We all know that the happiest relationships exist when two parties have a great deal in common. Shared goals, approaches, philosophies and sense of humor all lead to positive relationships, and this is especially true in business. One of the clearest paths to a successful client relationship is insuring that both parties share a common perspective and understand exactly with whom they're doing business.
While this might sound maddeningly simple, it astonishes me how often this truth goes ignored. More often than not, a client will seek out a company that has done a good job for a competitor or for the newest "shiny penny" in the industry -- regardless of the client's own point-of-view, philosophy or needs. So it's hardly surprising that these relationships often fail.
Below are three pieces of advice for increasing the odds that the clients you sit down with will want to sign on with you.
Don't think of clients as 'clients.'
I make a concerted effort not to think of clients as "clients"; rather, I consider them partners with whom we are going to be in bed for a long time, people with whom we need to forge a positive working relationship and individuals with whom we can share time, opinions and healthy disagreements, all while working toward a common goal.
Be willing to give up some prospective clients.
A square peg will never fit into a round hole. It's essential to pre-filter potential clients so that both sides are transparent about their needs and abilities and fully understand the mission. Doing so helps to ensure success in working together, strong results and long-lasting partnerships.
At MODCo, we have a very specific point-of-view that simply will not suit every prospective client, and I'm okay with that. As a branding agency in the fashion and luxury space, we serve clients who come to us for our strong point-of-view in order to build brand identities and strategies that help separate them from competitors. Our philosophy has always been that we are paid for our opinions, and it would be doing our clients a disservice if we did not share these opinions candidly.
That said, some clients simply don't enjoy hearing the truth, or would rather follow the path taken by their competitors than blaze their own trail. These types of clients generally do not get past our website to request a meeting, as our approach is clear from the get-go. Not every client will be a fit, and it's important for business owners to embrace this truth. Be honest with yourself and the spoils will follow.
Make your approach known.
A good client will have done his homework prior to a meeting and should already know a thing or two about your client roster, your skills and your corporate culture. That said, it's your responsibility as a business owner to share this information openly, accurately and consistently across every potential client touchpoint.
The goal is for a prospective client to know who you are and how you conduct business from the get-go, which will ultimately increase your new business hit ratio immeasurably. New clients often come in for initial meetings and say to me, "I feel like I intimately know you and your team already." This isn't because we've had multiple conversations; it's because everything about us, from the language used on our website and social media channels to our office décor, blog content and (of course) the work that we do, paints a clear picture of who we are.
Your company's voice in marketing copy, the case studies you highlight, the way in which your receptionist answers the phone and the language used in your proposals, in your invoices and even on your business cards -- these are all essential components to promoting your company and attracting the right clients. It should also come as no surprise that the philosophy you share with employees or even the method by which you let people go can lend to your corporate reputation and affect how potential clients will view you.
None of these considerations should ever be left to chance. They are details that define your company and should be decided upon and presented accordingly. If done with great tenacity, these details will effectively pre-filter potential clients to ensure that they are predisposed to working with you.
As a result, you will soon find yourself working with companies and individuals who value not only your work, but how you conceive of and execute that work. And this will ultimately lead to growth and increased profitability for your business.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Sara Rotman is the founder, chief executive and chief creative officer of MODCo Creative, a New York City-based branding agency whose clients include Tory Burch, Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera. MODCo is the only fashion advertising agency that is exclusively female-owned and run.