In our 14 years in business, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. We remember the days when AltaVista was the king of search, ICQ was “social,” and a website could still dominate search with repeating footer links. We’ve been there for algorithm update after algorithm update, we’ve felt our chests tightening as we checked traffic and rankings, and of course we’re no stranger to Pandas, Penguins, or Hummingbirds. There’s a lot to be said about being fluid in an industry that demands no less, but as much as things change, they stay the same.
Through failures and successes, happy times and sad, there have been some prevailing commonalities that stand out in our most successful clients:
1. The successful client is INVESTED.
I’m going to shoot this one straight: in our time in business and over hundreds of clients, we’ve had a malingerer or two. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone because hey, when you stroke a check to your marketing agency each month, you’re paying to not have to do the work, right?
Well, in the early years of online marketing, it used to be pretty straightforward in that way—businesses could mostly set it and forget it (or as a colleague calls it, “drop your kid off”) and still come out on top. But in today’s competitive and ever-changing landscape, being invested means a whole lot more than paying the bills.
For us, it means having complete client involvement, whether that entails working with an entire marketing team or directly with the CEO of a company. It means we have an active point-of-contact who understands the vertical better than we ever could—someone from which to gain valuable insight, share a brainstorming sesh, or just chat about industry developments. Not only does an invested client help us to build a successful and proactive client relationship, but it also facilitates creative and informed campaigns and timely completion of work. In fact, we’ve come to realize that an invested client and their success are often mutually exclusive.
The takeaway: Our most successful clients have welcomed us as part of their teams, ensuring that the lines of communication are always open and consistent. After all, they know that this is the element that is going to help us market them most effectively.
2. The successful client KNOWS WHAT MATTERS.
It probably goes without saying: every business is unique. In fact, I’ve never met a client that didn’t think of themselves as one-of-a-kind. However, businesses all-too-often measure their success based on a cookie-cutter approach. Of course it seems logical to us that no two company’s successes should be measured exactly the same, but when it comes to measuring online marketing efforts, even the most capable marketing manager may not know how to identify which metrics are most significant.
From a digital marketing standpoint, our success is reliant on our clients’ success (cliché, I know), so our ultimate goal is to achieve results in the areas that make the most sense to the business and align most closely with their unique business goals. That’s why even if the client is at square one determining these metrics, collaborating with one another to uncover what really matters for a company is absolutely invaluable.
The takeaway: Our most successful clients are willing to work to determine what matters the most to their business, even if we lead the process.
3. The successful client is REALISTIC.
This sounds like a total cop-out but the truth is this: setting expectations can be as important as the marketing campaign itself. We’ve found that when clients have reasonable expectations—both for us as a firm and for their results—solidarity prevails.
This works on various levels: it encourages communication, builds trust, and also enables us to develop a sensible timeline for campaigns and campaign goals. It helps us, as partners, to stay focused on vital campaign phases and processes so that no single aspect of a campaign will receive anything less than 100% of our dedication. If we do better than expected or run ahead of a deadline, we can consider it a bonus! After all, we think it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.
The takeaway: Our most successful clients understand that setting realistic expectations fosters an open and communicative relationship and lays the groundwork necessary for their campaigns to flourish.
(Side note: If you’ve mastered items 1 and 2 of this article, this factor should fall right into place.)
The Formula for Success
The information above isn’t rocket science, but rather a tried-and-true formula for victory: you only get out of something what you put in. As with most things in life and certainly with your marketing, always be invested, be realistic, and know what matters.