Having great chemistry with clients is vital. Both from that very first meeting when you put your heart and soul into a pitch, to the delivery of a campaign crafted together, to managing long-term complex projects, chemistry is a vital ingredient at every stage of a relationship.
Time and time again we find that clients (and us) are after a partnership, not the more traditional transactional dynamic of days gone by.
But the lockdown has challenged us to think differently about the way we normally do things. We’ve had to build brilliant new relationships, and to nurture existing ones, completely remotely.
Here’s what we’ve learnt:
First impressions still count but are a little more effort to get right
Getting first impressions right online can be a little more challenging. You need to allow time for everyone to join the call, solve any tech/audio issues, and for some, allow them to adjust their light source so they don’t look part of a witness protection programme (their jokes, not ours!).
The world moves on, and we need to move with it.
With regards to bringing on board new clients, some have put pitches on ice for the time being, while others are pushing full-steam ahead and adapting to a remote process to avoid any unnecessary delays with their projects. We know we need to be patient in some places, and adaptive in others. We need to respect that a lot of what we had planned or thought was going to happen might not happen now, but that we are very fortunate that a number of unexpected opportunities have come our way instead, and we will grab them with both hands and do the best job we can.
Face to face meetings are still our preference but everything can be done virtually
Whether it’s the start of a new project or a key stage of an ongoing one, we still believe face to face meetings are so important. So much of what we do – what we value in our process – is delivered in person, face to face. Our brand VOICE workshops for example, are when we define and shape the brand strategy of a client, together with the senior team. It’s involved, co-creative, and practical – you need to work closely with people and be able to assess their thoughts, feelings and the direction of travel quickly. And up until now we’d always done this in the same room as our clients. But we’ve learnt we can deliver these workshops as effectively virtually. Yes, we’ve had to adapt some of the elements, learn how to use new digital tools and facilitate a little differently, but it can be done.
Make use of the brilliant tech at your fingertips
We’ve all seen how Microsoft is leveraging the current opportunity to promote their MS Teams technology – enabling the world to stay connected. Whereas BT has taken a softer, non-sales approach, by presenting themselves as a public service educator for the nation on vital digital skills.
Our tool of preference is Zoom, which of course, we’re using more than ever before. And whilst some may have been reluctant to switch ‘video on’ – this really is the magical ingredient you need to build those relationships when it’s not possible to meet in person. This is where you see the characters, the personalities, where you start to get an understanding of how the new relationship will work best.
With the UK and other parts of the world in lockdown we’re also now entering into people’s homes, their sanctuaries, which makes meetings more open, less formal – especially when someone needs to dive out to help their kids or stop their dog barking.
Stay alert, try to navigate non-verbal comms, sometimes with poor WiFi connection
To make online workshops and meetings successful, it’s really important to make sure everyone is actively involved. You have to be more alert to ensure everyone has their say. It’s more challenging to pick up on those small non-verbal communications, but it IS possible. And it’s a skill we’ve been honing as we work with more global clients.
Many of our clients, with teams based in different continents, have been familiar with this way of working for years. To them, it’s normality, and like a finely tuned orchestra they have the rhythm down to a tee. It can be a little bit like karaoke when you’re waiting for the right pause to step in with your lines when everyone is watching, but practice helps.
Invest in getting things right now as we will meet again soon
We know that all the ‘face’ time we’re investing in now really is making the difference. We’re continuing to do great work for new and existing clients, creating powerful brands that realise bold ambitions. And I think we’re getting pretty good at building relationships remotely. One of our clients has promised me champagne when she picks me up from the airport. This might not be until 2021 admittedly, but I can wait that long.