— The first step of every project is to define the strategy. Set a list of the goals and objectives—list all the details. You can’t play a game unless you have goals; you need something to shoot for.
— Create a responsibilities chart. As the project moves forward, what are your responsibilities? What are the clients’? Try to lay that out.
— Always get a nondisclosure agreement. It shows credibility. Clients want to know there’s that level of privacy, especially with Facebook—it’s a critical thing these days to keep your mouth closed.
— Talk about budget up-front. It’s not like a job interview where you don’t want to ask what you’re going to be paid. Clients want to get an estimate right off the top.
— Sometimes, timelines are unrealistic. You have to be up front with the client. Timelines can be changed if there’s a budget to support it—throwing more money in and putting more people on a project can change a timeline.
— Clients need an objective opinion since they’re so close to the project. Give them your gut. You have to be fair; you have to be honest. Being a good consultant is a great way to keep clients happy.
— Constantly refer back to the responsibilities chart. As the project goes and tasks get accomplished, update it and send the client an update. Keep that open level of communication. Because then, when problems do arise, at least you have a place to start talking intelligently.
— Don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake when a problem exists. Be up-front. You have to say, ‘Okay, we screwed up. We made a mistake.’
— Go right to the top and deal with the decision-makers. Get out of agency hell, where you’re dealing with lower-level marketing assistants. They’re trying to drive the bus, but they can’t make the decisions. You’ll get lost in that.
— Be a good listener. To communicate, you really have to call your clients. What you ‘hear’ in an email is not what you hear when you’re talking.