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Project’s Complete! Now What?

High-fives all around; but don’t slack off once your project’s complete.

So you wrapped up that big project for the client and everyone’s happy. Congrats! You put in some super-long hours and you totally blew your Red Bull budget. Now that the project’s complete, you deserve a minute to catch your breath, but here’s the thing: one minute is all you get.

This is no time to rest on your laurels. If you’re in the business of marketing solutions, whether you’re an agency or a freelancer, your success depends on your ability to make the most out of working relationships. After a project is complete, the relationship between producer and client often stalls, which isn’t good for either party. Don’t let your partnership fizzle. Instead, fortify it with these simple steps.

Step 1: Think relationships, not projects.

Of course, you should be focused on delivering the good or service the client hired you for, but it goes way deeper than that. Building goodwill with your client starts with the first interaction…and it never ends. Meetings, email exchanges, phone conversations, working lunches—every interaction is an opportunity to strengthen your bond. If you wait until the first project is done, it’s too late. “Embed” with your client whenever possible; proximity builds knowledge, which enables problem-solving. iostudio’s close relationship with the Navy—we hire lots of Navy vets for our call center, for example—gives us a leg up on future opportunities. By spending time with the client, we can anticipate their pain points and needs—and we can be proactive in helping them clear those hurdles. Don’t let the end of a project mark the end of a relationship; make it a segue to future work.

Step 2: Put the client first.

If you pitch a project that’s based more on your business’s abilities than your client’s needs, I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts it will fail. The client must have faith in your ability to help them achieve their goals: making money, raising awareness, boosting conversions, whatever their mission is. And the only way to understand your client’s needs is to know your client. Like, really know them. iostudio recently pitched a solution for a client who was facing a problem they didn’t think could be solved: New hires were leaving at an alarming rate. But we had seen something similar before, and based on an app we created for a different client, we gave them a way to encourage long-term career buy-in. Bottom line: Don’t try to sell a solution that isn’t in your client’s best interest.

Step 3: Build credibility.

Use the life cycle of one project to form the foundation of the next. Everyone sees through a snow job, so if everything you do is the best thing you do, your client is going to consider you the boy who cried…what’s the opposite of wolf? Sheep? The boy who cried sheep? Eh, you know what I mean. Be honest about your capabilities. Be fair, consistent, available, and driven. Deliver what you promised, and do it on time, on budget, and on point. Hard-earned credibility pervades and positively impacts future work.

Step 4: Be in the idea business.

Our most successful relationships have come from concepts we proposed vs. projects that were brought to us. It’s hard to get clients excited about doing new versions of old work. But, suggest a solution they’ve never thought of, and you’re likely to tap into a whole new level of enthusiasm.

iostudio recently pitched our Marine Forces Special Operations Command client on a short film they hadn’t budgeted for. Our video team was so excited about and confident in their idea that they made a proof of concept before even talking to the client. When we presented it, the client loved the film so much that they immediately set to work writing extra budget for it. Granted, results may vary if you’re an agency cold pitching a client, but it worked because 1) our concept proved we understand the target market and how to motivate them, and 2) it totally geeked them up about their own brand. If you can get clients excited about your work before you even start it, you’re both way ahead of the game.

Step 5: Resist the urge to bask.

Clients and creative producers alike tend to kick back and relax after finishing a big or lengthy project. There’s nothing wrong with pausing to celebrate a success, of course, but I have a rule: I suggest next steps for my clients within 30 days of launching a new product. And for these next-step meetings, the value of doing them face to face is just as great as other meetings, if not more, because the shared experience only heightens the basking factor for everyone involved. This isn’t just good for iostudio—it’s also good for our clients because it helps them harness their internal excitement. And, there’s nothing wrong with your own people getting to share in the excitement either!

Don’t allow yourself or your clients to lose momentum. Chances are, your next big collaboration is right around the corner.