Losing clients is a natural but inconvenient part of running a digital marketing agency. There’s not a single agency out there boasting a 100% client retention rate – and there will probably never be one. Not all clients are looking for a long-term relationship and sometimes, despite your best efforts, client partnerships dissolve. That’s just life in the competitive world of digital marketing. When it comes to losing clients, the key is how you handle the situation and how you react to each individual client loss.
If you want your agency to continue to be successful after an important client takes its business elsewhere, you must learn from any mistakes that were made so you can understand, rectify any issues if required and move forward. Picking you and your team up, dusting off your pride and recovering from the loss means facing the fact that some things might have to change so you can improve.
Here’s how you can better cope with losing clients, as well as some tips on how to prevent them from taking their business elsewhere in the first place.
Why Do Clients Leave?
Before you can look at improving your client retention rate, you must first examine why you might have lost an account in the first place. Swallow your pride and ask yourself if you’ve committed any of these mortal client sins:
Not living up to expectations – Perhaps your agency was a little ambitious in its initial client pitch and never lived up the promises it made when trying to win over the client. It happens. Maybe the client’s hopes were simply too high in the first place, with unrealistic demands that couldn’t be met by any agency. This also happens. Either way, managing client expectations is an important part of client retention. Failing to accomplish this can lead to an exodus of valuable clients. The moral of this loss is not to be afraid to take charge and push back if a contract hinges on unrealistic deliverables. Instead, determine a way to set expectations when you scope out the campaign and err on the side of conservative. It’s better to surprise and delight than disappoint.
Lack of or conflicting communication – All agencies should have a single point of contact for each client. That team member should be fully informed on the status of the client’s campaign and be able to answer (or quickly find the answer) to any questions the client might have. This means that individual team members working on the nitty-gritty of the project need to meet regularly and keep the main client point of contact informed of the project’s status, any issues, deliverables and other items that may impact the overall quality or timeliness of the project.
This main contact should also be proactive in how they communicate with the client, responding to messages promptly and ensuring that they’re kept up-to-date whenever the status of the campaign changes in any way. Without this essential communication, clients can feel out-of-the-loop on what’s going on with their campaign and may be tempted to look elsewhere.
Prizing deliverables over results – One of the trickiest parts of running any digital marketing company is ensuring that your deliverables are not just fluff, even though the ‘fluff’ might be the sexy stuff that wins the girl. Deliverables are not a place for marketing jargon or outlandish claims. Each deliverable should have a genuine, measurable impact and clearly relate to the client’s business and digital marketing campaign goals. If you’re not able to show how your deliverables have contributed to their success, what reason does a client have to stick around?
The Power of the Client Exit Interview
If you’re not actually sure why the client has left your agency, it’s worth conducting an ‘exit interview’ just as you would with a departing staff member. It might mean an awkward 20 minutes listening about your agency’s failings at a time when wounds are raw, but it could also produce a wealth of incredibly useful information that helps you retain clients going forward. Make an exit interview part of your client loss process. Start out by asking what they liked about your services and your approach – you’ll gain some valuable positive feedback that you can pass onto your team.
Then move onto the tougher questions like: What could we have done differently? Were your expectations met? Did we communicate effectively with you? Were you satisfied with our deliverables? What didn’t you like? The answers to some of these questions might be uncomfortable, and you might learn some painful home truths about the real state of your agency. These issues can often be missed if you’re the agency owner, a director or a manager. Talking with your exiting clients will also provide and excellent opportunity for learning and progression, which you should certainly take into account.