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Managing multiple clients is no easy task for any agency marketer.
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.
An account manager might overpromise your capabilities, leaving you to work some miracles (and a few all-nighters).
No matter what your situation looks like, though, you’re under pressure to deliver quality work. If you’re not on your A-game at all times, a lot of things can go wrong. Fast.
When they do, it’s easy to make excuses. Sometimes, it might be tempting to say, “If we had more budget, we’d have fewer problems.” Or, “If this client would just see things our way, we could actually start getting sh*& done.”
Here’s an insider secret, though: Excuses are for losers.
So, what should busy agency teams struggling with client management do instead? Start by putting the right workflows and tools in place to help you (and your clients) work happily and successfully together.
If you feel like you’re struggling to keep your head above water with all you need to do, this post is for you. You’ll learn:
Sound good? Let’s roll up our sleeves and un-suck your client management woes.
Have you been looking for a way to ditch those endless email threads…
…hit every deadline (for real)…
…and maybe even keep some of that hair you’ve been pulling out?
CoSchedule for Agencies is our newest Growth + Agency Pack plan—built exclusively for agencies.
^^^ And it’s gonna give you all of those benefits plus some.
Eliminate the need for spreadsheets, email threads, and multiple platforms! Get all your clients under one roof. Make it easy for you, your clients, and your team to collaborate, manage projects, and get err done.
Easily facilitate real-time collaboration with your clients, stay on track with client tasks, and execute on projects faster.
CoSchedule is designed for flexibility. And as your clientele grows, so should your tool. With the Agency pack, you’ll get CoSchedule’s Multiple Calendars feature; allowing you to create unique calendars & analytic reports for every client.
No more warm fuzzies! Prove the value of all your hard work with real data! Utilize CoSchedule’s Social Engagement Report to measure your success and improve client retention.
Ok, now: Let’s teach you how to manage multiple clients with some step-by-step guidance, shall we?
You can’t always control your clients. You can, however, control yourself. So, that’s where we’ll start.
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:
Establishing an easily repeatable routine helps build positive habits that drive more productivity.
For a deeper dive into the psychology of how habits work (and how to harness them for the power of good), we highly recommend reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.
If you need a TL;DR version, this short video with the author (an esteemed New York Times writer) is fantastic:
Store all your client documents in clearly labeled 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:
This way, you’ll waste less time hunting down files and client projects.
Trying to decipher someone else’s file names can be difficult. Worse than that, if all the moving parts of your campaign use multiple file-naming structures, people can quickly get confused. Is the right file “cool-content-project-sally.V2.doc” or “v.2-project-design-sally”?
Avoid miscommunication by using an agreed-upon file naming convention. If your team needs help in this area, follow this detailed guide from Stanford.
This doesn’t need to be overly complicated, as long as everyone on your team (and your clients) can quickly identify the correct documents they need without having to open them up first.
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.
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:
Next, let’s break down the types of tools you’re likely to need.
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. Although there are a lot of tools available, we’re biased toward CoSchedule.
You’ll likely need two different types of communication tools: those for communicating internally, and for communicating with your clients. For internal messaging, we recommend chat apps like Slack or HipChat (which we use here at CoSchedule).
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.
For client communication, you might choose to use a chat app. However, it’s much more likely you’ll need to use email or some sort of shared project management solution.
Fortunately, 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:
Clients will expect you to prove the value of your work. Here are some tools you might consider:
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.
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 aforementioned The Power of Habit, 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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
Alright, so now you have all your preparation in place. Now, how do you manage your actual day-to-day work for multiple clients?
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:
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).
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.
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, the multiple calendar functionality available in the Growth + Agency Pack plan makes 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:
Let’s say you choose to set up a calendar for each client.
With CoSchedule for Agencies, we’ve made doing just that super easy. Here’s a quick rundown of what our multi-calendar agency plans can help you do:
Which means you can stop jumping from screen to screen, manage all your clients on one platform, and get your agency super organized in the process.
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.
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!
This post was originally published on Feb. 8th 2017. It was updated and republished on July 12th, 2017, and optimized and republished Dec. 15, 2017.
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