoid problems and ensure that both you and your clients are happy with the results. Share your own experiences and tips in the comments or reach out for personalized advice.

And that’s all for the moment on managing client expectations, but what about winning them over in the first place? If you’re looking tips on how to win client relationships in the first place, check out our guide over here. You can also check out our take on what not to do when negotiating with a prospect.

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If you’re ready to find the right clients to work with, Single Grain’s marketing experts can help!👇

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