The partnership between a digital marketing agency and their client is one built on mutual trust much like other types of relationships. Yet, according to the Bedford Group, the average client / marketing agency relationship lasts between two and three years.
The partnership between a digital marketing agency and its client is one built on mutual trust much like other types of relationships. Yet, according to the Bedford Group, the average client/marketing agency relationship lasts between two and three years.
Too often agencies make the mistake of rolling out the red carpet during the onboarding stage because, from their perspective, it is more costly to onboard a new client than it is to maintain a relationship. Therefore, the communication and quality of service tends to take a back seat once the honeymoon stage is over so that focus can be put on investing in new clients. This is how the revolving door model is created, and it is why many agencies have shaky relationships with clients.
Client retention is complicated. You may have the best intentions (and the client, too), but in many cases, these relationships don't pan out the way they are envisioned. There are multiple reasons why clients quit their agency to find a replacement, and the three main reasons come down to the three Ps: price, product and protocol.
Your pricing is too good to be true
Show them value and they will sign up and stay, right? Unfortunately, most agencies convey their value through pricing and not through service quality. As buyers, your potential clients will be on the lookout for that great deal, and as an agency owner, it is your job to reveal this great deal through met deliverables and converted goals versus the price tag.
At the end of the day, there is always another agency claiming to do the same thing, and they will do it cheaper. So eventually, your client will likely come to you and end the relationship even if you are doing a good job, because they found another guy who will do it for half the price.
Arthur Middleton Hughes from the Database Marketing Institute states: "What is wrong with assuming price sensitivity? By having sales, you gradually convert your relationship buyers into transaction buyers. Instead of thinking about recognition, service, helpfulness and relationships, you gradually train them to think only of the price of your product. You train them to check the prices of competitors and to use the internet. You ruin perfectly good relationship buyers by the way you treat them."
Your pricing needs to be based on the internal spend to launch and maintain a marketing strategy. It also needs to be set according to the client's desired sales goals and ROI. Avoid the one-size fits-all SEO strategy, or the "silver, gold and platinum" service level plan.
Instead, create value from the client's perspective by customizing an approach they can't find elsewhere. Next, drive value that illustrates the measurable and scalable return from an agile strategy that wouldn't work for any other client but yours. If they sign up because you point out that your pricing is too good to be true, they will, in time, leave because another guy's pricing is better.
Your product is a leaking bucket
You may have the best SEO team in the country and a creative team that can design circles around the best in the industry, but if you aren't providing a service that attracts, nurtures and delights your client's buyers, you are left with a bucket full of holes (you can keep adding water to keep it full, but it can’t hold its own).
SEO is hugely important. If you have yet to become an inbound agency that offers marketing automation solutions to nurture consumer audiences and turn them into buyers, you are missing out on a huge chunk of your client's buyer audience. Nobody would enter a relationship with an agency if they thought they were getting subpar averageness. And in time, they will begin to realize that other agencies are doing bigger and better things with proven analytics.
Change up your product; take your SEO experts and PPC gurus and weave them into an agile inbound strategy that uses marketing automation to leverage your strengths and incubate your client's audience members through each stage of the buyer's journey so they can find real value in the offering and become a delighted buyer and a brand advocate.
Your policy is a cold shoulder
Clients leave agencies that don't show the love. You should strive to grow your agency but avoid the common client relations policies that go with them. Most large agencies with 100+ employees assign multiple account managers who never touch the client's marketing strategy. Further, most only communicate once a month to give an opaque report, and if the client has questions, they generally must submit an email ticket with their question to get a response within 48 hours.
Having an open communication policy with clients is a must if you hope to retain them. This means email with a same-day response time, taking phone calls and setting client phone appointments when requested. Larger agencies simply have too many clients who continuously come and go to offer this level of customer service in a cost-effective manner. This is why mid-size boutique agencies with a healthy client roster who pick and choose their relationships carefully have clients with significantly longer lifetime values.