Becoming the Client’s Trusted Business Partner
At Elevated Insights, we pride ourselves on being a trusted business partner to our clients. We strive to bring excellence and integrity to every project, every time – and we’re fortunate to have worked repeatedly with the majority of our client-base. To ensure our client relationships are never taken for granted, we have six pillars that we use to build longstanding relationships, strengthen the quality of work, and exceed client expectations.
1. Agree on objectives, methodology, timelines, and budgets
When clients and vendors are not aligned on a project there is always the risk that key stakeholders may not understand what a project includes, what determines ‘success’, and how ‘success’ will be measured. Creating a scope-of-work document that outlines the project objectives, methodology, timeline, deliverables, and budget gives everyone a roadmap to follow and alleviates confusion over expectations. If the project objectives shift, the scope-of-work document keeps everyone grounded in what was agreed upon, what is changing, and how those changes will impact the project as a whole.
2. Create outside the box
In our line of work, clients can be unsure of what they are trying to learn and/or they may assume certain methodologies are the best (or the only) for their needs. Active listening and engaged questioning not only solidify objectives, but allow for creative project design. In our industry there are more and more ways to tap into what consumers think. Making sure that we provide our clients with the best approach to achieve their needs builds partnership. This is not to say that every project design needs to incorporate the newest techniques, but it does mean that each client gets a customized project design specific to their objectives, budget, and goals.
3. Communicate consistently– when problems arise, address them directly
A lack of communication is usually at the root of most problems associated with any relationship, and this is of course true of clients. Our client relationships are more likely to grow and weather challenges when there is proactive communication—both good and bad. When communication is direct and transparent, trust forms and builds the foundation for long-lasting relationships. When delivering difficult news, it is tempting to turn to email to avoid face-to-face and/or in-person telephone calls. Resist this urge.
It takes courage to be vulnerable, but it can also build respect which in turn serves as a bridge to a stronger partnership.
4. Build a connection that goes beyond client/vendor
Our company’s focus is to understand consumers: who they are, what motivates them, what turns them off, etc. It makes no sense for us to understand our clients’ target audiences if we are not also understanding our clients. Business people, just like all people, like working with those they not only respect, but also personally like. Therefore, we believe that developing a personal relationship goes a long way in building a stronger business relationship. We don’t pry, but we want to understand our clients’ interests outside of work, we ask about family, we take interest in their passions, and most importantly, we want to know what motivates them both in and out of the office. Understanding what inspires (as well as drains) a person outside of work can translate to more purposeful business relationships.
5. Offer perspective, experience, and council
Most clients hire outside contractors because they want an objective opinion and the ability to see business challenges from different angles. Offering a client perspective, experience and business council is not just part of the job, it is the part of the job that shifts companies from vendor to partner. Creating an open dialogue builds respect, strengthens project collaboration, and prevents the ‘Yes Man/Woman’ trap that can lead to project and partnership breakdown.
6. Manage every project as if you are the client
We manage every project as if we were the client to ensure that our deliverables exceed our clients’ expectations and our own. We make sure that every project insight and conclusion is true, strategic, and actionable. We are not afraid to challenge prevailing assumptions if the research points in a different direction, but we never leave our clients in a lurch. At the end of the day, we approach each project as the business partner we would want to have – one based on reliability, trust, integrity, and excellence.