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Hosted by Julie F Bacchini, this week’s PPCChat discussion shed light on the types of communication channels or tools experts use with their clients, Any aspect of client communication PPCers are struggling with, Any tip to better manage client communication and more.

Q1: Do you have a set cadence for client communication? If so, what is it?

It honestly varies by client and scope. @JonKagan

We do. For medium to large size clients, we connect weekly. During certain client peak times, we’ve had daily check ins during the week of holidays. For smaller clients, typically at the end of each month unless we need more assets/have ad hoc questions. @AkvileDeFazio

I do monthly reporting/calls, unless there is a really good reason to do more frequently. Will communicate throughout the week, but I do have a clause about “typical client communication level” in my contracts. @NeptuneMoon

We have different cadences/communication methods set with different agencies. For one, we have a Teams channel and do most of our communication asynchronously. Other we have bi-weekly meetings and occasional one-off meetings in between. Both work for me! @akaEmmaLouise

This exactly. Weekly (or even twice a week) for very large clients, every other week for most others. @Mel66

For most of my clients I hold a weekly check in call where we discuss performance and project updates. For smaller clients we meet bi-weekly. I also email clients an update at the beginning or end of the week depending on when check-in is. Other comms are ad hoc. @Mark_from_MKTG

For smaller clients we have bi-weekly or monthly calls. Larger clients are usually weekly. This all changes based on performance and need. @joshuadubs

I have in the last 6 months moved to weekly with new clients, it’s a giant mistake and too frequent, and I am thinking of cutting it back again to monthly. @CJSlattery

Bi-Weekly has been the most common cadence on my end. But I’ve seen weekly and monthly as well. @BrettBodofsky

For our small business tiers, we do. It’s a very comprehensive PDF performance report at the end of their monthly management period. And usually some emails back-and-forth throughout the month. For our enterprise clients, we talk with them constantly as needed. @gilgildner

We try to do monthly meetings at the very least but some smaller clients just don’t have the time – for this we try to provide detailed emails in lieu of a call. Larger clients usually have bi-weekly meeting/updates. @selley2134

Most clients are monthly or every two weeks. We have two clients on weekly and those are good to help us move faster and change direction. Pandemic has made a new world order. @duanebrown

I do have a set cadence, but if varies by client. Usually at least once a week a quick weekly touch base. For small clients, I try to keep it to once a month. @lchasse

We do monthly reporting (which usually comes with a video of me going through the report etc), but that’s about it. We’ll do calls when clients request them. @adwordsgirl

Q2: Do you define a level of communication, frequency of reporting, etc. in your contracts? Why or why not?

Reports and formal meetings yes. one offs and emails, no. Don’t want to be too limiting, but also want to protect ourselves. @JonKagan

Yes, absolutely – especially the reporting and status call cadence. Otherwise clients will ask for the moon – detailed weekly or even daily reports, etc. Reporting and client calls can be huge time sucks if you don’t spell it out in the contract. @Mel66

This is actually my biggest struggle at the moment: reporting. Right now we do weekly Slack updates to all clients on most important KPIs and we’re doing quarterly business reviews. In addition to biweekly meetings. @DenneyDara

No, we don’t. Mostly because we do not price our time – that’s not scalable. Instead, we charge flat fees high enough to justify the level of communication needed. @gilgildner

I think it’s important to have a structure/expectation for communication methods & general frequency, with an understanding of fluidity based on need. Sometimes might need more frequent touches, sometimes much less. I never want to meet just for the sake of meeting! @akaEmmaLouise

In the past we never defined a level of communication or frequency of reporting in contracts, because it was never a problem. We recently acquired some clients who require a lot of attention and we are working on defining communication tiers as part of the contract. @Mark_from_MKTG

Yes – its definitely important to mention reporting frequency unless is can get out of control and take up unnecessary time. @mindswanppc

Absolutely. Unless the client is huge, it really doesn’t make sense. The week-to-week variance is so great that it can look like things are going poorly and then you look at the full month, and performance is great. @CJSlattery

