A step-by-step guide to client engagement
Key Account Managers aren't short of people who want a piece of them. Every day is greeted with an inbox full of overdue requests, a diary packed with conference calls and constant interruptions from new and urgent problems. When you're talking to clients all day long, then you must have good relationships in place, right? Wrong.
What I just described is how most account managers spend their time. But let's not mistake interaction for engagement.
So, what do I mean by engagement?
As an account manager you need to:
- Elevate your conversations to a strategic level that positions you as a trusted advisor.
- Expand your network and build trust and influence with people who control budgets and decisions.
- Ensure your client's are interested in what you have to say and your recommendations inspire them to take action.
- Make certain your clients recognise the value you bring.
I'm about to show you how to make that happen (or at least how to get started) with a step-by-step guide to creating effective engagement plans that develop your client relationships.
But with a twist.
Because quarantine and social distancing has effectively shut down face-to-face meetings, your client engagement plan will include personalised video messages to really stand out and get your clients to know, like and trust you.
Follow these steps to create a powerful client engagement plan that gets results:
- Step 1: Relationship mapping. Find out who's who in the zoo and focus on those that can help you achieve your objectives. Determine your relationship quality to help set the tone of your engagement plan. Finally divide your contacts into groups of 10 or less, based on the relationship goals.
- Step 2: Research. Do your homework and find out about your client's business and the industry they operate in. Learn about your key contacts and their current challenges and priorities. And have a point of view about the implications of these and where your solution fits in.
- Step 3: Engage. Create your communication strategy with 9 pieces of content for each group, related to your objectives. You'll use these get the conversation started. Launch your plan one group at a time and one week at a time so you're not overwhelmed. Make sure you stay in touch on a regular basis after your initial engagement plan is complete
- Step 4: Personalised video messages. Use video to get noticed, build rapport and showcase your expertise. Keep videos under two minutes and don't worry about perfection - personality is more important.
Step 1: Relationship mapping
Your goal is to build the right relationships with the right people and encourage two-way dialogue, exchange of ideas and information sharing.
Make a list of everyone at your client's organisation who might help you achieve your objectives. That includes people you know and people you don't.
- Anyone involved in the decision to appoint and retain you as a supplier
- Budget holders who may need additional services
- People with influence who can help you get things done.
- Anyone who likes to make a lot of noise and might cause trouble.
Look beyond the org chart to hidden influencers by asking yourself, "could they help or hurt what I'm trying to achieve?"
If the answer is yes – include them in your list.
Next, evaluate the quality of your relationships? Do they love you, hate you or somewhere in between? This will help you set the right tone for your engagement strategy. Don't worry if it's guesswork at first. You'll soon find out if your theories are correct once you start talking to people.
If you end up with a big list, trim it down to the 40 most influential contacts so that your engagement plan is manageable.
Step 2: Research
Now it's time for some research.
What can you learn about your client's business, their industry, their competitors and emerging trends?
What are your contacts' interests, current challenges and priorities?
What are the implications of all these factors? Where does your solution intersect? Have a point of view and think about how you can transform the information you've discovered into something useful you can leverage to start a conversation with your client.
Always think to yourself, "So what? What now?"
Write your ideas down and back them up with evidence to add credibility and establish you as an authority. These are great sources to find content to help kickstart a conversation.
- Product updates (new features)
- Product insights (how to)
- Industry trends (yours and theirs)
- New books, whitepapers or case studies.
- News articles and current events.
- Business reviews
- Survey results (for example customer satisfaction)
- Support ticket follow up
- SLA and KPI performance
- Client transaction data
- Benchmark data (e.g. industry reports)
Step 3: Engage
Remember that list of 40 contacts? Now divide them into four groups of ten based on an outcome you want to achieve. There's no right or wrong. It just has to make sense to you. For example:
- Grow revenue.
- People I need to know but don't.
- Ask for testimonials.
- Improve satisfaction.
If you have one objective for all your contacts, then get a bit more granular. For example, if your goal for everyone was to grow revenue, your goals might be:
- Up sell.
- Cross sell.
- Old opportunities I need to close.
So why do this?
Manageable workload. You'll launch your engagement plan to 10 people a week over 4 weeks which makes managing replies way easier than sending to 40 people all at once.
