One Little-Known ​Gesture That Could Affect Your Client Relationships Big Time



“Get closer than ever to your customer.” – Steve Jobs

There is one key practice that highly successful service providers do which sets them apart from all the competition.

What’s that one simple way you can improve client relationships, and can you make your work with them enjoyable?

We all have had bad clients, but who’s really responsible for that? Remember that every client is a human, who wants to be heard, appreciated, taken care of. Give and you shall receive.

Businesses have no emotion. People do.”

I want to show you one simple and doable practice that will revolutionize the way you do client relationship management (CRM).

You’re going to learn CRM the way Jobs did through this lesson. We’re going to talk about a few things:

  • Ideas on client relationship management from people leading their industries
  • The disappearance of B2B and C2C marketing, and how everything is becoming about H2H marketing (human to human marketing)
  • How to earn your clients’ trust and preference through one simple practice

Gone are the days when work is strictly work. Client relationship management has become a personal thing. shares about how technology has forced B2B marketers to become more individualized in the approach by hitting the individual. As Bryan Kramer, CEO of PureMatter, places it well in his article for Social Media Today, “Businesses have no emotion. People do.”


Business has to be more relational and less rudimentary. To become better in providing design services, we need to act more humanely. It’s one thing that separates the design industry from other industries.

It’s nothing far from what designers foundationally do. Conceptual professionals – designers, marketers, bloggers, etc.- are in the business of managing the perceptions and feelings of others. These are the professionals in making things human. Sadly, many creatives miss out on being human to their clients.

Salah Elkasef, introduces in his LinkedIn article, “H2H Marketing Reduces the Need for B2B and C2C Segmentation”, the concept of human to human marketing. He says,

“While it is true that businesses do not have emotions, the people that are making the purchasing decision do.”

Customer empathy has become necessary and vital in the way freelancers interact and market to potential clients and maintaining client relationships.

Elkasef also notes the disappearance of a B2B and C2C segmentation. B2B transactions are no longer supposed to be ‘corporate’ and ‘heartless’ in nature.

It’s true that many large agencies and a majority of freelancers still remain to be lifeless in their approach. However, this approach is no longer what dominates the market. It is the personal approach that stands out.

Many large media companies such as Vaynermedia now approach client relationship management as a human thing, no longer as a blind, lifeless practice. Client trust and preference are the key. Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of Vaynermedia, once wrote that empathy is one skill that many people should learn, empathy in the way they deal with clients and with personnel.

Trust and preference build not only for a large quantity of clients, but also high quality relationship with each client. Marketing Metrics notes that the probability of getting business from a new prospect is 5-20% whereas getting business from an existing client is 60-70%. In the long run, depth matters most. Trust and preference brings higher returns at lower costs and effort.


What is most surprising is that majority of people are human only in their execution, and not in the way they do business.

A large number creatives and designers practice their human voices in the way they execute content marketing, design, writing, promotions and user experience and then treat their clients as issues, not people.

Kristin Smaby in her article “Being Human Is Good Business” points out three strong points about how to treat customers:

  • A customer is not an issue or a channel.
  • A customer uses channels to communicate issues.
  • A customer is a human being.

This is greatly influenced by the traditional notion of ‘business being non-personal’ and seeing it unfit to be friends with business partners or clients. It’s surprising how much your competition does not see the need, or- even worse- treat as a taboo the idea of being friends with clients.

So here’s the burning question for everyone:

“Why do most freelancers perform SEO, design and improve user experience in a human way, and  do client relationship management in a non-human way?”

The compelling case? It’s this simple: You can be friends with your clients.

Robert W. Dempsey puts it well when he asks the question- “What fear drives us to believe that we cannot be 100% ourselves with our customers, and that we must put up a facade in order to attract people to our businesses?”

Human relationship simplifies everything in client relationship management because it injects the trust factor. And, boy,trust a big deal in the industry.