Absolutely define these things. Client communication is one of the biggest areas of scope creep there is, in my experience. Also, if you don’t define it and you have a client who is high maintenance, you have nothing to point to to change the scope (PRICE). @NeptuneMoon

I do set communication expectations at the beginning of the engagement. Mostly, because if a client wants more then I can work that into the costs. It also sets expectations for both sides. If they want more they can ask for it and they know what to expect. @lchasse

We do set those expectations upfront. Letting them know that their contract will get them 1 call/month, 1/week, etc.. @joshuadubs

We do to set expectations. Plus everyone we work with general asks. Either they have am expectations or the last agency/freelancers did a shit job of reporting or lie. @duanebrown

Yes! Most contracts allow 1 reporting call per month. Calls take a lot of time & if client become overly needy we can go to the contract & they can add time if they wish. Ad Hoc meetings are usually accommodated unless it becomes too regular. @selley2134

Right now, we do not but I have been thinking about adding that in. I do mention our communication preferences in our initial call though. We’re pretty lucky that our clients are super high maintenance and the communication is super manageable. @adwordsgirl

Q3: Has the level of communication clients want changed lately? Do they want more, less, different type(s)?

I’ve found the amount of communication clients want has increased dramatically during the pandemic. It’s possible though that it’s also related to new weekly reporting but some are trying to get me to engage daily with them. @CJSlattery

I havent noticed much change. A few are busier now so there is less communication but pretty consistent for the most part. @selley2134

Communication seems to have gone up. We are seeing more online sales but also more competition so it takes constant adjustments to get the great results. @AllisonMiriani

I have not seen much change beyond the level of initial inquiries. Clients who are still doing well seem mostly unchanged. We’ve had a few who have communicated more as their business models have updated. @gilgildner

It has not changed a lot really. In some cases we have changed due to performing much better than last year, so we had to discuss increasing budgets or other opportunities we have seen. @lchasse

The way clients use Slack has changed a ton for me. It used to be a good tool to get answers/turn around projects quickly, but as more client companies get used to Slack it has turned into this “always on” channel which can be unhealthy. Currently working on this. @Mark_from_MKTG

Communication levels are about the same. But then again, I define it well, both in the contract and when we are first talking about the project so they know what to expect as part of the project. @NeptuneMoon

I haven’t noticed any massive changes lately in terms of client communication. At the beginning of lockdown we happened to be reducing the number of client calls (was happening anyways) which lead to a number of confused/anxious conversations. @DenneyDara

We moved from weekly to bi-weekly meetings with our ad agency shortly after covid hit because our ad spend decreased significantly and quickly, so we were testing much less and there wasn’t as much to discuss. I don’t anticipate we’ll go back to weekly anytime soon. @akaEmmaLouise

Yes, the clients who review their reports are certainly asking for more frequent communication from us. @heyglenns

The level of communication our clients want always varies depending on performance. If performance is good and things are consistently running smoothly than they usually don’t feel the need to chat as much. @joshuadubs

In Q2, we tweaked comms for clients I knew would want to know we were on top of things 24/7. Other clients got a weekly up who I knew would just need that. We try to adapt to their needs (within reason) @duanebrown

Less but not for good reasons, a lot of clients had their hours reduced. @JonKagan

The level of communication with clients has remained the same for us. @adwordsgirl

Q4: What types of communication channels or tools do you use with clients? (Sorry for some Qs having the graphic & some not – my power & internet is going in & out so I’m tweeting from my phone now).

We’re 90% email, 10% phone as far as communication. For reporting, we build custom Data Studio dashboards for each client so they can see live metrics pulled in from Ads, Analytics, Search Console etc. We create a PDF report at the end of each month w/ strategy details. @gilgildner

Great question. We use Trello and Basecamp. We tend to not partake in client Slack channels but have before for one very large client in order to be more integrated as an extension of their team. Interested to see what others use. @AkvileDeFazio

Usually it’s just email & phone. A couple of clients have added us to their Workfront instance, which is a mixed blessing. @Mel66

As some of you may know, I’ve been struggling with the slack situation with some clients. That’s now a hard no going forward. Most clients it is email and call, though I’ve been working to replace weekly update calls with loom videos reviewing data / dashes. @CJSlattery

