Not every agency is up to the task when it comes to working with remote and international clients. Our experience in this extends back to the very beginning of our story. In this blog we detail just how to work with remote clients in marketing. So if you need advice on how to do this, or you’re a client looking to see what you can expect working with us, you’re in the right place.
1. Establish trust
One of the best ways to establish trust with a remote client is to meet ‘face-to-face.’ Set up a video chat and have a casual, unstructured conversation about what you’re working on together. We have found that when clients meet all the team members who will be working on their brand is a great way to build rapport.
Once you have started to establish trust by getting to know your client, and creating space for them to get to know you, you can continue to build trust by keeping communication open, listening to their ideas, creating good work consistently and reliably, and treating their content with genuine confidentiality until it goes live.
Basically, you need to show them that you’re showing up for them, even from a distance.
2. Set clear boundaries
While this applies to all service delivery, it’s especially important to establish boundaries when working with remote clients. This ensures that the two teams build good habits together from the very beginning and understand each others’ timelines right off the bat. It can be useful to set up a call to talk about needs and boundaries in a less formal way, and confirming everything discussed in black and white afterwards.
Setting boundaries with clients is a challenge even when they’re in the same city as you. The first, and most important, boundary you need to set is that around your team’s time. Make it very clear to remote clients what the working hours are in your country, and ask them to keep live communications to overlapping times. If they do need to speak to you outside of your working hours, let them know at the beginning that they need to schedule a meeting time in advance for this.
Another boundary that needs to be protected is around scope of work. We’ve all heard the term ‘scope creep’ for a reason; it’s extremely common. Start by confirming very clearly what your client expects of you. Once they have agreed to this, let them know at this early stage that any extra requests will need to be billed separately as ad hoc work. Knowing that this is the case right off the bat will help them be more mindful of the requests they’re making.
3. Don’t allow shifting of deadlines
And that goes for extending deadlines too! Research has shown that if you extend a deadline, students and team members will still use their time in the same way as they would have on the original deadline. If a client offers a deadline extension, simply let them know that you will still deliver the goods at the originally-agreed deadline, and that they will have to review when they have time on their side. This allows for efficiency and smoother, more manageable work traffic for your team over the long run.
Of course, moving deadlines forward should also be heavily discouraged. When this happens, your team can’t show any of your clients the attention they deserve, and are paying for, including the client who wants their work sooner. There is nothing wrong with telling a client you have already scheduled that time to work on content for another client. All your clients know you have other clients, so there’s no reason to pretend that isn’t the case by constantly avoiding talking about other clients.
You can also let them know that the unplanned tightening of a deadline means that their work won’t get the care and attention to detail they are expecting. This shows that you care for them and have pride in the work you’re producing for them.
4. Talk in person
Have as many calls and video chats as you can, within reason. Things like reports, budget conversations and other admin can be discussed over email, and you’ll have all the communication in writing there as well.
Use your calls and video chats for discussions that don’t need to be emails. This could include going over content with your client, watching their reactions to what you’ve created in real time. You can also get feedback on the spot (as opposed to them finding time to put their feedback into a mail), and if any feedback doesn’t make sense or is too vague, you can also get the answers you need then and there.
These kinds of meetings are also great for brainstorming and campaign and theme-month planning. These are the conversations that really matter. With the rest, a client can look at a list of numbers on a spreadsheet in their own time, and come to you with questions in a call later.
5. Actually collaborate
Collaboration is about more than just sending through your content and reports once a month. Your client is already far away, and this can sometimes lead them to believe that they’re out of touch with the project you’re working on together. In addition to regular meetings, don’t be afraid to run experimental ideas by them, ask them for resources, show them where you’re making compromises for them, give them full access to folders and documents, encourage critical feedback, and respond in good time and make sure your tone is always approachable.
And most importantly, celebrate your achievements together!
6. Use feedback purposefully
When you’re working with a remote client, we recommend (as above) doing feedback sessions with a voice chat and screen sharing. The first way to use feedback more purposefully is to accept feedback. If you don’t agree with the feedback, ask questions to find out where the clients’ concerns are coming from. As already mentioned, you can also use this time to get vague feedback broken down into as many more details as you need, with the client being able to talk through their thoughts naturally.
Another great way to be purposeful with feedback is to ask for examples. If your client seems to be stuck on a specific thought or idea, ask them to show you what they have in mind, because there probably is something they’re struggling to put into words.
Next, look for patterns in feedback. Everyone is busy, and with distance and time zones a factor in the feedback process, you want it to be as efficient as possible. If a client gives the same piece of feedback multiple times (or even twice), apply that piece of feedback to everything you create for them. This saves them the frustration of feeling like they aren’t being heard; and it saves you the time and effort of making a correction you shouldn’t have needed to make.
7. Take advantage of online communication tools
You will know what works best for you and your client, but you should definitely be making use of collaborative online tools. These include project management as well as communication tools. Try not to use WhatsApp for client communication. This can often get personal and unprofessional, simply because that’s the nature of the app and how we’re all used to using it.
Rather invest in a desktop instant-messaging app like Slack or Discord. This will allow you to chat and exchange ideas freely, and everyone will keep the idea that this is for work in the back of their minds. This centralised mode of communication also ensures processes are streamlined across all team members, and you always know where you can reach each other.
8. Put everything in writing
We probably don’t need to go into too much detail here. Invoices, budget information, contractual obligations, scheduling and more admin should always be sent over email and saved for future reference.
You can take this a step further by sending a very quick email containing an outline of everything discussed on your call or video chat. If there’s anything you got wrong, your client can use this opportunity to quickly turn you back to the same page.
Here at Pulling Power Media, we have been working with international clients since our inception, including clients who are 12 hours or more away from us, and from a large range of cultural backgrounds. If you can’t find a marketing agency in your area, consider a remote service provider in us. Tell us what you’re looking for here.