Week 39: How to effectively communicate with clients (and your team)

We all are bad at email and we know it

Hello friends! This is Lorenz, one of the founders of diesdas.digital, a small and still quite fresh design and branding studio located in Berlin, Germany and you are reading our 39th weekly recap. We started the recaps with summaries of our workweek and shifted to one bigger topic every week that might be of interest to our fellow readers. So shall we start? Let’s go!

Some news of this week

If you have read our 34th weekly recap, then you already know that we shared our opinion on pitches and that we went to Zurich to take part in one. It was for a client we already knew and we were very interested in the topic because it has quite an impact on people’s daily lives. Well, today we can tell you with great excitement that we won that very pitch 🙌 and that we are excited to share details in the coming recaps. It’s a very good feeling that the invested time and effort was worth it and that we can start working on a very cool project soon.

On Wednesday, Lars flew to a workshop in Mannheim. With this thing 😱

Apart from that we are making good progress on all fronts and are currently working on four projects simultaneously! You can imagine we are very much looking forward to Harry’s return next week. 😅

Then there’s the hunt for the perfect office. Our plan is to move into our own office by the end of this year. We already spent time visiting possible office spaces and there is this one place we are quite excited about. The best part about it — we could have our own kitchen and that means office lunches for all of us! 🍕🍅🍝 Can’t wait for this to happen. Next week we’ll pay this place another visit to make office dreams become a reality. Lars and Max are already excited like lil’ six-year-olds and are requesting proposals for tables, chairs and the like. Such excitement!

People staring at things. #soberlin

And while talking about excitement — Sharon, our first employee is with us four weeks already! Time flies and we couldn’t be happier to have her on board.

So, let’s move on to the topic of the week.

How to effectively communicate with clients?

This is a question that many people discussed before but I think it’s worth looking at it again. First of all, let me make clear, that we are a small company and we know that some things are easier for us than for others. We don’t have a big bureaucratic overhead. We don’t have project managers and we don’t have a corporate communications team. What I want to share with you are some ideas how to talk to clients or to people in general. These ideas purely rely on my own experience, so if you have ideas to add or an opinion to share — we are keen to hear about it.

The first meeting

Everyone is always excited about that first meeting, of course, because it’s a pivotal moment for both yourself and the client — they want a problem solved and you want to offer the best service possible. I always feel that excitement when I walk into the room — be it our meeting room or at the clients workplace. If you have had lectures in communications or read books about such topics and names like Marshal McLuhan or Paul Watzlawick sound familiar to you, you know that you cannot not communicate or that your body language is something you can’t really manipulate. The first seconds are defining whether you like a person or not.

Our morning routine: 15 min stand-up to make a plan for the day.

How do you approach a person you don’t know? For me this is always the hardest part because I am not that kind of guy who handles the small talk really well. Some first question could be: How did you get here? How was your flight? Have you been in this area before? And so on. I think it is quite handy to have a little repertoire that helps you getting through the first few minutes. The german language also has some special characteristics to offer. In English you can always ask someone “How are you?” and it doesn’t matter if you know this person or not. In German though we have two ways of saying “How are you?”. One is “Wie geht es Dir?” the second is “Wie geht es Ihnen?”. The second one is formal whereas the first is informal. Many companies in Germany face that struggle every day whether they want to approach people with the formal salutation or the informal one. We decided to approach most of our clients with the informal but more personal salutation. Everything else seems weird to us, because we will very likely spend some time together and have to somehow build a relationship where trust is an important factor. That’s our way of saying “Hey, we are in this together and we would like this to become a successful relationship and project!” Some tips for the first meeting: Know who you are talking to! Learn their names and google them to learn more about them. You might not need all the facts you find online but they could come in handy.

How to write better emails

To communicate with our clients we mostly use Slack because you can quickly jump into a conversation without spending to much time to looking through your emails. But of course some communication still happens to be via email. And there are so many people out there who have really bad email skills. I have some hints for you to write emails that are nice, understandable and on point.

  1. Always address someone with their name. Just a “Hey” or “Hello” doesn’t do the trick. It’s very impersonal and also a little bit rude to be honest. You don’t have to write a novel but be so kind to at least address someone personally by typing their name. Simply put: be respectful.
  2. While saying ‘hello’ is important so is saying ‘goodbye’. I hate pre formatted email footers with the “Best regards” already put in. During the day I write several emails at different times. I am always in a different mood or setting when I write those emails so why not trying to reflect that a little bit? “Have a sunny day”, “Talk to you soon”, “Enjoy the rest of your day, speak soon…” or as Sharon would say “Have a fab day” are just some simple examples that can spice up your email footer and might bring a smile to someone’s face.
  3. You are writing a project management email or you have a problem that needs to be taken care of by the other person? Try to be as specific as you can. First, describe your problem. Second – maybe you already have a possible solution in mind? Suggest it! Third, tell the other person when it should be done and ask they should get back to you. That’s it I think. Everything else can be discussed over the phone, if you need more information.

When you have had your first meeting it could be helpful to share some of these thoughts with your client and to tell them what they can do, to better work with you together. Nothing is more frustrating than a client brief that nobody understands. Just make up some rules for a more effective communication and also allow for the client to share their expectations.

Please take one minute and respond

This one is quite simple. If a client approaches you, respond within a workday. It’s not that hard. The same goes for the client. When a client is not responding we ask ourselves whether we did something wrong or if something happened. Even if you don’t have much time to go into detail about questions that occurred, take one minute to tell the other side that you are busy and responding within a certain timeframe. That’s sufficient in most scenarios.

Phew!

I think that was a tough one this week. If you find some of this helpful or have some feedback I am very happy to hear your thoughts. Could be that you still don’t know us, so you should check out our other recaps on Medium, check out our Tumblr (Hint: Gifs, Gifs, Gifs!), have a look at our Instagram, read our Tweets, say hi or approach us for a new project!

Is that the new office? — I don’t feel it. OK, thanks, bye.
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