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How to Effectively Manage Client Timelines and Chart a Course for a Successful Partnership

Written by Mitzi Morris on 13, July 2020

Relationships are complicated.

The best partnerships establish a clear set of expectations from the beginning with regular briefings to see if needs are being met and progress is being made.

Personal and professional connections thrive on mutual understanding. In business, keeping a client’s project on track means taking a proactive approach and providing constant feedback.

Here are three keys to effectively managing client timelines and charting a course for a successful partnership.

How Do I Set Deadlines That Are Realistic?

You want to deliver results for your client in a timely fashion, but you don’t want to set your team up for failure. Take a step back to define the scope of the project. Setting boundaries, assigning responsibilities, and establishing procedures will allow you to see the big picture while managing the expectations and capabilities of your team.

Your client should be well informed of your goals, limits, and expectations. Outlining the requirements of the project and the corresponding deliverables will help them see how you plan to meet goals and objectives while sticking to a budget and schedule. Ask them to come up with a list of foreseeable challenges on their end such as vacation requests, other department delays, or internal workflow issues.

Explain to your client how late reviews and/or approvals could affect the timeline of the project. Show them case studies where changes along the way derailed progress and demonstrate how you got back on track. Brainstorming possible problems on both sides will allow you to give some wiggle room for the unexpected.

The key is to underpromise and overdeliver.

Why Does Consistent Communication Matter?

Communication is essential when it comes to managing client timelines. Your team and your client need to know what the other is doing in order for the project to move forward.

Your first order of business is to decide on communication methods. Are you going to use email? Phone calls? Video conferences? Chat? Text?

Then, you’ll need to agree on the frequency. Daily? A few times a week? Weekly?

Finally, make sure each party knows what is expected of them response-wise. Do phone calls need to be returned on the same day? What about email replies?

You should also determine what level of quality you want the communication to reach. Does the client need to know every little step that’s taken? Do you have time to relay all of those details? Is the client going to pass along information from your team to theirs? Or is that your responsibility?

For example, let’s say you explained to your point of contact that SEO results often take time. But their boss wasn’t informed of this fact at the beginning of the project (or wasn’t listening) and now wonders why the business is not seeing any results. Being transparent about how processes like SEO work from the start could save you headaches later.

It doesn’t hurt to throw in reminders now and again, either.

A good way to make sure you’re delivering clear and actionable communication in managing client timelines is to send a weekly status report to your client. Here’s a look at some of the information to include:

  • What was done last week
  • What is being done this week
  • What will be done next week
  • Action items
  • Update on timeline
  • Update on budget
  • Potential project risks

How Should I Prioritize Project Tasks?

To manage your client’s priorities, your team needs to know which tasks are most important in accomplishing the project’s goals and which assignments can be postponed if necessary.

You should do regular check-ins with your team about their activities. This forces them to be accountable and move things along day to day, week to week. Have team members share their to-do lists and ask one another if they need help. This way, you can keep track of the most pressing items and ensure they’re getting done over other undertakings that are not as significant.

Like sending a weekly status report to the client, having a weekly status meeting with the team brings everyone up to date on the project’s progress and gives clear direction going forward. In 15-20 minutes, you can discuss work that’s been done, upcoming deadlines, and any pain points that may get in the way of managing client timelines.

It’s crucial to be able to manage the client’s expectations while sticking to the initial timeline of the project. However, sometimes things happen that are out of your control—like last-minute additions and other setbacks. If there weren’t any limits set at the beginning about making changes, you’ll need to focus on deliverables with the best return on investment (ROI) first to make the best use of everybody’s time.

How to Effectively Manage Client Timelines and Chart a Course for a Successful Partnership

How Can I Effectively Manage Client Timelines?

Managing client timelines can be tricky if you don’t put in the legwork first.

Setting realistic deadlines, maintaining consistent communication, and emphasizing project prioritization will set you and your client up for success in the short term, as well as future collaborations.

Being transparent about what the client wants and what you can deliver from start to finish will lead to an amicable and long-lasting relationship.

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