As an agency owner, it’s easy to focus on new clients, new projects, and new retainers that are being signed. Watching these metrics trend up and to the right is both exciting and sexy.
However, a more meaningful key performance indicator that every agency executive should be monitoring is customer churn. This statistic — more than any other — will help you understand if you’re on a trajectory for growth or failure.
Here are five key ways reduce customer churn:
1) Set Proper Expectations
One of the most important components in the client-agency relationship is expectation management. It can be tempting to overpromise results in an effort to prevent clients from evaluating competitors. However, improper expectation management will often lead to frustration, lost credibility, and broken trust.
A better way to handle existing clients relationships is to follow this simple formula:
Set expectations early: Proactively engage the client early on in the project, and set realistic and attainable goals. By discussing the deliverables and a timeframe at the outset, you eliminate divergent expectations. It’s these divergent expectations that often cause rifts in the client-agency relationship.
Underpromise: At risk of being a bit cliché, another important tactic is underpromising and overdelivering. Adhering to this old adage can often save a business relationship. Smart agencies always look for ways to “go the second mile” with their clients even when it’s not explicitly stated in the contract.
2) Maintain Domain Expertise
It is imperative that you maintain domain expertise within your realm of service. Whether that be search engine marketing, website design, content marketing, video production, or another service or industry. Clients are looking for you to be a trusted advisor to their business.
To achieve and maintain this trusted advisor status, it’s important that your agency staffers continually develop their skills and talents. Your relationship depends on your ability to advise your clients on critical business issues.
3) Anticipate Problems
The agencies that maintain long-term business relationships are the ones that anticipate their clients problems. These are the agencies that are engineering solutions before clients even realize they have a problem. This ability to anticipate customer issues is rooted in a deep understanding of the client’s business.
So start by analyzing your client’s organization. Know its industry, competitors, and customers. Seek to understand its product and service differentiators and what makes the business unique. Use this information to understand potential problems and issues that could threaten your client's business. Finally, seek to mitigate these obstacles with new or existing services from your agency.
4) Measure ROI
Another key component to maintaining long-term client relationships is being able to quantify the value that you deliver. The ability to demonstrate tangible value to clients is essential regardless of what industry you’re in. Marketing agencies can use high-level metrics like website visits, leads generated each month, and new customers acquired to quantify how successful campaigns are for clients.
The important takeaway here is to figure out the metrics that “move the dial” for your customers. Figure out how to quantify and measure the impact you're having on these metrics. Many agencies lose business because they don’t quantify the impact they are having for their clients. Don’t just measure the output (emails sent, websites built, and videos produced). Measure the impact the output is having on your client’s business.
5) Create a Feedback Loop
The final tactic that will help curb customer churn is creating a feedback loop for your clients. Agencies need to create a mechanism to solicit feedback from their clients on the work they are producing and the services they are delivering.
Aggregate this client feedback and integrate it into your processes and deliverables. By monitoring and acting on feedback, you will send a signal that you value your clients' opinions and are working to continually improve.
There is no sure-fire way to make sure that you never lose a client. It’s inevitable that you won’t please all clients all the time. But by putting into practice some of these tried-and-true tactics, you will limit customer churn while simultaneously building strong and lasting customer relationships.
In the end, all the new sales in the world won’t mean much if you can’t maintain the clients that you have.
Originally published Oct 9, 2014 3:00:11 AM, updated July 28 2017