Many small businesses offer services rather than products. According to Statista, there were 70.4 million freelancers in the U.S. at the end of 2022. Experts say that number will jump to 90.1 million by 2028, which would be a third of the population. A number of these freelancers are consultants – financial, legal, marketing, IT, and more.
We recently heard a story from one consultant who offered services improving the SEO of e-commerce sites. They were shocked when a new client fired them after only a month even though website traffic had increased by 30%.
At first, nothing seemed off about their process. However, they soon revealed that they had no contact with the client for the entirety of that first month. Instead they put the responsibility on the customer to reach out if they had any questions.
From the perspective of the consultant, they were working. But from the perspective of the client, their new consultant had just disappeared. In fact, the freelancer only resurfaced once they got fired.
The consultant’s question was “Is there such a thing as too little client interaction?”
Yes, there is.
What many small businesses do not understand is that in addition to providing goods and services, they also need to become adept at account management. Bigger companies can afford to hire someone for this role, but freelancers and consultants must often do everything themselves.
Effective account management is vital to the success of your small business. We share best practices below to help your projects run smoothly and build strong ongoing relationships with your customers.
Understand client expectations
It’s important to take time at the beginning of any project to understand your client’s goals and expectations. This will help you decide upon the services and outcomes you can offer.
Make sure your projects are S.M.A.R.T.
In order to connect a client’s goals with your plan to achieve them, just remember the acronym S.M.A.R.T. Its meaning has evolved slightly since it was first outlined by George Doran in 1991, but it still does an excellent job of summarizing what each project should be.
- Specific – Be very focused with what you’re trying to achieve and avoid tackling too much at once
- Measurable – Be able to quantify your progress with KPIs or another indicator of success
- Achievable – Be realistic about what can be accomplished with the available resources, including both budget and labor
- Relevant – Be certain the project you’re proposing align with your client’s overall goals
- Timely (aka time-limited or time-bound) – Be clear when projects begin and end along with when results can be achieved
Set realistic expectations
Now that you have all the information and have done an analysis of the project, be transparent with your clients about what can be achieved within the given time frame and existing resources. It is critical to set realistic expectations upfront to help prevent misunderstandings and foster trust with your customers.
Create a detailed project plan
Develop a comprehensive plan that outlines the scope of the work, timeline, milestones, and deliverables. All of it should begin with an onboarding process for new clients that includes documentation of what to expect, especially in the first month. Share this plan with your client so they have visibility into the project’s progress and an opportunity to provide feedback. You may want them to literally sign off on the plan before you proceed.
Establish consistent communication
Make sure you schedule regular communication with your customers to keep them informed about the progress of the project. For a new client, this might mean weekly check-ins for the first month where you provide a brief update and offer an opportunity for feedback. Use a combination of meetings – whether in person, phone, or video – and emails to keep everyone on the same page.
Be both responsive and proactive
No matter how busy you are, be sure to promptly respond to any questions from your clients. While it is reasonable that any new requests should wait until a project is completed, it’s important to be proactive in anticipating their needs. Provide insights and recommendations that go beyond their expectations.
In addition, look for opportunities to provide ongoing support or offer additional services beyond the current project. This shows your commitment to their success and can lead to an ongoing relationship.
Remember: the success of your business goes beyond just providing goods and services. Account management is key. Your customers don’t know the process or the results to expect. YOU do. It’s your job to communicate that process, understand and anticipate their needs, and add value in every project. This helps you build trust and can lead to long-term relationships with your customers. It just might result in a few referrals as well.
As always, Meraki Go is here to be your partner in your small business. Our network solutions give you fast, secure, and reliable WiFi for all your needs – from our Router Firewall Plus (with VPN) to WiFi 6 access points.
University of California