How to Make Managing Multiple Marketing Clients Easy
If you’re a solo consultant or agency staffer, you understand what it means to be busy.
In-house marketers often have a lot on their plate, too. However, when you have multiple clients to manage, things can get exponentially more complicated (and fast).
You might have two clients at once ask for last-minute requests. Or, you could have the opposite problem, where clients completely fail to communicate. Another might repeatedly reject your work (despite you delivering exactly what they asked for).
In short, you’ve got a lot of responsibilities and things to keep organized. And if you’re not on your A-game at all times, there are lot of things that can go wrong.
Fortunately, it is possible to manage multiple marketing clients without losing your mind. In fact, with the right tools and workflows, you can help both yourself and your clients find more success. It just takes a smart combination of strong preparation, clear processes, and sharp communication skills to make it happen.
If you feel like you’re struggling to keep your head above water with all you need to do, this post is for you. We’ll walk through each of the following:
- How to establish good routines and workflows to more done, faster.
- How to keep all your content and deadlines organized.
- How to get things done right the first time and keep clients happy.
Sound good? Let’s dive in.
Getting Organized: Start With Yourself
You can’t always control your clients. You can, however, control yourself. So, that’s where we’ll start.
Plan Out Your Morning Routine
A good morning routine can set your pace and mindset for the whole rest of the day. So, spend your first few minutes at the office productively. Make a short checklist of things to get done. Here are some ideas:
- Get your coffee (of course)
- Catch up on emails you may have gotten overnight
- Write out your task checklist for the day
Build Yourself a Clear File Structure
Store all your client documents in clearly labelled folders. Create one for each client. Then, add in subfolders for each campaign, project, or type of work you do for them. A hypothetical folder structure might look like this:
Stay on Top of Your Email
For a lot of folks, “inbox zero” is a mythical state of being that seems unattainable. While messaging tools like Slack and HipChat have helped alleviate some of that pain, it’s important to keep your email organized whether or not you’re using those services.
To keep emails from clients clearly separated, consider color-coding messages that come from certain email address. That way, you can quickly glance at your inbox, and know what came from whom.
If you use Gmail, you might also consider using multiple inboxes to keep client communication organized. This guide from PC World will show you how.
Pick Your Tools Wisely
Marketers have never had more selection for tools than they do now.
With so many options out there, however, it can be easy to feel paralyzed. The need to use tools that are multi-client friendly just adds more complexity.
With any set of tools you use, keep these things in mind:
- Do any of our current tools duplicate functionality? If you can get something done with one tool instead of two, consider cutting the one you don’t absolutely need.
- Are any of our current tools more of a hindrance than an asset? If a tool is frustrating to use, don’t stick with it just because it’s what you’ve always had available. Shop around and get something that works for you, or make the case to your boss that it’s time for a change.
- Are the tools you’ve chosen likely to be ones your clients will want to use too? Sometimes, there are advantages to choosing tools that are considered industry-standard options versus competitors. Use the tools that work best (and are within your budget), but keep flexibility in mind.
Next, let’s break down the types of tools you’re likely to need.
Project Management Tools
This is a big one. Effective project management is essential for client success. It’s also essential for not wanting to tear your own hair out. Having the right tools here can make or break this process.
Here are some popular options to consider:
Clear communication with clients is a must for getting things done efficiently and effectively. The best communication tools ensure nothing gets lost or misinterpreted.
The advantage to these kinds of messaging tools is they cut down on email. While we recommend using email when necessary, chat apps are great for quick questions and informal communication.
CoSchedule also makes it easy to talk to team members and clients within your content calendar:
The tools you use to execute projects may vary depending on what you do. Here are some common options most will need:
- Word processors. Cloud-based options like Office 365 or Google Docs work well for collaboration.
- Design tools. Photoshop and Illustrator are considered industry-standards.
- Social media management platforms. There are tons of tools that can help you manage your social media networks. We’re biased toward CoSchedule, but if you’re doing social marketing, use something.
- Content management platforms. These include WordPress, Joomla, Expression Engine, and other popular options.
- SEO monitoring tools. These include Moz, Raven Tools (which is praised in particular for its agency features), Positionly, and tons more.
Clients will expect you to prove the value of your work. Here are some tools you might consider:
- Google Analytics. This one is a no-brainer. It’s free, powerful, and should be on every site and blog you manage.
- Cyfe. This is a useful all-in-one data dashboard app. Klipfolio is another popular alternative to consider.
- And plenty of others. For more options, check out this list from HubSpot.
Should You Be Flexible With Which Tools You Use?
Different clients may have different processes or tools they prefer to use. Being mindful of this can definitely help your working relationship. However, unless you have limitless patience and money to spend, there may be times where you need to tell your client up front which tools you’ll be using.
Otherwise, you can easily end up with five project management tools, four social media platforms, six content management systems, and so on down the line. This can make it difficult for your staff to learn how they all work, and it adds unnecessary cost and complexity.
Clients are paying you for your expertise. If you think a tool works better than what a client is currently using, make a case for why they should switch.
Above all, try to keep it simple.
Establish Consistent Workflows
People are creatures of habit. If you fall into an unproductive rut, it can be difficult to dig your way out. Establishing processes that encourage productivity from the get-go can help you get more done, more consistently, with less stress (and late nights at the office). And if you’re juggling the needs of multiple clients, this is essential for being able to pace yourself over the long term without burning out.
In the book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg says,
When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.
