9 tips for managing client expectations

Managing your client expectations is a key component when it comes to running a smooth operation. You want to ensure your client is crystal clear on the services you will be offering them, the results they should expect and the timeline that this should adhere to. We’ve asked marketing industry experts to weigh in on their tips for managing client expectations and have shared them with you here.

  1. Don’t use jargon

Digital marketing consultant Bethan Vincent says “A lot of mis-asligned expectations are due to lack of clarity. The client wasn’t able to clearly articulate their requirements or the agency didn’t provide an easy to understand statement of work. It all adds to confusion and a layer of friction. So much of this could be avoided through using less jargon, providing clear documentation and instilling a culture of really listening to, and then interpreting a client’s needs.”

Matt Bowman of Thrive Agency says “We give our clients the tools we’re using on their website. I talk straight to my clients, and I do my very best not to use industry terms. If I use an industry term, I immediately follow it with an explanation of what it means. Be truthful, be honest and emphasize the fact that your job is to help their company. Digital marketing and SEO take time, and it’s a long-term relationship between you and your clients. If they aren’t able to commit, then they may not be a good fit for you.”

  1. Set realistic goals

Ian Carroll, director of Digital Funnel advises “Set realistic, measurable and achievable goals. With SEO it can be difficult to display easily consumable metrics from time to time. When we take a client on-board, we assess their needs, perform an audit and present them with achievable goals. We don’t promise a client that they will be the number 1 search result in their field anytime soon, but with solid and consistent plans in place we can absolutely boost their online presence and they will begin to see their business rise through the listings. Transparency is essential throughout this process; we list and detail every process undertaken in the SEO process so the client can clearly see what we’ve been doing to help them.”

  1. Honesty is the best policy

Digital marketing consultant Olga Tsimaraki says “Be honest and show your clients proof of what you have to say. Clients will always expect too much, especially when it comes to results. But, when you know your stuff, and you’re confident in your abilities, all you need to do is explain in plain words why they’re not seeing what they want to see. You are talking with professionals and they will understand.Your clients are your partners, and partnerships are built on trust. They are working with you because they trust and need your expertise, but that doesn’t mean blind trust. They want to know what you’re doing and it’s up to you to be able to gain their trust without using jargon they won’t understand.”

Charlie Worrall of Imaginaire cautions “The trouble with the digital marketing word is that there are a few agencies out there that treat their clients poorly and don’t actually do the work that they set out to do. Or they’ll over promise and under price just so that they get the short term business just to keep them afloat. It’s not every agency by any means but there are a few out there. So, my advice is to make sure you’re avoiding their tactics and instead do what you can to be honest and real.”

Jeremy Haug of B2B Business Experts says “Marketing always works – it just doesn’t always work on the first try. For my clients I tell them that I will find something that works. It may take some time but I test and test and will find a way. It’s important to have the confidence that you’ll find something that works because if you don’t then you won’t have a client.”

Brittany Cole of Little Birdie Digital Agency advises “Be as transparent as possible about the status of your client’s campaigns, what changes are being made, what the expected outcomes are from those changes, etc. I explain everything that is done, as it is done, and answer all questions quickly and in detail so that my clients are never in the dark about anything.”

Cody Iverson of Viscap Media says “The basis of a good relationship with clients in digital marketing and creative advertising is honesty. Be honest about your expectations and I will do the same for my capabilities.”

  1. Educate your clients

Anatolii Ulitovskyi of SEOtools.TV suggests “Educate customers by sharing examples that show results and how they are dependent on various factors which include existing content, benchmark, competition, etc.”

David Harper of Curious Fish Websites says “I help my clients to get inside the minds of their perfect customers. By providing my clients with a feedback dashboard, they are able to clearly see the direct correlation between their success with this ‘telepathy’ and increased sales. The better they know their customer, the higher they can set their business expectations! My client’s are enabled to understand that they are an active participant in the journey of improving business outcomes.”

Jason Lockhart of Kitchen & Bath Marketing Solutions says “This may seem like a no brainer, but you will be surprised at how many clients we have worked with that said they left the last marketing agency they were working with because they didn’t know what they were doing and it seemed like they didn’t really care. By laying out a transparent road map and then reviewing that plan of action every step of the way on an ongoing basis includes the client on the process and gives them more confidence on what you are doing as a marketing agency. Even if you miss the mark that you planned, if you are able to show your progress and explain openly and honestly what you did, how you missed the mark and your plan of action to correct it in the future you will have buy in from the client.”

Matt Woicik of ML2 Solutions advises “It is important to set client expectations by communicating the project scope of work and timeline in your proposal. The proposal gives both parties a chance to review all the steps in the scope of work and how long the project will take. Since this is before an agreement has been reached, the client can ask for clarification or ask for changes.”

Illia Termeno of Extrabrains suggests “Compile a deck showing samples of previous work and your process. Send this deck to the qualified leads rather than openly display it on your website. To hide the sensitive data of your previous clients, present it as a mash-up of previous projects. This way, you will demonstrate the depth of your experience, manage expectations, and prove that you treat your clients’ data with full confidentiality.”

  1. Be clear on the deliverables

Aidan Sowa of Sowa Marketing Agency says “It is important to send a proposal with all of the deliverables written out to the client. This is important to prevent chargebacks and for the client to not have misunderstandings about the services at your marketing agency.”

Ryan York of WebPossible says “Clearly state the deliverables in their invoice. This could include number of pages, content requirements, functionality included, etc. I also include the number of allowable edits here. This way we have a reference for what’s included along with the dollar amount the client owes.”

