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Veronica Wei Sopher brought up a great ethical and business question on Facebook the other day. Simply: Do you accept Facebook requests from clients?
Interesting question, right?
As I contemplated that question, I started thinking about my personal stance on that issue. By nature of being a solo consultant, I tend to view this issue a bit differently than I would if I were working for a large agency. After all, the client is really buying “me”–not ACH Communications (or any other brand name). So, when a client buys you–it usually means 1) They feel you know your stuff, and 2) They believe you’re easy to work with and like you (and not always in that order). So, for me, the “friend” issue is pretty darn important. And, I actually put a lot of time and effort into breaking down the barriers with my clients.
Back to the question: Should we be ‘friends’ with our clients?
You know my view on this topic now, but let me lay out the reasons I think this is a good idea, even for those not in my particular position (solo consultant):
* Helps build a stronger partnership. By letting your client into your life via Facebook, they’ll learn more about you. They’ll see what you’re up to with your family. They’ll learn more about your interests and passions. They’ll even know when your birthday is (provided you disclose that). All of this makes for tighter partnerships in the end.
* It’s a small world. Sure, your client is the brand manager at X company now. But, where will she be in 5 years? 10 years? Chances are, with a different company. So, if you’re that woman who I worked well with at agency X 8 years ago when I was on the client side, who do you think I am going to come calling when I have a PR need now that I’m with a different organization? You guessed it. By cementing relationships and growing deeper friendships, you set yourself up for “repeat business” down the line (note: This could easily be in the form of a full-time job, too).
* It’s harder to be rude to a friend. I’ve seen rude behavior on both sides of the fence–from agency partners and clients. So, agencies aren’t off the hook here. But, it’s MUCH tougher to be an absolute prick (excuse my language) to a client if you’ve developed a deeper friendship with them–and vice versa. Again, in the end, it makes for a better team–and isn’t that what you’re really after?
* It just makes your day more enjoyable. This one’s for that “I just go to work everyday, do my job and come home” crew. While I can’t tell people in that camp what to do, I can only imagine that kind of existence is pretty stagnant. If you like and enjoy the folks you’re working for and with, your days will go by much faster. Now, I realize we’re not going to be friends with every client. For a variety of reasons, we just don’t get along with some people as we do with others. And, that’s OK. But there will certainly be one or two clients you develop stronger friendships with–stick with those people. And watch your days fly by.
What about you? Where do you stand on the whole “friending” a client issue? I realize my opinion may be in the minority here, so I would love to hear your thoughts.
Note: Photo courtesy of a_sorense via FlickR Creative Commons.