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Picture: SUPLLIED/TILT
Picture: SUPLLIED/TILT

In a world where more service providers vie for smaller client budgets, and agency offerings become less distinct, the human chemistry component is becoming more essential. TILT’s investigation turned up a simple rule of thumb: smile and it'll all be okay. 

Well, it's not quite that simple, but almost.

TILT is a two-year-old influencer marketing agency that has gone from R0 revenue to more than R10m per year but considers itself a start-up. The agency is still trying to make a dent in the universe and a huge impact in its clients’ business fortunes. So, it has been exploring how to really connect with clients.

And one of the best sources it has found on the subject is also one of the oldest: Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. First published in 1936, the advice is almost 100 years old but, crazily, still pretty sound (if you can get past the ancient anecdotes).

Like any relationship, the agency–client one also needs constant attention to stay positive and significant. TILT has found the obvious to be true: the more effort you put in, the more you get out. And the more sincerely you operate, the better the reception from your clients.  

Of course, every client should be meaningful to a company, but let's face it, ranking by prominence, income, exposure and other personal factors, every agency has some VVIPs. And while all client interactions are important, those ones can be crucial and can affect businesses' survival in many cases. Word of mouth has always been the underlying currency in marketing, but never more so than now.

Smile

This is a simple one. We grew up being told that a smile goes a long way. But this extends beyond just flashing cheesy grins. A sincere smile presents you as open, positive and welcoming. Whether you are in the honeymoon phase of your client relationship, the comfortable stage or burdened by growing pains, you still need to make your clients feel welcome whenever they interact with your brand, your people and your work. In TILT’s experience, it is often not about what you say but rather about how you make people feel. 

Be a good listener 

This goes back to the old adage that the customer knows best. Always remind yourself to listen first and speak later. These may be lessons left over from pre-school, but they are just as relevant to business people today. A client that feels heard and respected is likely to provide more work, increase the scope of your projects and refer you to other departments and clients. A heard client is a happy client, and happy clients pay the bills. Once the client feels co-ownership of the ideas being executed, you are on track for a winning client marriage. This doesn't mean you should be false or play dead; just take the time to hear and include your client's ideas. 

Make your client feel important 

The cheesy but classic line "You made me feel like the only girl in the room!" still works. Try it. Even if there are a million things going down in your office, these shouldn’t be noticed by your clients. Leave your baggage at the door and acknowledge and appreciate your clients: their way of thinking, their input and their time. If your client interactions show your client that your company is genuinely interested in their brand as well as the individuals in their office, then you’ve done your job right. Real connections can be built, and it is those relationship bonds that get agencies through the hard times. And there will always be hard times. 

Give honest and sincere appreciation

Client appreciation goes beyond the grand gestures. It is about always spelling names correctly. But it is also about remaining calm when a deadline changes on their side. On the softer side, it is checking in with a client because in their last email they were worried about their ill child – sending a gift to their daughter who just got married or a card for a big birthday. 

But most importantly, the ultimate show of client appreciation is doing an impeccable job that shows respect for the brand and the people behind it, but also for a brand's customers. Have you excited, delighted and informed them? They deserve a smile, your attention and to be listened to just as much.

TILT has put some of these — if we're honest, pretty twee sounding — tenets into operation, and they really work. We're lucky to have a team of sincere smilers. Just letting them do their thing as meetings get underway sets a tone that can't be bought. We have tried to stop butting in and listening more, and we've picked up real business opportunities ... who would have thought? It may sound trite but best of all has been how human we feel by treating our clients the same way. Thanks, Mr. Carnegie.

Arye Kellman is chief creative officer at TILT.

This article was paid for by TILT.