Lessons in Setting, Meeting, & Exceeding Client Expectations

During our Spring 2018 Team Day, I presented my takeaways from CXL Live to the team. The theme of the presentation was ‘Expectations’: setting, meeting, and exceeding them. In the spirit of one of our Core Values, Betterment, I wanted to make sure we were setting everyone (clients and team members alike) up for success by connecting the dots between what we promise in the Client Discovery Process and how we fulfill those promises in our Engagements.

A Failure to Meet Expectations

Having lived, having learned, and especially being an SEO in a constantly-changing search environment, I’m extremely averse to making promises I can’t keep. I find it a bit cringe-worthy when others make promises that they have no control over and can’t help but come up short. I’m going to pick on CXL Live a little bit, since I found takeaways from not only the actual conference content, but also their pre-conference expectation setting.

After reading the high-expectation-setting weather forecast on the CXL Live Conference website, how can you not say: “Okay I’ll trust you CXL Live, I’m expecting the best.”

Setting Expectations

Despite many unavoidable issues with attendee flights being delayed or cancelled (not to mention many attendees completely underdressed for the weather), I’m not sure if this type of a failure to meet expectations as set by the conference, rather than the actual uncontrollable weather, will contribute to a negative attendee retention rate (I’m really only giving them a hard time here – it was a great conference!) for next year.
It really did get me thinking, however, about how this type of a lapse in expectation vs reality could be avoided if we made sure that our team understands what exactly prospects are being promised and so that we understand what we can and can’t deliver on, and don’t promise prospects things we can’t deliver. Essentially, we can set everyone involved up for success by being as clear and transparent as possible to the members of our team and ensure we’re on the same page with what prospects expect to get out of our engagement.

Promises in the Client Discovery Process

In our Client Discovery and Proposal process, we make four main promises to prospective clients:
Our goal with every engagement is to:

  1. Become an embedded part of your team
  2. Help you reach your goals
  3. Provide the technical marketing support you need
  4. Make your work life easier in whatever way we can

Exceeding Expectations

With these clearly-defined goals set, the UpBuild way is not just to meet these expectations but rather, to find ways to exceed them, increasing the perceived value we’re delivering. During our Team Day, we discussed what clear actions we could take to both meet and exceed the expectations for each of our promises for our clients:

Promise #1: Become an embedded part of your team

  • Weekly/bi-weekly calls
  • Weekly emails

Meeting Expectations

  • Talk directly to multiple members of the client’s team and contractors (developers, individual contributors, analysts, etc.)
  • Set up Google Alerts to learn about what’s going on with the company
  • Read our client’s industry news

Exceeding Expectations

  • Learn what the client’s product does/try their product if applicable
  • Build a personal relationship
    • Ask them questions about their life
      • Clients are people too!
    • Share what’s going on with you
      • UpBuilders are people too!

Promise #2: Help you reach your goals

Meeting Expectations

  • Complete all proposal deliverables
  • Provide a quarterly report

Exceeding Expectations

    • Take the time to reset and reassess
      • Ask how the company itself is doing
      • Have goals/priorities changed?
    • Take time to check in on the metrics
      • Send an update in a check-in email
        • Call out any low-hanging fruit
      • Follow up to make sure recommendations are getting implemented
      • Ask the client what metrics they are personally being measured against – how can we help improve those metrics further?

Promise #3: Provide the technical marketing support you need

Meeting Expectations

      • Handle SEO, CRO, Analytics strategies and deliverables

Exceeding Expectations

      • Be the driving force behind a strategy actually getting implemented
      • Tackle projects and challenges that we’ve never faced before
        • Troubleshoot the heck outta them
      • Use the rest of the UpBuild team as a resource

Promise #4: Make your work life easier in whatever way we can

Meeting Expectations

      • Hit deadlines for deliverables
      • Coordinate regular calls and provide frequent updates

Exceeding Expectations

      • Make emails and deliverables extremely easy to digest and actionable
      • Talk directly to the client’s team members and contractors
      • Provide guidance and recommendations outside of client requests
        • Drive the strategy
      • Teach the client about SEO
        • Provide the why behind our recommendations so stakeholders feel confident advocating for them internally

Great Expectations

We want to retain our clients for as long as they need us. We understand and accept that that won’t be for forever. We do want to make sure that we’re doing everything in our power to deliver on the promises that we made and ensure our clients are receiving as much perceived value as possible.

Written by
A strategic leader on the UpBuild team, Laura’s career includes 10+ years of agency experience working on everything from SEO and the semantic web to analytics and CRO.

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