Client relationships are the bedrock of innovation at Frog Design, a global innovation firm founded in 1969. To name just a few of Frog's accomplishments: the company partnered with Apple to create the revolutionary Apple IIc in 1982; designed the highest-grossing e-commerce site of its time, Dell.com, in 2000; and, more recently, created the popular Roku Netflix video player.
As Frog’s president Doreen Lorenzo points out, innovation -- or doing anything “complicated or new or unique or different” -- requires a lot of client trust, and building trust takes time. It’s no surprise then that the great majority of the firm’s best clients come to them through word-of-mouth or repeat business.
Based on a recent conversation with Lorenzo, we pulled out five key best practices for client cultivation:
1. Don’t surprise the client.
“Clients don’t deserve surprises. By the time the client gets to the meeting, they should know the direction the project is going in. You’re taking them down a path, and you’ve explained what it is. At Frog, every client has a project site, and everything is on that project site, so they can access it 24/7 anywhere in the world. Because we know everybody is global and moves around a lot.”
2. Understand that over-communicating is impossible.
“We’re always giving them up-to-date information. We have a mantra here that you can’t over-communicate to a client. There’s never too much information that you can give a client. It’s important that you give them the good and the bad, keeping them abreast of whatever is going on.”
3. Know that innovation requires a lot of trust and reassurance.
“Innovation is really tough on the client. They have committed to doing something that’s unique and different. At some point, there’s that sinking feeling in their stomach, like, “Oh my god, did I make the right choice?” And our job is to make them feel confident that they have done that -- to take them down this path where they can feel really good about these decisions. And there’s nothing like constant communication to help them through that.”
4. Transmit your confidence as well as your opinion to the client.
“I believe that nobody should go to a meeting without an opinion. You don’t go to a meeting to be a decoration. You go to a meeting to have an opinion, to have a point of view, and to talk that through. That’s what our clients are paying us for. A lot of our business is with CMOs, with CEOs, with CFOs. Because, usually if you’re doing something new, it costs money for a client. So you have to have the ability to answer questions under fire. To be able to speak through, and be articulate, and be confident that this is the right decision.”
5. Educate the client with long-term partnership in mind.
“You only have to educate a good client for a short amount of time. Because, once you educate them, there’s this trust factor that happens between you and the client. So you might educate them the first couple of projects, but the third, fourth, fifth project they’re listening to you. And you’re coming up with ideas -- because you know them, and you know what’s good for them -- and they’re listening to you. That’s where the real magic happens.”
This post by J.K. Glei is based on research by the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think tank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.