It may seem obvious, but at the heart of any company lies its clients. Without them, it wouldn’t have a purpose.

And as we shift toward working more and more online, it’s essential to nurture our relationships with clients—whether face-to-face or virtual—in order to give them the top-notch service they deserve.

At VeraContent, we place a lot of value on the relationships we build. From day one, we strive to earn each client’s respect so that we can help them reach their goals and connect with their target audience.

In this article, we’ll share some of the most effective ways to build client relationships that are mutually beneficial, informed by our own experiences in B2B sales and marketing.

10 effective ways to build client relationships

1. Understand your client

When starting a new project, it’s important for you and your client to be on the same page. You may both be experts in your respective fields, but if you want to communicate effectively, you have to speak their language (both literally and figuratively). 

This means really getting to know your client, whether by doing research on LinkedIn, exploring their website or asking them directly about their goals and values. 

In other words, start every client relationship on a good note by letting them know that you understand where they’re coming from. Not only will this demonstrate that you care about their work, but it will ultimately help you achieve your objectives.

2. Start with small talk

In the fast-paced world of business, we’re often eager to cut to the chase and dive straight into a meeting. But small talk is key to any strong business relationship; by checking in and discussing matters unrelated to work, you can create an open space and build trust.

Asking a client how they’re doing or how their weekend was shows them that you genuinely care not only about the project at hand, but also about them as a human being.

“Marketing is about having a variety of skills, but number one is certainly good communication. Whether in your personal or professional life, it’s all about relationships and communicating.”

Ksenia Ruffell, EMEA senior marketing manager at IDeaS Revenue Solutions

3. Set clear expectations

Before starting any collaboration, you need to set expectations and explain how you usually approach each type of project. Show your client that you’re being honest and thorough, and leave no room for miscommunication

This also means being well versed in your company’s policies and services. It’s important to stay consistent with all of your clients, and to establish a sense of transparency. This shows that you have integrity, which is more important than ever for companies today.

Check out these 10 effective ways to build client relationships, informed by our own experiences in B2B sales and marketing.

4. Adapt your working style

Most clients appreciate consistency and clarity—but that doesn’t mean you should be rigid. 

It’s okay to take that extra step to meet each client’s needs. Maybe one client prefers to communicate on a specific channel, or for you to send them weekly updates on a project’s progress. Be as flexible as you can, and remember that some clients respond better to certain practices than others.

Especially in B2B sales and marketing, it’s important to approach each situation with an open mind and a fresh perspective. But don’t bend over backwards to meet expectations that may hinder your performance; try to find a balance between realistic requests and excessive demands.

5. Be assertive

Sometimes it’s hard to suggest new ideas that go against what a client is proposing, but constructive criticism is a healthy part of any working relationship

When making suggestions or offering feedback, be careful with your phrasing and delivery. By sharing your expertise in a non-threatening way, you’ll show your client that you’re invested in their success.

Remember, every client has hired you for a reason. Sharing your opinions will ultimately help you find solutions that work for both parties.

Check out these 10 effective ways to build client relationships, informed by our own experiences in B2B sales and marketing.

6. Ask for feedback

Constructive criticism goes both ways. You should always be open to feedback from clients, and directly request it if necessary. 

For example, in social media management, the goal is to drive engagement that makes a meaningful impact. We might be creating awesome copy and getting lots of likes, but we also have to ensure that these actions are providing tangible benefits for the brand.

Asking for this kind of information shows the client that you’re genuinely invested in their success. It also helps you enhance your own practices; there’s always room for improvement, and you should never get stuck doing things a certain way just because it’s comfortable.

7. Talk it out

As the world of work shifts online, we’re all getting increasingly familiar with digital communication channels like email and Slack. These tools are useful, but they can also lead to a lot of back and forth.

Sometimes, a simple phone call is more effective. Always ask yourself, “Would this be easier to discuss on the phone?”

Of course, you can also opt for a call that includes face-to-face interaction, thanks to tools like Zoom and Google Meet. This can be helpful to avoid miscommunication and create a more personal experience, helping to fill the gap left by a lack of in-person meetings.

Check out our comprehensive list of the best content marketing platforms and tools

Check out these 10 effective ways to build client relationships, informed by our own experiences in B2B sales and marketing.

8. Language matters

A lot can get lost in written communication. Who among us hasn’t written a text message to a friend or loved one that’s led to a misunderstanding and dozens of follow-up messages?

In the world of content marketing we pay close attention to detail, always considering the best way to convey each message. And we have to do the same when communicating with clients.

When dealing with complex topics or providing feedback, it’s important to practice confirmation and affirmation. It also helps to use collective pronouns like “we” and to limit the use of pronouns like “you,” which could be interpreted as accusatory.

Whether you’re writing a friendly email or providing constructive criticism, pay close attention to word choice—and always proofread!

9. Prioritize human connection

At the end of the day, we’re all human, and we need to treat our clients with the respect they deserve. This requires empathy, patience and commitment to creating a positive experience.

This was the biggest lesson we learned this year in our interviews with industry experts on The Content Mix podcast. Especially in 2020, when every individual and business faced unprecedented challenges, it became crucial to put compassion above all else.

“When you talk to your clients—no matter which tool you’re using to communicate—pay attention to your tone and try to make it empathetic.”

Erika Bianco, senior marketing and communications manager for EMEA and APAC at MarketAxess

Read more quotes from industry experts about the value of human connection in marketing

10. Take a deep breath

Sometimes you just need to take a step back and breathe before doing something that could compromise a client relationship. It can be easy to get frustrated and jump to conclusions, especially when you’re stressed or overwhelmed with work.

But just like in your relationships with friends, family members or a significant other, it’s vital to approach each interaction calmly and with a clear head. This will allow you to maintain a positive attitude and foster mutually beneficial, long-lasting client relationships.

Whenever you’re onboarding a new client or reconnecting with a previous one, keep these tips in mind to start your collaboration off on the right foot—and the rest will fall into place.