Images of flying shrapnel and bursting flames occupy the minds of those familiar with Ford’s Pinto.
This tragic public hazard of the ’70s sparked one of the most iconic examples of the dangers of cutting corners.
It resulted in the largest punitive damage of its kind, costing Ford Motor Co. nearly $130MM.
If there’s one thing we can learn from this explosive PR failure, is it that value and flippancy do not mix.
Thankfully, scenarios like these are the exception to the rule because the more significant a matter or object, the more carefully it is typically handled.
Investments are one of those weighty areas of life that demand caution, which is why advertisers only entrust their marketing dollars to those who’ve won their confidence.
Nurturing this trust should be the highest aim of every paid media professional.
Though client trust is essential in any role, the recurring nature of our profession heightens its importance.
This article will demonstrate why client trust is vital in paid media and offer tips on fostering it.
5 Big Reasons Client Trust Matters
1. You’ll Be More Fulfilled In Your Career
One of the most humbling aspects of overseeing a digital marketing agency is the number of our longstanding partners.
The most rewarding aspect of this loyalty is the affirmation that our clients are satisfied.
Show me a happy patron, and I will show you a client with met expectations.
The most crucial reason you build client trust is to maintain your integrity.
Prioritize this, and you will deepen the fulfilling nature of what you do.
Delivering on your intentions demands character, the exercise of which is very gratifying.
2. Trust Reduces Stress
Who wins when your stress levels are minimal?
You, your family, your boss, colleagues, and clients.
Would you like to manage a book of accounts infected with perpetual turnover, onboarding new accounts, and learning new advertisers?
Of course not.
You’d rather enjoy a stable book of accounts that’s more predictable.
Paid media specialists only have so much bandwidth.
If you can achieve high retention through client trust, your plate will primarily consist of long-standing clients.
You can’t wholly neutralize stress in this performance-based line of work; however, you can mitigate it.
Hello, relaxation and goodbye stress.
The mental, physical, emotional, and relational benefits here are substantial, comprising the second compelling reason to become a client trust connoisseur.
Unless you have a strange fetish for high blood pressure, you understand how valuable this is.
3. You’ll Earn More Money
Championing client trust will yield dividends.
This increase in earnings will result from you consistently achieving high retention and generating client referrals.
While this may not be the most critical reason, it is probably the most enticing.
4. You’ll Increase Retention
The most profitable clients are those who remain on retainers for years.
The most valuable paid media strategists then are those with high retention.
This self-evident truth boils down to simple economics: Instead of expending resources to obtain new clients, you keep your existing ones happy.
The cost of acquiring new customers is exponentially higher than maintaining the ones you already have.
People will only place valuable assets in the care of those they trust.
If you want to become and remain the go-to marketer for advertisers, building trust is the surest path to arriving and staying there.
As your attrition goes down, your value as a marketer goes up, which means more money in your pocket.
5. You’ll Win More And Better Referrals
Satisfied clients are referring clients.
When considering the lifetime value of a client, we must factor in referrals, which exponentially increase the worth of the referrer.
Second to upselling and cross-selling existing customers, you won’t find lower fruit in your sales funnel than these shoo-ins.
This point goes hand in hand with retention because they impact profitability, the third most important reason for maintaining client trust.
Unhappy customers skillfully managed often outlast customers who never have concerns.
How To Build Trust In Paid Media
Having established the importance of client trust, let’s explore some tips to help you nurture it. Instead of unloading a familiar list of client experience how-tos, I’d like to share something with you that most paid media specialists do not know.
Unhappy customers can be your most valuable customers.
Did you roll your eyes?
Good… keep reading.
Every paid media professional should know the transformula (a formula that transforms… get it?) below.
I have used it for years and have shared it with my staff because it effectively converts dissatisfied customers into valuable customers.
Unhappy customers skillfully managed often outlast customers who never have concerns.
If your client reaches out to you with a concern, capitalize on the moment by replicating the following process: Express gratitude, take ownership, show sympathy, apologize, make restitution, offer reassurance, and end on a confident note.
I have elaborated on each of these below and provided an example so you can see this in action.
1. Express Gratitude
The first thing to do is thank your client for taking the time to detail their grievance.
If you genuinely value them and their business, you welcome any feedback that enables you to ensure they are satisfied with their overall experience.
Expressing gratitude in this context provides you with a unique springboard for communicating such sentiment.
2. Own Your Mistakes
We live in an age where individuals seldom own their mistakes.
Our pride would point anywhere else than ourselves to blame.
Consider how much internal resistance you feel when needing to admit fault.
Ironically, the very admission that we desperately avoid is the very act that will take your client relationships to the next level.
Resist the temptation to make excuses, rationalize or justify yourself.
