While new business is obviously important, there’s something else you should be laser-focused on to drive more long-term revenue: retention.
One of the most important (and often overlooked) things to concentrate on when growing an agency is retention. An obsession with bringing in new business is understandable -- and to a degree necessary -- especially when you’re just starting out. But you need to consider lifetime value right from the start to make sure your growth is sustainable.
So what can you do to build and maintain your retention rate?
Below are some of the things we do at Flaunt Digital to make sure it's a priority in our day-to-day, as well as some bonus tips that you can implement that will put your agency on track to better client retention.
10 Useful Tips for Improving Client Retention
Learn how to measure retention.
Get into the habit of tracking your retention rate. This will help you stay on top of your efforts and see how your agency is performing. Measuring progress doesn’t have to be overly complicated. You just need a system in place to indicate and benchmark your client retention rate.
Here's a simple way to calculate your agency's client retention rate:
((Total number of clients at month beginning - Net new clients)/Total number of clients at month end) = Client retention rate
This simple formula will give you a good overview of your progress and allow you to quickly identify any issues. Taking this to the next level, you could include individual clients and billings to show growth across each account. It’s a good practice to begin measuring these things as early as possible. Measurement is what makes you take notice.
Keep everyone on the same page with project management tools.
A lot of elements go into managing a marketing campaign, and a lot of people are responsible for making it a success. Too often failure to pull this process into one place occurs, and instead the project is managed by email, Slack, phone calls, WhatsApp messages (yeah, that has happened), Facebook messenger, LinkedIn messenger, and even bumping into clients and having an impromptu half an hour meeting.
The best way to manage campaigns and projects for clients is to use a project management tool, which allows you to have a centralized view of all the tasks and deliverables surrounding a project. Having a single place where both the client and your agency’s team can easily monitor a project’s tasks and deliverables is invaluable, and it's also an audit trail for progress, comments, and notes.
We use Active Collab, but others such as Basecamp, Zoho, Wrike, or even something as simple as Trello will vastly improve the way you manage projects.
Maintain detailed client records for instances of staff turnover.
No matter how hard you try to hang onto your best staff members, some people will inevitably leave the agency. For the sake of client happiness and ultimately retention, it's in your best interest to prepare for staff departures.
Implement a CRM to track clients and keep up-to-date profiles, including notes on meetings and calls. This way when a member of your staff leaves, you have a detailed history of their clients to refer the new account manager to.
These client records are important for two reasons:
In the event that a new account manager has to take over, they can get to know the account before they even speak to the client for the first time.
The client team will recognize that making a smooth transition was a priority for your team, which will reassure them that you value their business.
Keeping up-to-date records might seem like a simple practice, but your agency will seriously benefit in the long run.
Create multiple relationships between the client team and the agency team.
Typically a client will only deal with their account manager. This can be fine, but remember that limiting communication to a single point person locks down a valuable relationship to just one team member -- not your agency as a whole.
Encourage other team members working on the account to build a relationship with the client. Don’t force it, but try to create an environment where the client speaks to operational team members as well as their account manager. This will make your client feel a little more loved, and if their account manager leaves, the relationship is less likely to leave with them.
Report on metrics relevant to the client’s business.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but agree to a reporting structure for clients based on metrics that are actually important to their business. This makes it easy for the client to report back to their leadership team and show the direct value of your services.
Providing your client with the right ammo to make them look like a rockstar to their board members is something that will cement your relationship, never underestimate the power of consistently strong reporting.
Prove you’re genuinely interested in the big picture.
Agency professionals accustomed to a high client turnover rate or those who rely on project-based work know in the back of their minds that a client will only be with them for a certain amount of time. This can prevent them from developing meaningful client relationships. The client starts to get treated like a process -- as long as all the boxes are ticked on a project, the account manager and operational staff believe they’re doing their job.
This is the wrong approach. When you get your team to prioritize long-term retention instead of just the project at hand, something wonderful naturally occurs -- your team will begin to care about each and every single client.
But it’s not enough to care about a client from a business perspective. You should focus on developing a relationship on a personal level as well. If you genuinely care about a client’s overall performance beyond individual campaign objectives, they will take notice and be more likely to stick around.
Don’t shy away from socializing.
This is quite uncommon in the agency world, but it's still important to note as a retention tactic. Interacting with your clients on a social level is great for building relationships. It doesn’t have to be a huge event -- maybe just grab a coffee or lunch every so often.
Building a relationship on a personal level will not only strengthen your business relationship, it will make interactions at the conference table more natural and comfortable.
Show clients you’re grateful for their business.
Weaving gratitude into everything you do is something that will go along way for your client retention, as well as staff retention.
This is something I am quite bullish on at Flaunt Digital, and I believe it is one of the single most important elements of an agency's culture. You have to be grateful that your clients chose you above any other agency and continue to do so. Don't be shy about showing your gratitude.
Here are a few ideas to show your clients that you’re thankful for their business:
Treat their office to coffee or lunch.
Send them a holiday present -- even just a card is nice.
Give them swag, e.g., T-shirts, mugs, pens, notebooks. Clients love getting little gifts.
Say it. Don’t pour your heart out in desperation, but every so often, remind them that the relationship is important to you and your agency.
You can’t go wrong if you show gratitude, and it comes from a genuine place.
Solicit feedback, and act on it.
You cannot evolve as a company if you don’t gather feedback from your clients. Use a tool like Survey Monkey or Google Forms to put together a client feedback survey, and share the results across your agency.
Most importantly, don’t be scared of implementing change. If a client survey reveals that something needs to be improved, then find a solution and fix it. Tell your client that you found their feedback highly valuable, and you are putting changes in place to improve your service. The client will be impressed that you valued their opinion enough to actually implement changes.
What techniques does your agency use to increase client retention? Let us know in the comments below!
Originally published Aug 4, 2016 5:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017