How to Build Winning, Long-Term Relationships with Content Clients

“We’re breaking up” is a phrase no one wants to hear, whether in love or content marketing. Sadly, those words remain an unfortunate reality, especially in the agency-client relationship. In fact, many of these partnerships last less than two years.

Since launching our Content Development services in December 2010, W2 Communications has bucked this trend to build long-term relationships, with the following best practices helping our clients achieve their goals while strengthening our professional connection:

Come to the table prepared. Deep subject matter expertise into industry topics rarely comes from the agency side – the client typically provides this. Content professionals, however, must conduct upfront research so they can discuss these topics intelligently while bringing the latest trends, data and perspectives to the conversation. This can include quantitative research, compelling anecdotes and, if relevant, government/policy developments. When clients see that you educated yourself about a topic – and even delivered usable material – before a content call, they appreciate that you are committed to research in advance which adds value.

Don’t read from a script. You need to engage a client to draw out the best insights. This requires a highly interactive exchange of ideas – not a robotic exercise in which you “stick to a script.” When you strictly read pre-written questions and take down responses, you’re performing more as a stenographer than a content professional. The subsequent product will be weaker as a result. Instead, come up with a list of more flexible topic points as opposed to “set in stone” questions. Be prepared to listen to how the client responds, and elaborate/collaborate upon those thoughts in an intelligent, engaging manner. And convey interest in the client’s experts as people – building relationships, after all, begins with the qualities that make us human.

Frame the discussion path. Yes, the client provides the expertise. But the agency team has to identify “where the content needs to go.” In putting together a client executive-bylined article for an industry publication, for example, the executive likely has little experience with writing processes, takeaways, word counts, etc. That’s why the content team should steer the conversation – while being careful to not dictate it – in a direction that addresses all of the required “ingredients.” 

What’s more, because subject matter experts have a wealth of good ideas to share, they may want to talk about everything they know for a single content piece. But you can only fit in so many thoughts into an 800-word article. This drives home the importance of framing the conversation with a solid, thematic focus. In my experiences, for instance, when the experts start to stray from the core topic at hand, I usually respond with “That’s an interesting point … But I also feel it would be best suited as an entirely new topic for a future content opportunity.” (And, quite often, that’s exactly what happens, ensuring the relationship maintains lasting, repeatable value.)

Send a link – and a thank-you! Remember that it’s all about the relationship. Don’t assume that the client will track down the content once it’s posted. Demonstrate follow-through and thoughtfulness by finding and sending the link yourself, along with a sincere note of appreciation – a textbook example of a simple step that makes a big difference.

At W2 Communications, we place our relationships with clients at the top of our list of priorities. We take the time to understand their market value distinction and goals, and then work with them to produce constant content in the form of executive bylined articles, blogs, white papers, webinars, podcasts, etc. that enable them to meet their strategic objectives. If this sounds like something you’d like to discuss further, then please contact us.