Humility is very attractive, and owning your mistakes is the most potent ingredient in this process.
3. Show Sympathy
Sympathy is a big deal, giving credence to your client’s frustrations.
It is the moment when they know you believe their concern is merited.
This sense of validation is often the underlying incentive for the complaint in the first place.
You’ll want to be specific here with their pain point, highlighting how disappointing or embarrassing (whatever’s applicable), etc., the particular situation is.
This acknowledgment will bolster them in a positive, disarming way.
Expressing sympathy in a non-generic way will position you as an advocate in their eyes vs. an opponent.
People can recognize disingenuous apologies just like they can fake smiles.
After thanking them for providing feedback, owning the mistake, and demonstrating sympathy, the soil of your client’s heart will be prepared to receive your apology.
The probability of acceptance at this point is high because it will feel much more authentic.
5. Make Restitution
It is one thing to say you are sorry and another to demonstrate it.
Even if your mistake has not caused any financial loss, I suggest you offer a meaningful credit on the next invoice.
If this is not your first act of negligence with this client, you may consider getting more creative such as providing a month of free management.
Restitution will cement the sincerity of your expressed regret and provide the advertiser with a sense of justice.
Their continued business, let alone your reputation, is well worth it.
6. Provide Reassurance
In addition to satisfying your client’s desire for equity, you will want to reassure them.
Make sure they know you have arranged countermeasures against potential future errors.
If the grievance is severe enough, you will want to detail what you have done to ensure against other mistakes.
At this point, it will be clear that you are committed, not just to making it right but to making sure it never happens again.
Your client already knows you are imperfect, which is ok because that should not surprise anyone.
What they will also know is that you’ve got their back, and that’s money.
7. Solicit Feedback
You will want to solicit feedback regarding your proposed solution to ensure they are agreeable.
If they are not satisfied with your response, your purpose is defeated.
Assuming you are being reasonable, you will rarely find a request for more or different than what you’ve offered.
This part of the process enables you to fortify your humility and communicate that the relationship is indeed collaborative vs. one-sided.
8. End Confidently
Ending with a note of confidence about the relationship’s future is strategic.
With this last stroke of your keyboard or conversation, you shift the focus from present concern to future hope.
Think about this as resetting the momentum.
The Transformula In Action
Here’s an example of how I might respond to a client:
“Good afternoon John.
First of all, I want to express my appreciation for you taking the time to detail your concerns below. As one who is thankful for your business and values you as a person, I find this type of feedback very meaningful.
This incident was clearly an error on our part as you were specific about what you wanted; thus, there’s no excuse for why we did not execute accordingly. I know how disappointing it is to feel like you’re wasting money, so we sincerely regret any inconvenience this caused you and apologize for the oversight.
We want to offer you a $300 credit against your next invoice to express our regret tangibly. In addition, we have already taken measures to ensure this remains an isolated incident. Please let me know if this seems reasonable to you.
Thanks again for bringing this matter to my attention and providing us with an opportunity to make it right.
We look forward to providing you with even more excellent service moving forward!”
Can you imagine how pleasantly surprised and genuinely impressed your clients will be with your level of professionalism?
This formula is so effective it may be tempting to err on purpose to have the opportunity to exercise it.
Of course, there’s no need to intentionally put on a dunce hat because mistakes are inevitable.
While you still need to exercise great care with your clients, you no longer need to fear negligence.
If you add this to your client-facing arsenal, an increase in your client trust is inevitable.
One More Tip: Handling Your Client’s Mishaps
As a bonus, I want to share one more tip related to the value of an unhappy customer.
Some of my favorite moments in client relationships are when my customer drops the ball.
That’s right, I get excited when they show up late to a meeting, let alone completely forget.
First of all, as the recipient of infinite grace, I love to be a conduit of it to others.
Every failure, big or small, is an opportunity to be gracious.
Grace, similar to humility, is not something people often experience, which makes it doubly refreshing.
Every time I demonstrate grace, I increase the probability of having it extended to me when my turn comes to fumble.
Go out of your way to extend grace to your clients, and you’ll store up a reservoir for yourself.
To demonstrate grace in the face of your clients’ failures, sympathize with them, and relieve their discomfort.
If they apologize for showing up late, remind them we’ve all been there and you completely understand.
Then let them know it was beneficial because you were able to get something else accomplished, and playfully thank them for being late.
These little moments, though seemingly inconsequential, will serve to deepen the relationship between you and your customers.
The Bottom Line
Ready for a more fulfilling career, a healthier life, and opportunities to accomplish your financial goals?
Build some client trust!
While analytical understanding is paramount in paid media and creativity non-negotiable, earning advertisers’ confidence will help you weather the inevitable storms of performance challenges.
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