In this day and age of digital dating apps, one thing becomes abundantly clear: dating is hard. Consider something as basic as your dating profile. Do you say you’re 6’4” even though you’re 6’ on a good day? Do you reveal that you’re maybe a little too into Star Wars upfront or do you let your date figure that out when they find your life-sized replica of Yoda in your apartment?
There seem to be unspoken rules that govern how dating profiles work, which got us thinking about the unspoken rules of company relationships. If companies had a dating app, what would your company’s profile look like? Are you honest and a good communicator or do you get business done in a black box? How attentive are you to the needs of your client? Do you let them run the show or do you push back?
Navigating interpersonal relationships is hard enough, but sometimes relationships between clients and digital partners are even trickier. Here are a few tips that we’ve discovered over the years to create healthier, longer-lasting relationships between businesses.
What Do You Do for a Living?
One of the things that we’ve discovered when it comes to creating relationships with our clients is to respect their skill set–and to have them respect yours.
Just like dating, respect is a two-way street, and both sides have to understand what the other is capable of. At the beginning of the relationship, identify who are the experts in various skills, both on the digital partner side, but also on the client-side. Your team build and implement the ideas, but what about when it comes to understanding the nuances of the client’s particular industry? There is a good chance that they will have some better insight into future trends than you do as a digital partner.
Relying on an outside expert is scary and is definitely an exercise in trust. As a digital partner, you may make or suggest decisions that the client isn’t comfortable with right away. For instance, say the client wants to make sure that their new website is compatible with Netscape Navigator for some reason. You are completely in the right as the digital partner to point out no one has used Navigator in more than a decade and that supporting an outdated browser is a waste of resources.
Of course, there’s a polite way to say this if it’s something they’re passionate about, but you are the experts in development and it is your duty in the relationship to act on your skill set. It works the other way too, though; if the client has insight into changes coming to their industry, don’t just nod absent-mindedly and blow off their suggestions. Listen to one another, set up a time to talk regularly, and grow in your relationship.
Remember: drawing on each other’s strengths and expertise makes the relationship better than the sum of its parts.
When Can We Meet Up?
The relationship between the digital partner and client can be exciting and electrifying at first, just like the honeymoon phase of a new relationship. However, the key to this relationship is to keep evolving and setting expectations. To do this, scheduling is important. After all, if you had a really good first date, you would expect to meet up again for a second!
Scheduling is important when it comes to working with a client. It doesn’t matter if you’re developing a new web portal or creating a flashy new app. By setting a schedule, you’re managing expectations and letting the client know when they can expect something. If there is an unexpected development in the schedule, let them know as soon as possible and update your timeline. You definitely don’t want to stand a client up on a date!
Once again, communication is key. Keeping the client in the loop right from the get-go is vital to establishing a healthy and productive relationship. You don’t need to bog them down with every detail of the development cycle, but giving them periodic updates and a general timeline will go a long way to making the client happy.
Let’s Talk Money
Development, like dates, cost money. There’s no two ways about it. And if you’ve been on a date recently, you know that talking about money can be uncomfortable; however, being honest and setting expectations early on makes things less awkward.
For instance, as your relationship grows, the client might be interested in additional services. Or maybe, during the course of development, expectations change (although be wary of scope creep!). These changes don’t have to be a deal-breaker, but it is important to let the client know exactly how much things are going to cost. Having frank conversations about what things cost informs the client on whether or not changes to a project are going to be worth it. Be transparent, be honest, and understand that clients often want to know when they can expect something and how expensive your services are going to cost.
If you are courting a new client, this is especially important to give them honest numbers. Trying to come in low on a bid might secure your contract, but are you prepared to take a loss at the beginning of this relationship? Underbidding never does you any favors and sets unreasonable expectations, harming both you and the client.
We feel a little bit like Oprah or Dr. Phil right now, but we believe that following these tips will go a long way in making your business relationships healthy for both parties.