My wife and I had our first child about a month ago, and since then we have enjoyed getting to know our baby girl and learning about our new roles as parents. While reflecting back over this amazing month, I realized that our success so far (kiddo is happy, healthy and growing, and we’re not too sleep deprived) is due to many of the practices that we use with new clients at Sterling Communications. I won’t bore you with the personal details of feeding schedules, diaper changes or how we pre-determine an exit strategy in case kiddo has a meltdown at a grocery story or a restaurant, but I thought it would be interesting to highlight some client-side best practices for successfully kicking off a new working relationship. Success on both sides of the equation comes from having a plan, constantly measuring progress, establishing processes that work and communicating.
There are business challenges and a strategic communications program can help. The specific challenges, and how we would approach them, are discussed during the new business process, but once an agreement has been signed it is time to solidify our plan and begin to execute. A key part of this process is to fully vet the plan throughout the organization to confirm that all factors have been considered and that everyone is onboard with the suggested course of action. During this process we also clearly outline what the success factors look like and gain agreement there, too. This ensures that we are all aiming at the same target, and will be happy with the results when success is achieved.
Measurement doesn’t begin after the first batch of coverage rolls in. Measurement begins on the first day of a client engagement with establishing baselines for coverage, website traffic, leads generated, and any other metrics by which the success of the communications program will be judged. By obtaining a firm grasp on where we are starting, we’ll easily be able to demonstrate how far we’ve come later on. Measurement is also an ongoing part of the program, and not something we just do monthly, quarterly or annually. This enables us to fine tune the communications program as we go — to see both what is working and to identify areas that need refinement.
There is no cookie-cutter process for a communications program because every client’s marketing team is different. We work with large global organizations where we need to seamlessly plug into existing processes and procedures, and we work with startups where we are the marketing department working under the supervision of a founder or marketing VP and we create all the processes from the ground up. We love the diversity in these roles, and whether the client is big or small, we find the right balance of process so the communications programs works as efficiently as possible.
Any successful working relationship is based on good communication, and at the onset of a new client engagement we establish communication practices that work best for that client. We need a steady flow of information from the client in order to best service the business, and we never want our client to ask, “What is my agency doing for me today?” Some of our communications practices are extensions of processes. For example, monthly scope-of-work documents are created at the beginning of each month to identify the top priorities for that month, and we provide updates on progress during weekly status calls. We also pride ourselves on being great listeners. This is crucial for prioritization, task management and identifying new pitch opportunities.
These are just some examples of our best practices for kicking off a new business relationship (and that, put in the context of a family, work well for new parents). Do you have any others?