Content themes. You'll create 9 pieces of content linked to the outcome for each group which you'll share over a 12 week period. So that's 9 content x 4 groups = 36 pieces of unique content. Yes, you'll need to personalise each communication but still, it's much more scalable than 9 content x 40 people = 360 pieces of unique content.
That's why account manager's get overwhelmed in taking control of their engagement strategy. They think one-to-one instead of one-to-many.
Work smarter, not harder.
Each communication should follow a similar structure, should follow on from the previous, and move you closer to your goal.
- Introduce a topic or trend
- Include proof (articles, news, research) or data (reports, surveys, reviews)
- Explain why your contact should care
- Share your advice or recommendation
- Call to action (ask your contact to do something) OR
- Next step (an action you'll take)
It's essential to always include a call to action (CTA) or next step because these are micro-commitments that keep the conversation alive and give it momentum.
Client engagement communication plan
Here's a sample communication sequence for your engagement plan. Start out strong, and then scale back the frequency and the commitments as time goes on. Otherwise, you'll risk coming across as spammy or desperate or stress people out.
Many people on your list may not know who you are or aren't clear on what you do so include a brief introduction if you need to.
Follow up means either responding to or chasing a reply.
- WEEK 1: Introduction + Proof + Next step
- WEEK 2: Follow up + CTA
- WEEK 3: Data + No CTA
- WEEK 4: No communication
- WEEK 5: Follow up + CTA
- WEEK 6: LinkedIn connection request
- WEEK 7: Proof + No CTA
- WEEK 8: No communication
- WEEK 9: Follow up + CTA
- WEEK 10: Data + Next step
- WEEK 11: No communication
- WEEK 12: Final follow up + CTA
Launch this sequence each week, one group at a time, until you've sent to everyone on your contact list:
- Week 1, Group A
- Week 2, Group B
- Week 3, Group C
- Week 4, Group D
In the last communication of the sequence, let your contact know the ball is in their court if they want to get in touch and then ease off. If you've contacted them nine times over three months and heard nothing back, then you're probably not going to. While there are pro-tactics you can use to avoid being ghosted, those are for a future article. Let's stay positive and assume your plan has been a smashing success - which I'm sure it will be.
When your client engagement plan is finished, you'll move your contact into a maintenance cycle where you'll continue to communicate on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly, bi-annually).
If additional objectives emerge or if you've not quite got to where you need to be, then you may decide to move them into a new engagement plan.
Focus on communicating consistently and with purpose.
PRO TIP: You can schedule the delivery of an individual email message or you can use rules to delay the delivery of all messages by having them held in the Outbox for a specified time after you click "Send".
Step 4: Personalized video messages
Video is the new black. According to Cisco, by 2023, there'll be close to 1 million minutes of video crossing the internet per second. Video grabs attention by bringing together sounds and movement in a way that makes them exceptionally efficient at conveying a message.
In fact, in a 2010 study by Forbes (I know, it's old) 59% of executives said they'd rather watch a video over reading text. And more than half of them share videos with colleagues.
Our brains LOVE visual content. That's how we're wired. We process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. According to a study by Forrester, How Video Will Take Over the World, "Video is worth 1.8 million words."
The good news is now you can create personalised video messages in minutes. They're a simple, effective way to connect with your clients, create value, develop rapport, showcase your personality and expertise and be memorable.
And at a time when no-one is meeting face-to-face, they're your secret weapon to get noticed and take your client engagement to the next level
Video message ideas
- Recap meetings
- Virtual introductions to colleagues
- Key Account Manager introduction.
- Meeting preparation. Agendas, time, date, etc.
- Share meeting notes. summarise key points/actions/highlights
- Email signature. Record a short about me and add it to your signature.
- Quarterly Business Review highlights
- Explainer videos. How to use a feature etc.
- Customer feedback. Encourage or acknowledge input.
- Participate in case study
- Share a testimonial
- Customer support.
- Promotions. Showcase any special promotions.
- Product releases.
- Special events. Webinars, conferences, send invitations and reminders.
- Event follow up.
- Share knowledge. Showcase whitepapers, studies and other content.
- Company announcements. News, product updates.
