How to communicate effectively with clients

Written By: Megan McAteer


How to communicate effectively with clients

In my last post, I talked about the importance of clear communication when working remotely with my team. That’s one half of my job. The other half is communicating effectively with our clients. This requires a totally different skill set since I don’t have our well-developed internal processes to rely on. With clients, I need to have an open mind and find the right way to communicate. Most importantly, I need to adapt our process to work best for them.


Staying Flexible

One thing I found out quickly in my role is that everyone has their own communication style. Some people like to email, others like to text, some prefer phone calls. And then there’s social media, Google Hangouts, project management platforms… The list is never-ending. Ironically, with so many choices, communication actually has more of a chance to fall through the cracks. (For instance, you’re typing away on Slack and miss an email.)

For me, the key to effective communication is to determine early on how the client wants to run the project and then to stick with that method. I don’t force the client into one way of doing things. They’re the priority so it’s important they communicate how they want. That way we spend less time trying to merge our communication and project management styles, and more time creating exciting work. 

This flexibility has given me the chance to communicate in all sorts of ways. Sure, there’s the classic email and phone calls. But I’ve also been added to Slack channels so that we can get quick updates or have an immediate back and forth about an ongoing project. I’ve also been onboarded to a client’s project management platform, such as Wrike or Clarizen, so that we can be assigned tasks, share creative briefs or visual assets, and receive feedback the same way that their internal team does. I am now a whiz at every type of communication method, and actually get excited when I’m introduced to a new one!


Bringing Clarity to Every Step

While we’re flexible in the ways we communicate with our clients, the details of what is communicated stay the same no matter what. Namely, establishing clarity throughout the process. This is my goal regardless of being on the phone, on Slack, on Wrike, etc. 

The first step is to establish a detailed timeline so that our clients know when to expect specific deliverables. Personally, I have found that using Teamganntt works well. It’s pm software that allows us to lay out a timeline in a gantt chart and assign tasks to each team member. It provides transparency (something that is key!) and puts everyone on the same page. 

Once we dig into the project, my next goal is set explicit objectives for all our meetings. This helps things run smoothly and efficiently. (No one likes that feeling of being unsure why a meeting is taking place.) It’s equally important to recap the meeting afterwards and establish next steps. It’s at this point in the process that clear communication is especially important and for me to listen extra-closely to the client’s needs. For a project to keep moving, everyone must be clear on next steps—this is particularly true for giving feedback since we can’t continue with creative work until we truly understand the client’s point of view.

Finally, we deliver the final project with clear file names and directions on how to use the design going forward. Internally, no matter what platform I’m using, I set up explicit naming conventions and develop an extremely organized Egnyte server. Now everyone knows exactly where to look for a creative brief, client assets, or design files.

The Same Goal

From anticipating a client’s needs to understanding their vision, I know that staying flexible and aiming for clarity helps me in every client situation. Like everyone, clients want to be heard and understood. And the better I hear them, the better the process is going to move forward. After all, we’re all on the same team and want the same thing: the best possible work.

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