So, build your workflows in ways that encourage habits that are productive. That way, efficiency becomes automatic. Here’s how to plan out a simple workflow for a given task:
Determine How Flexible Workflows Can Be
Having a consistent process for receiving and delivering work to and from clients makes life a lot easier. At an agency, this work is typically handled by a project or account manager (and so it’s likely you’ll never need to worry about it).
If you’re working on your own, however, you’ll need to determine how you’ll handle this. While different clients may have different preferences, you may want to be careful not to let them dictate how you work too much. If you get push back, explain why you do things the way you do.
When you have multiple clients to manage, the more streamlined your processes can be, the better.
How Will You Work With Clients With Varying Budgets?
Typically, the more a client can spend, the more you can do.
If you’re able to staff a full team of writers, coders, designers, and project managers, then the scope of work you can complete isn’t limited by much. If, however, you’re working solo (or if the client can’t afford to spend much), you may need to learn to stretch your available resources.
Consider building out service packages new clients can choose from. You can allow for some flexibility, but laying out what you can do at which price points can help set accurate expectations up front.
Your internal plan should include:
- Which services each package includes.
- Which tools you can use at each level.
- Some room for clients to grow into a higher-priced plan as they grow with you.
Getting to Know Each Client
Every client is going to be different. Their needs, personalities, and working styles are all likely to be unique. Plus, they’re also likely to have different customer bases, which will have different needs and expectations from the work you’ll produce.
Develop Clear Personas for Each Client’s Industry
If you don’t know a client’s industry inside and out, user personas can be immensely useful. They’re essentially character sketches of your client’s average customer or audience member.
Establish Style Standards for Each Client
Switching between work for different clients can be a mental challenge. If you’re writing content about, say, power tools one minute, and then a clothing brand later that same day, it can be tricky to switch from one mindset to the other.
In addition to user personas, documented style standards can help. You don’t necessarily need to refer to them consistently when doing client work, but they can helpful to lean on. MailChimp’s content style guide is an excellent example to consider following:
Set Up Introductory Meetings With New Clients
When onboarding new clients, bring everyone who will be working on the account into a meeting with your stakeholders. This gives everyone a chance to talk through ideas and learn what each side expects from one another. It can also give your team members insight into how your client prefers to work and what their needs are.
Managing Your Work for Multiple Clients
Alright, so now you have all your preparation in place. Now, how do you manage your actual day-to-day work for multiple clients?
Be Realistic When Estimating How Long Your Work Will Take
Delivering your work on time and at budget is important for building client trust. Estimating how long creative work will take to complete is tough. Regardless, you have to figure it out.
If this is something you struggle with, get a timer, create a productivity spreadsheet, and track how long tasks and projects take to complete. Simply create sections for days, with rows and columns for time and tasks:
To save you some time, we’ve included an Excel version of this template within this post. You can use this in two ways:
- To plan how long you’ll spend on tasks each day ahead of time.
- To keep track of what you accomplish each day retroactively. This is kind of like keeping a personal record of your timesheets so you can calculate an average of how long different types of work typically take.
If you’re using this sheet to plan ahead, start by blocking out time for each task you’ll complete. Prioritize them based on when they’re due (we’ll get into deadlines in a bit). Do your most pressing work first, then move on.
Setting priorities this way can help you know what to work on when multiple projects are competing for your time.
Over time, you’ll be better able to provide clients and project managers with accurate time estimates. That can make it much easier to negotiate project timelines that allow you to produce great work while balancing multiple clients (and without losing your mind).
Establish Clear Project Deadlines
Whoever’s responsibility this is, make sure deadlines are always clear between your organization and your client. For your own team, make sure internal deadlines for smaller pieces of bigger projects are laid out too (if necessary).
And make sure those deadlines are on your content calendar! Which leads us to our next point.
Set Up Your Clients With Content and Social Media Calendars
Doing content marketing without content calendars is like driving a car without a steering wheel. Like a plane without wings. Like a boat without a rudder.
Insert your own favorite vehicle-based analogy here.
Managing multiple calendars for clients isn’t necessarily easy. You might also need a calendar for promoting your own business to prospective clients, too.
So, do you put everything on one? Or, do you set up multiple calendars?
We’d make the case for multiple calendars here. Give your client a shared calendar you can both use and update. That way, you’ll remove all ambiguity around deadlines and when things are due. This helps keep both sides accountable and avoids frustration over unmet expectations.
Setting up your editorial calendars in Google Sheets is an easy way to do this for free (and you can use the free template we’ve included in this post).
If you’re using CoSchedule, our multi-calendar agency plans make this easy. All your clients can have their own calendar. Plus, with built-in project management and team communication features, you can keep all your correspondence straight (no more “sorry I missed your email” nonsense). Plus, automation features save tons of time (which is extremely important for maximizing efficiency with multiple clients).
For a real-world example of how CoSchedule works, The Barbell CEO was generous enough to create this demo video:
Determine How to Provide Deliverables
Content docs. Proposals. Reports.
Whatever kinds of deliverables you provide clients, templates are key to saving time. Use one set of templates for every client so you can spend less time preparing deliverables and more time getting your work done. We’ve even included a few in this post to help you out (they’re in the downloadable bundle you should see as a circular pop-up to the left).
Set up a clear process too so nothing gets delivered late. Whether you’ll deliver work by email, Dropbox, or some other method, make it consistent and let clients know exactly when and how they can expect to get what they’ve paid you for.
What Are Your Top Client Management Tips?
If you’ve found success juggling multiple clients (either in an agency or as a consultant), are there any tips you’d add? Leave a comment below and help get the conversation started!