If you’re a “social media consultant” working with clients then you are probably going to be able to relate with a few things in this post. The tough part about social media at this stage is that companies don’t know what they want and they don’t know what to expect from working with a team, consultancy, agency, etc in social media. They may ask for a strategy or for a “plan,” but what on earth does that mean? The point of this post is to provide both companies and consultants with a few tips to help make the working relationship a bit easier and to keep everyone on the same page. Here are a few of my tips:
- Don’t say yes to everything that comes your way. Make sure it’s a good fit for both parties. This means understanding what the client needs are and understanding that you CAN HELP them. Of course there are other things to take into consideration such as budgeting, expectations, etc.
- Spell out a clear list of deliverables so both parties understand exactly what’s being done. If you’re creating a plan that doesn’t include execution then you need to spell that out, try to avoid any and all confusion.
- Set up regular status calls so that you can make sure the client is doing what they are supposed to be (i.e. paying you, setting up any tools/platforms, etc.) Also, try to go over the deliverables or just touch on them during every status call. Trust me on this, I cannot stress the importance of being as clear as possible as to what you are and are NOT doing.
- In order to make sure that both parties are on the same page, share some basic/outline information with the client so that they can see what you’re thinking. This can save you a lot of time and effort at the end of a client engagement if a client is unhappy. There’s nothing wrong with sharing a “strawman” version of some of your docs.
- The client is just as responsible as the consultant in making sure that things get done. For example, if you need some company information before you get started and the company is taking it’s sweet time giving it to you, then you can’t be responsible if the project doesn’t get completed on time. Make sure your client understand what they need to get done and when they need to get it done by.
- Don’t let a client or a consultant overstep their bounds. If you’re a consultant don’t let a client sneak in extra things into your deliverables list. If you agreed to help with a social media campaign for a PR department then don’t let them sneak in a “oh and we need this for marketing too,” unless they intend to pay for your time. If you’re a client don’t let a consultant ask for too much information (i.e. I need your financial information), make unreasonable demands (i.e. I need to fly over to see you right away), etc.
- Set up a payment schedule in the contract, if the client doesn’t pay then you warn them and then stop working until you receive payment.
- Be careful with how much information you put into a proposal (or share with a client until the final document/strategy/etc is due). I learned this the hard way and basically ended up creating a whole strategy that was a part of the proposal, of course at that point the client didn’t need me (since the deal was for a strategy) and they got their information for free.
- Establish key points of contact on both ends so that when one party needs information or has a question that someone is there to provide the info needed.
- Set AND MANAGE expectations. If a client wants a strategy document done in 2 weeks, wants to implement the week after that, and is expecting to see sales increase within that month; then you probably need to set them straight. Make sure the client understand how long something takes, what the end result is going to be, and what resources are going to be required. Companies also need to manage consultant expectations in terms of payment, how long it would take to provide information, how long something will take to implement, etc.
What other tips do you have to improve the social media consultant and client relationship?