Client first impressions are really like dating–blind dating at that. Within just the first 30 seconds, you’re either ready to meet up again or alternatively, run far away in the other direction.
Science actually shows that people start to form a first impression within less than one-tenth of a second. While this is mostly appearance-related, there’s much more you can do to set an initial meeting off on the right foot. Although, we’d recommend polishing your image as a bonus.
Collaborating with clients looks different for everyone depending on the case and your role. But for creative directors, it means putting your best foot forward in showcasing both your creativity and project management skills.
Creativity is entirely subjective and clients come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities (sometimes not the ones we’re hoping for). While at times it’s hard to navigate this, there are some steps you can take to ensure your persona and expertise comes off as the perfect fit.
1. Do Your Homework
If you’re going to be working on projects with your client, you’ll need to know who they are and where they work. This includes more than just knowing their name and the company they’re with.
Familiarizing yourself with all of the attendees that’ll be on your call will ensure you’re ready for whatever and whoever you’ll be dealing with. This is a great time to use all of the free available platforms to your advantage, like LinkedIn for example.
Beyond just knowing the basics, you’ll want to start building connections between the company, clients, and your expertise. This will prepare you for any questions they might present and even help you prepare the next steps.
Things to Research:
- The company’s story
- Their competitors
- Their current content
2. Plan the Next Steps
This step isn’t something you necessarily have to present, but something you should have at the back of your mind. It’s important to not act impulsively, as it’s always great to proceed with caution when assuming the next steps in a client relationship.
The last thing you want to happen is have a great kickoff call and no actionable steps to get past the first meeting. As a creative director, your project management skills should shine bright here.
At Designity, this might look like drafting a timeline based on potential pipeline projects. Whatever it is you plan, just make sure it adds some sort of value to the clients and their company. Show them you already thought it all through.
Things to Prepare:
- The first/next step
- Who will execute it
- The deadline(s) for it
3. Prepare & Take Notes
Don’t let all of your prep work and research go to waste! Showing you did your homework is a great transition into an effective conversation, especially with someone new.
Clients love to see that you’re prepared and ready to work with them, so don’t skip this step. The first impression moment is also for you to feel the client out. Whether you prepare questions to ask or just note what they’ve already answered for you, it’ll all help you later on.
Things to Ask:
- What are their micro and macro goals?
- Do they have a source of inspiration?
- What are their collaboration preferences?
4. Showcase the Value You Bring
As a creative director, you have all sorts of value: experience, expertise, management skills, and more. Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the company and who you’re meeting, you can better present yourself as a solution to any problems or needs they have.
For example, if you see that the client’s company lacks visual brand consistency, highlight your attention to detail. If the client lacks organization, maybe show them how you can help solve that. The list goes on.
Things to Highlight:
- Industry knowledge
- Creative expertise
- Communication practices
5. Be Your Authentic Self
If you’ve ever worked with a client a day in your life, you know that everything comes to light eventually. Faking your way through a first impression won’t lead to an authentic relationship.
In the end, your clients are with you for a multitude of reasons, because they need and value you. But just like you, they’re also human. Infusing some of your personality can really help alleviate the stress and awkwardness that’s felt on both ends.
This looks different for every relationship depending on the client. Maybe throw in some humor (where tolerable), or bring up a conversation about your pets if you saw your client has a puppy too. Whatever it is, don’t hide too far behind the computer screen. First impressions are always best when transparent.
Things to Connect On:
- Your interest in the client
- A mutual passion/hobby
- The motivation behind your job
First impressions seem scary on the surface, but like with anything else, practice makes perfect. At the end of the day, we’re all just humans looking for all the right stuff–whether in a person or a project. Putting your most authentic self at the forefront of a first impression is always the best way to kick it off.