The key to long term engagements with clients is the level of trust that you and your client share.

Trust and preference come in a package called relationship. To build trust, we cannot be disconnected with our clients- both existing and potential. And in a relationship, everything counts.

From the big things, such as ROI, better visual branding, delivering on time, down to the small things, clients will trust designers who hit all areas. Some of the small things clients appreciate include placing captions on wireframes, personally liking the client’s social media posts, and even greeting them on holidays. Sadly, so many designers miss the small things.

 Yes! Greeting clients on holidays. It’s a small practice, but it is one that will revolutionize the way you handle relationships with clients. It has increased the level of trust clients have for me. Ever since I started greeting clients on holidays, birthdays, name days, most, if not all of clients have stayed longer for services.

Here’s an example of an email I sent out to one of my longest and biggest client,, as a Christmas greeting last year.

trust and preference example

The Operations Director, Dustin Cheng, has now become more than a client. I have established with him a human-to-human relationship and not simply a business-to-business one. Zap has been a client for more than two years now. Aside from that, he has also referred countless other people to me for work!

I believe that sending out greetings is an effective, simple and sustainable practice for client relationship management. This is so for two reasons:

  • It helps designers stay relevant. Greeting our clients communicates connection and relevance, that we are not just machines that cough-up PSDs and codes. We are people who value our clients.
  • It makes the client feel human. When they feel human, they start acting humanely. They become more forgiving when you make mistakes, more generous when you inform them of increases in rates, when you screw up a scheduled meeting with them and so on.

1WD’s challenge is to have everyone apply this simple practice during the holidays. 1stWebDesigner is giving out a free Christmas card (in various formats, download zip file) for all you designers to download and personalize for your clients. Be as personal as you can with your messages.

trust and preference built through christmas greeting

Here’s an example of what the Christmas Card template 1stWebDesigner is giving out looks like. It comes in various preset colours, and there are five pre-made quotes as well that you can choose from.


The application is simple but not easy. Imagine having to break the status quo. Your client will find it weird. Your partners will find it weird. Even you will find it weird at first! But once you get a hang of it, it becomes life-changing.

You’ll be surprised at how much a simple greeting can do for your career, and client relationship management problems. Your CRM problems will decrease by half!

Human relationships are the key to long-term and successful partnerships with your client. If you get that right, you’ll be an industry leader in no time. Yes it’s important to be great at delivering, but personal relations will trump the business side anytime of the day.

Enjoy everyone!

In case you missed it, click here for the free christmas card template. Tell us what you think of them by putting your comments below!



  1. Well said, Josh, relationships have always been a key part of our business and we believe this is what leads us to be as successful as we are today.

    It’s not hard to be friendly! :)

    • Thanks Marty! Definitely right, a “Hi” or “Hello” every now and then wouldn’t hurt. At least your having a conversation with somebody without them thinking you want only their money!

      • Sophie

        Completely agree. Client relationships are key to building a successful business. Being friendly, and providing your customers with a personal apprach, is the best way to generate trust and customer loyalty.

  2. Building proper relationships with our clients should be our number one priority because if they like our work and our attitude then they can recommend us and give us new clients and also keep coming back in the future.
    Thanks for the article!

  3. It’s a good article but I really don’t think people need reminding to manage their client relationships in a human way. If you need telling then you clearly lack common sense and I doubt there is much hope for you anyway.

    • Hi Luke!

      Thanks for the comment :)

      While not all people have innate people skills, we still believe its a good reminder for professionals to keep a personal relationship going on with their clients. Often times some just get caught up in tasks and forget to see that on the other side of that screen is another human. People skills can be learned but it will take time and effort.

  4. Greatly written, i have found here few really important phrases. We often forget that human is the most important out there – no numbers, no revenus, but human. If you will be kind to other, they will be kind to you. Secret of success!

  5. Randall

    hey i must say that was some really great info, thanks for sharing and i will keep coming back for more great post like this one. keep it up