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I thought it would be fun to start things off with a riddle. Everyone likes riddles, right?
Question: What needs to arrive in order for something to leave?
Answer: Client approval sign off!
If you provide creative services of any kind, then you have clients (hopefully), and for every project they bring you, the culmination of all your time and energy is recognized in that final approval, in that moment when they finally sign off on everything and lift that weight off your shoulders.
It’s not ever so straightforward, though, is it? In between the kickoff call and that final approval, you and your clients go back and forth sharing goals, ideas, requirements, iterations and feedback. Getting clients to sign off at each step of the way isn’t always easy. Some people are hopelessly indecisive while others won’t be reasoned with. Some seem to indefinitely be allergic to answering emails while some want to have three meetings with you everyday to make sure things are moving along.
Working with such a range of personalities requires a plan, a strategy for how you can best communicate with clients that will result in solid feedback and collaboration, client approval sign off that happens in a timely fashion and satisfied smiles worn by all.
In the Beginning
Remember how your mom always told you that first impressions were important? She was right. How you begin a client relationship sets the tone for the rest of your time together, and you have a small window of opportunity to get it right. Start every kickoff meeting with the mindset that you’re starting at zero. Clients don’t know your value, and you haven’t earned their trust and loyalty, yet. Therefore, everything you do should be to prove that you are the right person for the job.
Work in Their Comfort Zone
You’ve likely already discovered that each person you work with has a different level of familiarity with technology. Some are comfortable with conversing in email threads, some want to call you, some prefer to do a quick Zoom call. At the start of a partnership, it’s a good idea to ask them what communication method they are the most comfortable using and the most likely to respond with. As the creative, it’s your job to adapt to the needs of your clients, so if they want a Slack channel, give them a Slack channel. If they tell you they aren’t likely to answer a phone call, don’t waste your time calling them.
Show Genuine Interest
It’s important not to think of a client as someone who’s always working against you. You should be on the same team with them. After all, you’re both working toward the same goal – a finished project that meets all of its objectives. In practice, this means you look at them as an equal trading partner, and you make an effort to get to know your clients so you can better understand where they’re coming from. The more you try to immerse yourself in their business or their aims, the more easily you’ll be able to add value for them.
Taking a genuine interest in your clients does not mean you should view them as infallible and someone you should please at all costs. The dream is to freely share problems and solutions without spending too much time wondering who came up with the most innovative idea. You should always be pleased to hear from clients, but you don’t have to bend over backwards and agree with every piece of feedback you receive.
Hopefully, if you’ve laid the groundwork for a strong relationship, your vision and their vision will be similar enough that you will be able to help them work through ideas and come out of the other side with the best possible final product.
No Such Thing as Too Much Communication (At Least on Your End)
You want to look for opportunities to take any burden off of your client. For them, the journey from signing a proposal to giving client approval sign off should seem as smooth and direct as possible. If you have a video call scheduled, send them the link beforehand. Prepare a meeting agenda in advance to avoid tangents. Clearly explain the next steps in the process so they know what to expect. And, don’t forget to give them frequent status updates to put them at ease.
The more a client understands what you’re working on, the less anxiety they will have about the process and the less they’ll pester you for assurances that progress is being made. For bigger projects, it’s even smart to give them outlines of what work you’ve already completed, what work is on the docket, and if there are any potential obstacles to progress that your clients may be able to help with.
Even if you don’t always receive meaningful responses, frequent updates will help to reinforce your partnership and camaraderie, and when they do have information to add, they’ll be more likely to volunteer it.
Make Approval as Simple as Possible
Whether you need to go through multiple stages of iteration and revisions before a project reaches its final form, or you are lucky enough to only go through one, you want to make giving feedback and approval as easy as possible for your clients.
To help both creatives and their clients, Ashore acts as your middleman. When you have a proof that is ready for review, simply upload it to Ashore, and we’ll help you do the rest. Send proofs out to several approvers in a workflow sequence or share a review link in an email or Slack channel. Customize automatic reminders to encourage approvers to review and provide their feedback. Oh, and when it comes to feedback, our intuitive review screen allows clients to markup and comment directly on the proof to make things as easy to understand as possible.
Each step of the way, your trail of activities will be documented in Ashore, so you’ll know when new versions were sent, who made comments when and who hasn’t reviewed a proof yet. At the root of fast client approval sign off is good communication, and with Ashore managing your interactions through a project, you’ll set yourself up for success. In fact, Ashore users see their proofs get approved in half the time.
Start a free two week trial of Ashore today, and put everything you’ve learned here today to good use. Your clients will thank you.