Losing clients & how to keep them.

Nick CockburnManaging Director

No matter how great your agency is you will lose clients – fact! Let’s look at why and how agencies can make this a rare occurrence.

Having been involved with the agency world since 1988 I’ve seen agencies lose their largest client, and go out of business as a result on numerous occasions. I’ve also sat in many a new business meeting where a prospective client hasn’t held back on telling me what they REALLY think of their current agency!

Reasons for losing clients typically include:

  • Complacency – you’ve worked with them for a while and took the eye off the ball in a big way.
  • Strategic thinking – not giving the client valuable insight and recommendations.
  • Value – overcharging and under-performing (see complacency above)
  • Screw up – project goes badly wrong. This can happen once….but not twice!
  • People 1 – high turnover of agency account management people, meaning no consistent relationship.
  • People 2 – client contacts change regularly too meaning fresh replacements bringing with them their own agencies! NB your original client should be taking you with them too if you are good, so not all is lost here.

The best way to avoid this becoming a regular occurrence is to deliver great work that really provides value to your client and their brand… and the BIG secret ingredient to retaining clients? Keeping great people working in your agency.

Great people ensure high levels of creative output, service delivery, customer relationship, and ultimately define the success of an agency.

Seems obvious doesn’t it, but when you see the high level of staff turnover in large agency networks you can clearly see the problem. A client invests time getting Account Manager A up to speed on their brand, their campaigns, their objectives….and 6 months later they leave and are replaced with Account Manager B…C…D and so on!

At Plus Two we have successfully strived to keep the very best people we can for many years. This has been a defining factor in maintaining excellent client tenures. These include clients like Virgin Atlantic who to date have worked with us for the last 6 years.

Long client tenures with repeat projects are the lifeblood of a healthy successful agency. Our agency, Plus Two, has been around for over 15 years. There are not that many independent agencies that can claim to have that heritage. Agencies come and go – and their staff come and go all too frequently!

So here are our 5 tips to keep in mind for maintaining great long term client relationships based on over 25 years agency experience:-

1) All clients leave.

This is the sad fact of services businesses. The day you start working with a client is the day they start leaving. Ideally, no one client should be more than 20% of your annual revenue so that you can manage the day they decide to move on.

2) Don’t use client tenure as an excuse to over bill a client!

I’ve seen a lot of agencies who took this attitude, billing much as possible in the time they have with them. Your job is to do the best possible work and give them the best possible advice. You should deliver value to your clients, not just send a monthly invoice.

3) Be consistently great.

Set the bar high and never let it drop. Great work and great client relationships – get these two right and you become intrinsic to your client’s world….and your client’s career progression too.

4) Be passionate, but not emotionally invested.

We take it very personally when clients move. It is part of our nature to be very passionate about what we do. A client once told me they work with Plus Two because “we want to do the job right, not just get it done”. But there is a difference between passion and emotionally investing yourself in a client’s business.

5) Don’t take it personally.

Clients have many things to consider and weigh up when making decisions. The agency’s strategic input is only one dimension they are looking at. If they decide not to work with you or listen to your recommendation, you can’t take it too personally! 🙂


Related Insights