Improving Agency-Client Communication

Kristie Colby September 16, 2015

I have found that communication can be one of the harder skills to master – largely because it tends to be an “add-on” to the skills that are required to do our jobs from a technical perspective (we search marketers can be total geeks about our work!)

Here are 4 easy tips to help you communicate more effectively on the job.

Tip #1 – Talk Less. Listen More.

I know it seems obvious that talking too much would lead to being a poor listener, but it can be easy to “over explain” yourself in the hopes of providing clarity (and to avoid silence). Don’t fear the “dead air”.  Pauses are a good thing; they allow your colleagues time to absorb what you have said and to ask questions (you know, the part where you should be listening
Here are a couple quick ways to help ensure you are listening more than you are talking…

  • Let your team communicate their level of understanding – they can tell you if more detail is needed.
  • Use pauses to learn when you have said enough by listening to the team’s response.
  • Ask if there are any questions before moving on to another topic.

It is important to spend more time listening than talking in a dialog with colleagues so they feel the conversation was about more than what you think/know.

Tip #2 – Establish a personal relationship

Interpersonal relationships are developed over time and if you don’t take the time to really know your team, you may not pick-up on their true needs, challenges or concerns.  As a team leader, I often spend time learning more about my teams (internal and client) on a personal level (while keeping appropriate boundaries).  By establishing a personal connection, I am creating a “safe space” to discuss professional challenges.  This process increases trust and establishes a strong partnership.  Everyone wins as the relationship evolves.

Tip #3 – Ensure Common Understanding

Do you truly understand what your peers are saying (the true meaning behind their words)?  Most of us assume we are on the same page, but often we do not reach a common understanding.  Understanding what your team is asking or looking for is essential to success.  If it seems like they “just aren’t getting it” maybe you aren’t “getting” what it is they don’t understand.

Give your peers something to respond to so that you can gauge if you are actually on the same page.  Asking probing questions and providing an explanation of your perception of the situation or discussion will help create better alignment.

Tip #4 – Reiterate Goals, Concerns, Needs

Another way to ensure a common understanding is to reiterate, or “play-back”, what you think a peer or team is saying…. before you make your own point.

Before you communicate anything about your reaction to a discussion point, first play-back or paraphrase what your colleague or team is saying to ensure everyone is on the same page.  Only then should you insert your perspective, leaving them room to react as well.  Reiterating first and getting a green light to continue opens the way for a deeper conversation.

Ensure your communication effectiveness

Your job skills (in our case search marketing expertise and knowledge) are only part of your success equation.  To ensure effective communication with colleagues and teams, these 4 communication tactics can be very helpful:

  1. Talk less. Listen more.
  2. Establish a personal relationship
  3. Ensure common understanding
  4. Reiterate goals/needs

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