I’ve noticed a trend lately in client communications. This trend is represented in something I call T.R.A.V. It has helped our agency better communicate with our clients by first seeking to understand the core issue before overreacting to an unsatisfied client by scheduling a ton of additional work. Instead ask yourself, “Which of these two issues is the client’s dissatisfaction resonating from?”
“I am not getting value,” or
“I am not getting results.”
It is absolutely critical to first determine where they are coming from. In my experience, client dissatisfaction can be distilled down to these two basic issues. Determining the real root issue provides direction to your response, your investigation of the cause of the issue, and how you resolve it.
If you can quickly identify which of these two issues you are dealing with while the client’s patience and confidence are still high, then you may be able to prevent a small issue from developing into, “You’re Fired!”
If you take care of the small things, all the big things will take care of themselves. -Tweet this!However, when the problem is both value and results, you know small signs along the way were overlooked.
We once had a client ask a question in the kickoff meeting, “Where are my results?”
In the kickoff meeting! It started as a light joke, but throughout the meeting his demeanor did not improve much. The team returned to the office and told me about the uncomfortable situation. After I got the full story, I called the client and politely told him that he was not a good fit for our agency.
We had a great talk and he asked if he could come back (now that expectations were realigned), but he simply was not a good culture fit. It was really unfortunate because it was the week before Christmas and we needed that account to hit our goal for the month. We immediately refunded his money. We missed our monthly goal and took the hit on the Q1 forecast. It was the right thing to do, not only because we would most likely never satisfy him, but also because he was not interested in value, he was only interested in bottom line results.
The figure below graphically represents the TRAV Theory.
The Client’s Budget Is Directly Related to Their Results
We begin every engagement by setting clear expectations on our client’s desired result. Sometimes we have to start with assumptions, but we do our best to set realistic expectations.
Q: What determines a realistic expectation for a desired result?
A: The budget.
For example, if we have a budget of $10,000 per month and our agency bill rate is $125 per hour, the amount of agency time we have to invest to deliver the client’s desired result is 80 hours per month. This is represented in:
Q: Will this budget produce this desired result?
A: It depends.
The answer is dependent on how well your agency can convert dollars to hours. In other words, how well you can convert your client’s budget into billable hours to deliver the work to produce the desired result. Your client’s currency is dollars; your agency’s currency is time. -Tweet this! This simple conversion concept helped us consistently achieve 100% compliance in time tracking. Pretty cool, huh!
The Client’s Budget and Agency Time Are Directly Related to the Volume of Inbound Marketing Activity
The link between time and activity is the most critical factor in inbound marketing. It is the main factor that will determine if your agency is making money or losing money. Under or over-serving depends on whether the client’s track-able activity is within the proper budget-to-time conversion. Or, I guess we say, “within scope” without knowing with that really means! Even if you know what that means, does everyone on the team performing the activity know? Can you run the risk of that answer being no?
If you under-serve, you risk not delivering value to the client and, therefore, short him on the activity meant to deliver results.
If you over-serve, you put your agency’s profitability at risk, not to mention training your client not to appreciate the ADDITIONAL value. You risk never being able to profitably provide additional activity in the future.
Regulating the results on over or under-serving at this stage means not just making sure that the time involved in all the activity in the budget is aligned. Ask yourself not only, “Are we performing the right amount of activity?” Ask, “Are we doing the right activity that will produce results.” This is represented in:
Inbound Marketing Activity Is Directly Tied to Value
Activity is how you deliver value, not results, to the client. Leveraging your inbound marketing experience and strategically allotting the right amount of time and performing the right activity will save your client money. That is huge value to your client.
Time is money in the client world, but money is time in the inbound marketing agency world.
This value should be expressed routinely. It is represented by:
This is my support that there is no direct connection between results and value; they are indirectly related.
If a client’s issue is a lack of results, how would you answer that?
I would investigate first if you have the right budget.
Then I would determine if you have set realistic expectations for the activity the budget could produce.
I would ask, “Are you properly converting the budget to time?”
And, “Is that time being invested wisely?” (Remember, the agency currency is time, invest it wisely!)
If the client’s issue is value:
Are you under-serving the client?
(See #4 above.) Are you investing in the right activity?
If I determine it’s a value issue, I address all the activity (billable and non-billable) we are doing for the client. If I determine if it is a results issue, I address the results of the activity, not the activity itself.
I hope the TRAV figure will help you visualize a client’s issue and then craft a response that will better address problems when they are small, so they don’t grow into bigger issues that are way more difficult to overcome, if at all.