I personally am very dependent on email. Phone is fine for a heads-up but please give me a paper-trail and asynchronous way to follow-up. @ferkungamaboobo

We use Slack for client communication. (I know y’all aren’t fans and it’s given SO MUCH to think about!) It’s the system I was adopted into. @DenneyDara

Primarily phone, email & Asana. I do have some dashboards set up for clients that like to look in on things for themselves. And will also set reports to auto email to them. I do Slack for one client (who is a retainer arrangement). Generally though, I would not. @NeptuneMoon

Varies by agency. Primarily email, Teams/Slack, or Basecamp for written communication. Google Meet, Zoom, or Teams for meetings. I think I would like Basecamp best if it was used consistently, but they all have their pros and cons. @akaEmmaLouise

Weekly agendas in a Google Doc – Zoom for calls and I like to share G Cal availability for scheduling (depends on client) – Invite clients into Asana to see project status w/o asking – Email for updates – Slack for quick questions -Phone for emergency only. @Mark_from_MKTG

Email, phone/video…. that’s it. Less options, more focus. Get time to get work done. @duanebrown

This also varies by client. I use email, phone, asana, and basecamp. A couple agencies I work with use Asana or Basecamp, so I use that to keep their account mangers updated. With direct clients, I use email / phone mostly. @lchasse

We use email and conference calls. Some clients have my personal cell number which gets used occasionally. I have to be careful who I give this out to. @joshuadubs

Phone & Email primarily. In the past we have tried trello, but have shifted away from that. I try to use whatever medium the client would like, but I won’t do slack (that just happens to be mainly email). @selley2134

Had a potential client in Oz who kept using Skypes IM feature to message me. They could not email for some reason. We didn’t win the business but it was worth it. Or the agency who used Gtalk and said it was fine. That talk was needed months later. Had to dig it up. @duanebrown

If I like them, they get my gchat and personal phone. all others, get my work email and desk line. @JonKagan

Primarily email and phone. I’ve thought about adding clients to Slack but we have a separate channel for each client internally and feel like that would be way too much for us to handle if we had to create a new channel for each client. @adwordsgirl

Q5: Is there an aspect of client communication that you’re struggling with/have struggled with? Did you find a solution?

I try hard to stay away from slack, but other than that since we discuss expectations early on, we both know what to expect from each other, so no issues. @lchasse

I think the most important and difficult thing (with new clients, mostly, but sometimes existing ones) is knowing what their priorities are and speaking directly to those. If you think their goal is one thing and later learn it’s something else, it can cause issues. @akaEmmaLouise

Before I had a child, I used to work a lot more flexible hours. Now, I very clearly define my availability, including TIME ZONE to clients – for any comm channel. Learning to set boundaries is such a critical business (and life) skill! @NeptuneMoon

One big struggle for me comes in me hearing something underlying in the conversation, and everyone else focusing on the actual ask. I can get lost in root-cause analysis vs. fixing the stated problem. @ferkungamaboobo

You either end up getting asked lots of questions that seem totally random, or client is unhappy despite what seems like great performance… Can be a lot of unnecessary headaches stemming from a simple misalignment of objectives and strategy. @akaEmmaLouise

As I said earlier I have been having trouble with Slack, especially with larger clients. We are working on including this in contracts. I have been working on when to respond right away and when to wait. This has set a precedent and improved the situation. @Mark_from_MKTG

My biggest struggle is unresponsive clients. Have they gone dark b/c results are good & they have bigger fish to fry? Have they gone dark b/c they are unhappy? Are they just busy? I try to email occasionally to check in but don’t want to pester if they are happy. @selley2134

Some clients are not tech/ad nerds. Always working to explain things in new ways that a person can understand. Everyone has a different light bulb moment. @duanebrown

Over the past ~4 years as our clients have gone from tiny to medium, we’ve noticed that communication gets EASIER. A $500/mo client is about twice as hard to deal with as a $5000/mo client. It took a while for us to realize that. @gilgildner

