How To Be A Great Client (To Get The Most From Your Outside Partners)

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an ecosystem (of suppliers, consultants, and vendors) to grow a business.  Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a Fortune 500 executive, you can’t be your best unless you can successfully marshal the talents and resources of outside service providers.  Being a great client allows you to get the most out of your outside resources - whatever they may do for you.

Here are some practical tips, culled from a career on both the service and client side, on how to be a great client and therefore make the most of the relationship with your outside partners.

1 - Understand what you’re buying.

Many clients know they need help, but aren’t sure about the precise source or form that help should take.  If you want to raise money, do you need a lawyer, an accountant, a banker, an angel, or a VC?  If you want to build your brand, do you need a marketing consultant, an ad agency, a brand strategist, a designer, or a social media expert?   Talk to colleagues, do some online research, and certainly ask firms you are interviewing to clarify what precisely they do - but by all means, know what you're getting into.  Know what you are and aren’t buying.

2 - Provide 120% of the strategic direction asked for.

Any service provider can only do their best if they are given the relevant background required to do their job.  Take the time to prepare the information they ask for, and then give them even more that you think they could use. Help them help you!

3 - Have realistic expectations.


Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Nor was it built on the cheap.  Have an honest conversation about expectations.  Be clear about deliverables and timing.  Up front, err on over-communicating rather than under on just about everything.

4 - Be honest about any constraints or challenges.

Be open and honest about any potential factors that may impact the project.  If you’ve got potential financial challenges, strategic shortcomings, logistical obstacles, etc. - it only makes sense to share this information.  Your service provider is not there to judge you.  Ego should not be a part of this interaction.  Tell them whatever business details they need to know to do their best for you!

5 - Stay engaged.

Don’t disappear after you provide the original marching orders.  It may sound counterintuitive, but many clients become hard to find during a project.  Provide ongoing feedback and course corrections; and just generally remain engaged with the process and available to your outside partner.

6 - Get out of the way.

‘Staying engaged’ and ‘getting out of the way’ may seem contradictory.  In fact, it may be a fine line to straddle, but to get the best out of your service provider you've got to give them the space to do their thing.  Remember that you hired them for a reason.  They are the expert.  Trust them to do their job.

7 - Pay on time.

This is self explanatory.  Respect whatever agreement that you made around payment.

8 - If you were pleased, tell your friends.

One of the most powerful things you can do to reward your outside partner for great work is to be a positive source of referrals.  If you can’t, then dispassionately and clearly articulate your concerns about their work and give them the chance to make it right with you.


You may be interested in: 5 Tips on How To Pick The Right Ad Agency

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Tags: agency, client, consultant, entrepreneur, provider, service, startup


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