Greta Simeonova of PAN Digital suggests “When we start working with a client, we always provide a forecast with expected results along with potential time frames for achieving them. We calculate the potential results by looking at previous work with other clients from a similar industry and always explain in detail the nature of our work and that unexpected situations could always arise causing changes in the forecasts.”

Kevin Cook of On The Map Marketing advises “The first step is making sure the sales process clearly defines what we do and what each client’s budget provides them. Then, when we officially onboard the client we have a slide deck that gives detail to their purchase. By hitting these points twice we are able to really drive home what their contract entitles them to. Beyond that, we try our best to provide honest and transparent reporting and deliverables so each month our clients see and know exactly what we are doing and what our objectives are.”

Cody May of StudioPTBO says “Don’t just communicate with your clients but over communicate. Lack of communication is among the biggest reasons marketing agencies get fired by a client. Excellent communication is absolutely crucial in any client-facing business. If you’re not communicating with your clients on a daily or at least weekly basis, you are extremely vulnerable.”

Patrick Carver of Constellation says “Proactively outline your plan for success to the client. After years of running a client services business, it’s become clear that there is often a communication gap between the client and the agency. The agency may have an expectation in mind, but if it doesn’t get voiced, the client is left to develop their own.”

Juliana Weiss-Roessler of WR Digital Marketing suggests “Write a communication policy. You’ll find that some clients expect a response within minutes and others within weeks. Let them know up front what your communication policy is. Get your policy down in writing and send it to new clients when they sign up for your services. Then you can politely remind them of the policy when needed. Be sure to include in your policy what your response time would be for an emergency situation — and what your definition of an emergency situation is (e.g., site outage; issues causing business disruption).”

Andra Del Monico of AnDel Marketing says “I manage client expectations by remaining authentic about my skill set and ability to deliver. Staying honest establishes trust, and helps my clients understand what they can and cannot expect from me. It also prevents me from overpromising and facing a situation where I’m unable to deliver.”

Hafiz Muhammad Ali of Omni Core Agency advises “Let clients know right from the start what my team will be doing, how we will track our performance, and what deliverables they can expect, and that timeline. I find that breaking everything down from the start of the process to the end goes a long way in making sure clients know what to expect from my agency. We give them this detailed breakdown in an email and then we follow-up once we get started with a PDF reminder of all of this.”

Erik Newton of Milestone says “Be ultra-clear about the engagement model and onboarding in the statement of work. Check with the onboarding team every month for lead time and/or let onboarding read and sign off on customer contracts before presenting to clients.”

  1. Send regular reports

Molly Govus of Lumen SEO advises “Be as transparent as possible – constantly challenge your agency to be more transparent every week. For example, we send weekly updates to our clients which break down any increases, decreases, and work covered on their SEO – this allows them to understand where their campaign is performing well but more importantly telling them how you plan to change the areas which aren’t performing. Summed up: trust sells.”

Julian Goldie of Goldie Agency says “It is important to provide timely feedback to the clients on the progress of the project you are working on. It keeps them involved in the process and you get to ask for their feedback too if they want to implement certain changes in their requirements. Maintaining active communication with them gives a good impression that you are actually doing your best to provide results.”

Rahul Vij of Websphero suggests “The best way to manage the client’s expectations is to be transparent about each step with them. Offering time-to-time progress reports is the best way to offer transparency. These reports give them a good idea of what’s going on with their project.”

  1. Take time to understand your client’s needs

Jason Parks of The Media Captain suggests “Take the time to understand the project. Too often, there’s a rush to get a contract signed and this leads to lack of detail in the scope. When you take the time to fully understand the project, it allows for you to better project how long it will take along with expected results.”

SEO Consultant, Jase Rodley advises “Before the project even starts you should have a clear understanding of what is expected. Spend as much time as is reasonable getting all the details. I talk straight to my clients and I do my very best to not use industry terms. Be truthful, be honest and emphasize the fact that your job is to help their company.”

Cody Murphy of Visual Oak says “Take advantage of the discovery phase: It’s import for digital marketing agencies to take advantage of the discovery phase to manage client expectations throughout a project. During the initial interview, take notes or even record the conversation. From there, create a proposal based on the specific requirements discussed and include project milestones.”

  1. Under promise and over deliver

Nate Neadof SEO.co advises “Managing client expectations is all about under-promising and over-delivering. In most cases, that requires client education as to the timing and process of outcomes. Nothing is worse than having a client with massively unrealistic expectations and a digital marketing salesperson that claims to meet or exceed them. This creates a service delivery asymmetry that does nothing but create a frustrated client that becomes difficult to manage. First, we educate to properly let them know how long the process may take. Second, we drive that home throughout the length of the campaign. Clients are only happy when their expectations are met or exceeded. If they are too high at the outset, then a reset via education is absolutely necessary.”

Eric Yaverbaum – CEO of Ericho Communications says “It is essential to be direct, open, and honest with your client so that you’re both on the same page. Managing expectations should be an integral part of working with and educating your clients along the way so that you’re able to collaborate and succeed together. While it might be easy to land a client by overpromising, that is also a sure-fire way to quickly lose a client when you are unable to deliver.”

  1. Set a timeline

Jahana Uchtman of Your Digital Marketing Assistant says “We don’t start our website project timeline until the client has provided all the necessary information and materials. We’re clear in our first client emails that our team is ready to get going once they have received the documents they need. This creates urgency in the beginning for the client to comply, because once the project has started, they are less likely to respond in a timely manner.”

In conclusion, managing your client expectations is a crucial element to ensure you and your client are on the same page when it comes to the deliverables and timeline of your project. Having clear client expectations helps boost your client’s overall satisfaction and increases your odds of receiving a referral as a result of the work you have produced.