True story: my colleague was preparing a launch video for one of Silicon Valley's tech giants, and when they were 90% done, their project manager finally showed the clients the almost-complete version of the final deliverable. The clients said they hated it. It wasn't what they wanted. Change it or else.

It's a disaster on so many levels: the team wasted time working on something the clients didn't want, the project manager failed the team by waiting until the 11th hour to ask for client feedback, and the clients waited for something they could've easily outsourced to a different, more communicative agency. As it stood, the team was able to pull some last-minute all-nighters to get the video up to the client's standards. But it was a close call.

And yet, this is a situation that is all too common in any creative services organization. So how can a marketing agency manage client expectations better, and avoid such stressful situations? The simplest answer: nurture your client relationship like you would a sweetheart.

Here are 3 ways to treat your clients like your sweetheart (and win big in your clients' eyes).

1. Get to Know Them

How do relationships start? You get to know the other person. You go out on a date and find out what movies he likes, what hobbies she's into, what he's all about, what values she believes in.

If you ever hope to serve your client to the best of your ability, then you have to know what motivates them and what they hope to accomplish. That means investing time to meet your clients face to face, take them outside of the office for drinks, and discover why they do what they do. Insights like these will help you understand where they're coming from when they ask for revisions to your project, or if you get into difficult standoffs about project direction.

2. Communicate Constantly

We all know relationships don't work without constant communication. You have to call/text/Snapchat your better half, tell her you miss her, and talk about your day so that you can stay involved in each other's lives, even when you're apart.

Translating this to a client-agency paradigm means seeking client feedback early and often. You collaborate with your client in an ongoing process to produce something you and the client can both be proud of. By keeping them in the loop you avoid surprises, and you feel like you've accomplished something together as opposed to handing off a completed project as part of a one-sided relationship.

By proactively sharing status updates with a project management tool like Wrike, you can also head off persistent “checking in” messages. Clients see how a project is developing at every stage, can look in on progress whenever they want, and are able to give you their insight as needed. This transparent communication will reassure your client.

3. Give Them Something They Want

When birthdays and holidays come around and you want to give a gift to proclaim your love, do you give something cheap and generic? Absolutely not. You have to find out what he really wants and then to the best of your ability (and budget) you get it customized with his name, or find something that’s just the right look.

Managing a client’s expectations is the same. Ideally your marketing project will have a clearly defined scope and a list of very specific deliverables that the clients have agreed upon. Your job as an agency is to deliver exactly what they want — on time and under budget. Solicit client feedback early and often so slight adjustments can be made throughout the process. The end result should be a deliverable that's exactly what they were looking for.

Show your appreciation this Valentine's Day

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, take this opportunity to express your appreciation for your clients' business. But more than that, take the appropriate steps to make the relationship work long-term. That means excellent communication skills and excellent service.

Read Next: Project Manager from Hell [Slideshare] 4 Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Stakeholders

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