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Marketers know that marketing initiatives can take months before achieving measurable ROI. However, when clients see no traction in the first few weeks, they may become concerned. Clients might think the campaign is suffering despite marketers' assurances that they're on the right course.

You can avoid that scenario by setting the right expectations from the start.

It's crucial to keep clients from jumping the gun and interfering with their own results. For example, if clients don't know you need time for testing and iteration, they may insist on pivoting from the strategy prematurely or cutting it entirely.

Setting expectations is necessary, but it can also be difficult. Clients can easily get tunnel vision regarding ROI; they may want to see immediate results after launching a new campaign. Because ROI is the ultimate goal, marketeers need to guide their clients when setting and meeting goals within a time frame that makes sense.

Convincing clients that marketing is a long-term play requires finesse, setting realistic expectations in a way that doesn't leave them desperate.

The Art of Setting Expectations

The importance of lead generation cannot be overstated. It's the first step in filling the sales pipeline, essentially putting your clients' sales teams up to bat with potential buyers and qualified leads.

Nurturing leads from the beginning of the funnel can produce up to 20% more sales opportunities for most businesses. With so much on the line, it's important to outline your lead generation process in detail for clients. You can't do that retroactively, so don't assume up front that you and your clients are on the same page.

In fact, 77% of marketers in a Digiday study cited underperforming campaigns as the main reason clients leave. By not addressing a client's unrealistic expectations early on, you open up the possibility of discontent. If everyone knows what to expect from the beginning, however, then everyone will be happier with the results.

On one occasion, my company had a client who expected ROI after just two weeks. Our standard timeline for testing new strategies is 4-6 weeks, and we were right on track based on our own predetermined benchmarks. However, because we didn't communicate that clearly enough, the client thought the campaign was failing.

We never made that mistake again, and we learned firsthand the importance of educating clients on what successful lead generation takes.

To avoid tarnishing your reputation with clients, use the following five tactics when setting lead generation expectations.

1. Start with more involved onboarding

The onboarding process is the first opportunity to make clear what timeline your clients can look forward to.

At this stage, they usually have no idea what a relationship with you will look like. Failing to be transparent will leave them feeling unsupported. Align each unique client's goals with your own, but standardize as much of the process as possible to give every client the same level of attention.

2. Create follow-up decks for everything

No matter how streamlined your onboarding process is, you're still giving clients a ton of information in a relatively short time. Follow up with emails and decks outlining everything you've recently covered, including action items and next steps. It's helpful for clients to have visuals they can refer back to, especially if your client reports to a team or manager.

3. Reveal what's behind the curtain

Your clients will want to see benchmark stats and figures to assess how current progress will meet future goals: Even if results aren't obvious yet, the client will know they're not paying for nothing. The best companies are 50% likelier to have customer processes with clear communication and seamless transactions.

Share metrics and timelines often, and send over comparative benchmarks from your past campaigns in similar markets. By giving an inside look into your daily work, you'll help them understand the steps you're taking to meet their expectations.

4. Be honest when news isn't good

It's easy to be transparent when things go exactly as planned, but you need to be up front even when they don't go right. If a campaign is underperforming, be clear and informative about why. Come to the conversation prepared with a reason why you believe it isn't working and a plan for how you'll fix it. Be proactively transparent so that clients still feel confident in their investment even when the going gets tough.

5. Keep customers in the loop with touchpoints

In every industry, customers' expectations for transparency are growing. It's not enough to simply claim you're transparent. Show, don't tell, by creating regular touchpoints to go over campaigns with your clients. Use emails or phone calls to update clients. Even if there are no unexpected issues to address or new plans to strategize, you can remind them what their campaign goals are, and assure that everything is moving in the right direction.

Trust is the ultimate tool in setting expectations, and it starts at the very beginning of a client relationship. Focus on building rapport with clients by discussing expectations early on and updating them about their goals on a regular basis.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Ellie Howard

Ellie Howard is the creative director at Sapper Consulting, which replaces cold calling for its clients. It's cooler than it sounds.

LinkedIn: Ellie Howard