One of the complaints I hear most frequently from new and prospective clients is that they have no idea what their previous SEO was doing for them. As the owner of a Web marketing firm, I quickly realized that even if a client is getting results, communicating those successes to them is as important as the results themselves.
One of the great things about working in an online industry is that you don’t need to exclusively have local clients. In fact, most SEO firms such as mine get contracts from all over the country and even overseas. However, because of the distance, I don’t often get to meet clients in person; however, because it’s good communication, I find that doing so helps a great deal.
Being distant from clients has disadvantages. Because you can’t “swing by” the client’s office, or easily schedule time to get together, it creates an additional burden in the communication process. We have to double our efforts to make sure efficient methods of communication are in place.
Open Up Your Communication Options
So what is the best way to communicate with distant clients? Is it by phone, email, instant messenger, Skype or social media?
I think they can all be valid forms of communication, although none is exclusively the “best” method. How you communicate can be different for each client. In fact, they can all be used, depending on a particular need at a particular time. Find out which communication methods work best for you and your clients and go with that as much as possible.
Phone: This is clearly the more traditional approach, but no less effective or important. We find that email can be cumbersome or require lots of back and forth; sometimes it just helps to pick up the phone and hammer out details. Phone calls are much more personal and can really help when handling sensitive concerns.
Skype: Skype is great, especially if you are using the video and screen-sharing options. The downside with Skype is we often have poor connectivity issues that lead to sound or video loss. To combat this, we use Skype in conjunction with a phone call so we never lose audio even if we lose video. Skype is the best way to meet with clients “face to face” without traveling. It doesn’t eliminate the need to meet with clients in person, but it does provide an added personal level.
Email: There is a big push right now for companies to eliminate email for internal communications. I’m not so sure about that. Email is a great way to communicate on your time and allow someone else to respond on their time. Email is great with clients for the same reason. It allows a conversation to take place at the best time for each party involved so everyone stays as productive as possible.
Instant Messages: We don’t use IM a lot for our clients but we do internally. While it can be great to make instant contact, it is also the most interruptive form of communication and can lead to reduced productivity if you get too many IMs too often. Used properly, however, it can be a great way to have a quick conversation to answer urgent questions without the delays of email.
Social Media: I would never rely on social media to communicate with clients. It’s far too spotty to be an effective means of communicating anything of importance. If your clients choose to follow your Twitter, Facebook or RSS feeds, great, but I wouldn’t rely on a Facebook message to communicate with a client. Social platforms are great for pushing out good information that anyone, including clients, can choose to read or ignore. Anything important needs to be handled through other methods.
Can You Over-communicate with Clients?
When working on a client account, there can be a lot of communication as recommendations, consulting info, thoughts, ideas, approvals and updates that need to be shared. Is there an appropriate level of communication you should aim for? Should you be in touch with them daily, weekly or monthly?
If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t over-communicate. But each client is different and the level of communication they need varies. It’s important to find that place between what the client wants and what they need. Give them more than they want and never less than they need! After a few weeks or months of working together, you’ll get a feel for what is appropriate for the work being done.
What works for one may be different than what works for another, but if you find the best way to communicate with each client, you’re more likely to be sure they stay happy. If you have no clear ways to communicate with clients, establish internal guidelines that will provide the framework for consistent and effective communication moving forward.
Silence can magnify frustrations and inhibit results. But good communication covers over a multitude of frustrations and magnifies the positive. The time it takes to open up the lines of communication is far more valuable than the time itself, even if it is taking away from “important” work. Perception is everything and good communication improves the perception of your success.