- Congratulations. Celebrate milestones, events,
- Account plans. Summarise results, status updates.
- Contract negotiations (password protect them)
- Gratitude. Say thank you.
- News round-up. Any trends, stories, articles to highlight.
- Share survey results
- Data insights, including client and benchmark data
- Out of office.
- New LinkedIn connections
- Sales proposal presentation
Video message best practices
- Keep it short. Wistia says videos under two minutes are best for maximum engagement.
- The first 10 seconds count! Say the viewer's name instantly to grab their attention and let them know the purpose of your video.
- Know what you're going to say before you say it. Write down bullet points or even a short script onto a post it note and stick it next to your camera and don't forget your call to action. You might want to try a teleprompter app if you get tongue-tied. But don't be afraid of little mistakes or using filler words - that's real life and will make your video more relatable.
- Add the word "VIDEO" and "PERSONAL" to your subject line to increase the chances your email will be opened.
- Include a thumbnail of the video in your email to increase the chance it will be watched.
- Make sure you film in a well-lit quiet location (preferably facing a window). Record a test video and check the frame for unwanted distractions.
- Don't overdo it. Video messages will lose their charm if you use them every time you communicate with your client. Make them a part of your overall strategy, not your only plan. Cycle through other formats including email, phone calls, webinars, social media and face-to-face (when we're allowed!)
Video messaging tools
Soapbox. The easiest way to record edit and share videos in minutes. On the free plan you'll get:
- Unlimited videos
- Transition between webcam, screencast and split-screen
- Custom thumbnail to make it easier to share your video by email.
- Customise the player colour
- A link and call to action at the end of your video
What you don't get is any statistics, the ability to download videos or to password protect them.
What makes Soapbox so special is the way it records your screen and camera simultaneously and when you edit the video. This is great for presentations or pitches. I'll typically open with the webcam view as I introduce the video, then switch to a screencast (e.g. of a PowerPoint). I may include some split screens depending on the subject, and then I'll close with the webcam view again.
Easy to use, generous allowance on the free plan and the unique scene transition functionality. If you really want analytics and to download your videos you can upgrade to the solo plan which is $300 a year.
No other video messaging tool I've found lets you do this so quickly and for free.
Drift Video. Easily record yourself and your screen through a simple chrome app. On the free plan you'll get:
- Unlimited recording though it can only store 100 videos at a time so you'll have to regularly clean your files.
- You can also record directly from LinkedIn (great for sending video messages to connections), Gmail, and Outlook.
- GIF creation so you can include a thumbnail in your emails
- Notifications when your video has been viewed
- Live chat (so you can interact with someone as their watching your video).
- Access video library directly within the Chrome extension
- Restrict video views to specific email addresses
Drift Video is an excellent solution if you want a simple, easy to use video messaging platform, with zero learning curve that gets the job done.
Dubb. The swiss-army knife of screen and webcam recording software. The free plan really does come with a lot of bells and whistles. You get:
- Unlimited storage of standard quality videos
- Integrated chat so you can talk with viewers while they watch your video
- Calls to action (I have a pop up to email me as well as a link to book a meeting)
- GIF creation for email thumbnails
- Access video library directly from the Chrome extension or an Outlook plugin
- Schedule your videos to auto-delete
- Player customisation
- Password protection
- Ability to record screen and toggle your webcam on or off and switch between small thumbnail or full screen
- Upload videos including YouTube
- Add captions (upload your SRT file or buy a transcription package starting at $5 per month for 100 minutes)
- Embed videos into web pages
Quite honestly, I can't fault it. I love the ability to add captions because not everyone has the sound on, especially at work. Including captions increases the chances your video will be watched through to the end.
The ability to upload videos natively or from YouTube gives you a lot of flexibility to be creative. And if you want to upgrade to HD videos and advanced statistics, it's only $8 a month which is a bargain.
Trello client engagement plan template
Are you itching to get started? I've created a free Trello Client Engagement Plan Template you can copy to help you manage your client engagement and keep track of all the people you want to stay in touch with.
The template comes with complete instructions, examples and everything you need to get started on your client engagement plan today.
Remember account managers always look for ways to bring new perspectives and ideas to your clients that create conversations and inspire action. Do that, and your client's will love you.