Delivering the message in a positive way, rather than a dull way. @JonKagan

As of right now, not really. We have a call forwarding number that all clients have but they never really use it; they mainly send emails our way. I’ll open emails at any hour of the day but I’ve started only responding M – F. @adwordsgirl

Q6: Do you have any tips for how to better manage client communication? Lessons learned, if you will…

Establish clear boundaries. Be helpful, but have clear guardrails. @Mel66

What @Mel66 said. No matter how awkward or hard the conversation is. @robert_brady

Set expectations from the beginning. We can’t predict everything so knowing what expectations to set will come with experience. @joshuadubs

Set boundaries (preferably in contracts before starting work). Occasional extra comms is fine but if extra is the norm you have a big case of scope creep on your hands which can be difficult to walk back. @selley2134

As you get to know clients better, and build rapport with regular POC, you should anticipate how they’ll feed info upwards and if changes/bad news hits,mold your msgs in way that helps them relay it. @heyglenns

Proactively being involved with clients and over-communicating campaign status (and providing them with live dashboards) prevents a lot of emergency freakouts. @gilgildner

Ask for feedback? Different clients will have different preferences. Touch base every so often and see what they are liking/disliking about your communication and see if there’s any quick wins or little shifts that might make both your lives easier. @akaEmmaLouise

So many things… If a client is difficult to communicate with before you even sign the contract, think twice. Define EVERYTHING. Stick to your boundaries. Make sure you’re communicating to them in the way they need to be communicated with. @NeptuneMoon

I think that in addition to setting expectations, not being afraid to reset expectations if client communication isn’t effective. Odds are, if you’re having problems your client is too and redefining communication workflows will be mutually beneficial. @Mark_from_MKTG

Explain why you prioritise X over Y. Free audit pitchers always exaggerate the lowest tactical priorities as OMG YOU ARENT DOING Y. Client needs to know in advance not all tactics equal & it’s not a missed op. Just sales BS. @beyondcontent

I think it’s just about setting boundaries with clients. I don’t take unscheduled calls and will email the client asking them to book a call & that I don’t take unscheduled calls. @adwordsgirl

Q7: What do you wish clients understood about consultant or agency communication?

I wish they would understand that we have multiple clients and finite hours and that time communicating with them is time we can’t spend doing the actual work. This is especially true for those of us on very small teams. @CJSlattery

TIMELINES!!! SWEET JESUS TIMELINES!!! @JonKagan

My best clients were ones who either had an agency background themselves or understood that their account is not your only focus. They don’t expect 100% of your time/focus/energy but also trust that you are invested in them and their success. @akaEmmaLouise

I am not an employee. We have contracted for a specific amount of work per month & I manage my time accordingly. I am not universally available to you, but will always strive to respond in a reasonable & timely manner. @NeptuneMoon

As such, they were engaged during meetings and not afraid to talk about strategy or ask about performance/metrics, but also don’t expect you to have every answer on the spot. It’s okay to follow up after the fact if you need to dig into something deeper. @akaEmmaLouise

That we plan work at least a week ahead and can’t always take on their last minute requests (I repeat this a lot). 2. That everyone working on their account has other accounts/you’re not always the top priority (I feel like this should be a no brainer) @Mark_from_MKTG

That we don’t have unlimited time, so we do our best to prioritize. When you are requesting an ad hoc report to be made by tomorrow I have to weigh that vs the actual account work I had planned. So sometimes I am pushing back in order to help you. @selley2134

For new clients – We don’t do hacks or flip a magic switch. We simply work hard and do good work; it takes time and energy but it will eventually yield results. For this, I think it’s so important to just be able to explain how things work at a high level. @Mark_from_MKTG

Most of the time I see challenges in client comms, it’s not the client that’s the problem. Agencies have a lot of priorities, don’t listen, and don’t try. We’re all guilty of hearing a very reasonable request and going “Ugggggh wtf omg” instead of doing our jobs. @ferkungamaboobo

I think that because we’re a small team some clients believe that we only work for them when we have a pretty decent roster of clients. We’re not working on their accounts daily but that doesn’t mean they’re not getting our best. @adwordsgirl

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