Three Ways Your Agency's Relationship With Your Clients Can Last at Least Ten Years
A couple of days ago I had a long talk with one of the people on my team who has been with us the longest. She's been a part of the team for more than 14 years. During that time I've had to go and find work for her only once. All the rest of those years she has served our clients so effectively that she's rarely without something of high value and usefulness to do on behalf of them. I wanted to know how she pulled this off. How was it that she always had work with our clients? How was it that most of her client relationships lasted for so many years, in several cases more than 10 years? We realized that there were three key factors to her success.
What We Do
First it will help to explain really quickly what we do as a company. Solspace helps people make their websites reliable. I recently wrote a book to define this principle with greater clarity. The brief version is this: Our clients are responsible for revenue-generating websites. (A revenue-generating website either generates sales leads for a company, sells things online, provides services to paying members, solicits donations to non-profits, causes or political campaigns, etc.) Our clients want their websites to generate revenue reliably. A reliable revenue-generating website is one that sees a nice smooth steady flow of customers in, through and out of the website. Steady flow is good. Friction and resistance are bad.
We help make websites reliable. We help make sure that customer flow is strong, low on resistance and well managed. On the ground, this means that we are always in a problem surfacing and problem solving mode. E.g. Why is revenue down this month? A combination of new factors have contributed and here's what we can do to overcome those factors, etc.
What She Does
So the person I am referring to, the person who's been on the team for 14 years, does three important things all day every day for our clients. First, she is reliable. Second, she is in the conversation. Third, she's good at communicating value.
Why Reveal the Secret Sauce?
These three factors are the secret sauce at Solspace. Why am I giving them away? Because over the years I have noticed that I am happiest when I help others selflessly. A side effect of helping others selflessly is that my company and I prosper. The members of the team find a deep happiness in being excellent and serving others with excellence. Sharing the secrets of excellence only increases the opportunities of everyone involved; clients, competitors, colleagues, etc. Acting from transparent benevolence is good. Coveting, grasping and hoarding are bad.
Secret One: Be Reliable
In the book I wrote, Web Reliability, which is currently being released a chapter per week, I explain the several components of what I call Web Reliability. I break things down at the website level into nine core concepts that make a website reliable. Governing these nine concepts are two important commitments. First, the most important thing about a website is flow; flow of customers in, through and out. Second, in order to achieve optimal flow, one must empathetically connect with the website customer's desire and deliver reliably on that desire. The nine concepts I work out in the book serve this goal of empathetic connection and flow.
The person this blog post is about embodies the whole of Web Reliability. She's an empath. She has developed an innate talent of connecting with her clients, hearing (and feeling) about what frustrates them, and developing solutions to those problems. She more importantly guides her clients into doing the same for their customers, the end users of the websites we help manage.
She's reliable. This means she continues to develop her expertise in the specific technology systems we use for our clients, currently Craft CMS, Laravel and ExpressionEngine. She reliably listens, hears, feels and connects. She reliably puts her clients first. She reliably contributes to and supports a team dynamic. She reliably delivers on time and on budget. She reliably intuits problems before they are problems and offers proactive solutions to those before anything blows up. She's steady, dependable and consistent.
Secret Two: Be In The Conversation
This 14 year veteran of Solspace is also adept at being part of and contributing to the conversation. Several times a week she is in Slack and conference call conversations with the clients she manages. She's a reliable contributor. She's a reliable listener. And she reliably helps to steer the conversation in proactive and fruitful directions.
The fact that she is always in the conversation means that she is always part of the problem surfacing and problem solving context. This makes her valuable to the client. Through conversation she's a direct contributor to the health and well being of the web properties she helps manage.
Secret Three: Be Good at Communicating Value
My friend and colleague of 14 years is expert at communicating value. She's reliably part of the important conversations which means she reliably intuits upcoming problems and has solutions ready to avoid them. However, the people who make the decisions about how money will be spent to solve problems and when are rarely part of the ongoing weekly conversations. They have delegated that work. In order for problems to be called out and solutions planned for them, my colleague of 14 years must be expert in communicating value.
Imaging this example: One of our website clients is planning to launch a marketing campaign. If successful the campaign will drive twice as much traffic to the website. My colleague senses that a page load performance problem might be headed our way. She surfaces the incoming problem and offers up a solution to it, say in the form of some enhanced CDN caching. She argues for a budget to deal with this upcoming problem, spelling out the risk factors as well as the obvious value in investing to proactively avoid the issue. She equips her direct client contacts with information and an argument to take to their boss. This boss will decide whether to approve the proactive investment based on the value proposition developed at the level of my team. The ease with which value can be communicated bears directly on our ability to solve actual real life problems on the web.
So these three factors, being reliable, being conversant and communicating value bear directly on our client's website's ability to serve its customers well. These three factors make my 14 year colleague invaluable to me and the Solspace clients she serves. These three factors, said more simply, turn into money. Our client's websites, through this formula, become reliable sources of revenue.
Is it a risk to write this article? Will giving away these three secrets mean giving away the store? Not really. Fortunately and unfortunately it takes many years, possibly 14 years in fact, to reach the level of Web Reliability that seems to result in the prosperity of so many of our client's websites. It takes a long time to develop this ability. But it's well worth the investment.