Customer Retention Fails: 5 Signs A Client Is About To Break Up With Your Marketing Agency

Customer Retention Fails: 5 Signs A Client Is About To Break Up With Your Marketing Agency

Written by CallRail CallRail 4.5K Reads

Load up your saddest playlist, because we’re talking about clients leaving you.

Clients will move on. It’s an inevitable part of doing business.

But, if you can analyze why they leave and catch the signs early, you can reduce your agency’s churn.

It’s about four times more expensive to onboard a new client than it is to retain an existing one.

And many agencies face a churn rate of upwards of 40%.

In uncertain economic times, churn hurts a lot more. Acquiring new customers can be even harder. It’s also harder to convince your current clients to stay with you while they’re tightening their belts.

You need to head off issues that could sour the relationship early.

Sometimes, you can get in front of a client that’s thinking about leaving and prevent it. And if you can’t, it’s important to analyze why they left and improve your processes for next time.

In many cases, improving your relationship with data – what you track, and how you communicate it – is key to starting new relationships off right and maintaining existing ones.

You can learn more about data-driven client retention strategies from CallRail’s ebook, “The Agency Marketer’s Guide To Client Retention.”

Sign 1: Your Client Is Ghosting You

It can be baffling when clients stop communicating with your teams.

In your case, they may pay their bills, but they won’t respond to emails or return phone calls. If they do, it’s days before you hear back.

This is generally less of a problem with smaller businesses where you’re communicating directly with the owners.

But when a client is large enough that different teams are handling invoices and communicating with vendors, things can go off the rails.

Generally, ghosting happens for one of two reasons:

  1. Something has happened internally with the client, and the ball got dropped.
    (For example: There was a change in employee responsibilities or your point of contact left the company, and no one performed a hand-off.)
  2. The client has a problem with you, and they feel it’s easier to ignore it than to address it.
    (For example: Your current communication methods don’t fit their workflow, or they have a problem and would rather leave than try to address it.)

These are both concerning situations that can end with the client leaving.

But, there are things you can do to circumvent it.

What To Do: Find Out What Isn’t Working & Update Your Client Communication Process

It’s tempting to take the “no news is good news” approach, and there are certainly some clients who do work that way.

But you shouldn’t assume all is well, especially if the communication stops suddenly.

Sometimes, these issues are easy to solve. Your client might simply need to reassign the relationship with you to someone on their team with more bandwidth. Or your contact might have such a full inbox that your emails are getting lost.

But if they’ve been avoiding talking to you out of confusion or frustration, you might have bigger problems to solve.

Step 1: Re-Initiate The Line Of Communication

Go up the ladder until you get someone to talk to you. Find out what the problem is, and record it. You should make sure to record any communication breakdowns and their causes – this will help you refine your process!

Step 2: Suggest Another Kickoff & Create A New Communication Cadence

In this step, all the stakeholders in your client’s company can get reacquainted with the process and tell you their communication preferences.

If communication has been on an as-needed basis, offer to set up a regular call so that communication happens on a set schedule.

If multiple people from your agency get in touch for different reasons, consider having all communication go through a single point of contact. This way, your client recognizes the communications as important and timely.

Prepare to address any confusions or misgivings the client may have. You may need to reaffirm what the goals are for their campaign and realign expectations by going over a Service Level Agreement (SLA).

If they have problems with your relationship or service, remember that a good relationship with your client starts at the beginning. You might need a complete reset.

As you read on, you’ll discover some of the ways you can use data in your marketing. You’ll also learn how your communications set your clients up for success and maintain long-term business relationships.

Learn more about how to address communication breakdowns with CallRail’s guide to client retention for agencies.

Sign 2: Your Client Says They Aren’t Sure Where The Relationship Is Going

When clients approach you with questions, that’s a great thing – to a point.

You want your clients to be engaged enough to ask about the process and results. But if they continue to ask questions about their results, and what the next steps are, month after month, there’s a communication problem.

Do they understand the goals of the campaign?

Can they see the steps that you’re taking to achieve those goals?

Can they see how your work returns on their investment, addresses their pain points, and wins them more business?

Have you created long- and short-term plans for scaling the results, and do you communicate how and when each milestone is complete?

If your clients can’t see the steps to achieving their end results, or are confused about the direction of the campaign, they’re more likely to leave prematurely.

What To Do: Clarify Client Business Goals & Use Trackable Data

Step 1: Create A Plan With Each Client

Make sure that all parties understand:

  • The overall plan, with trackable key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Tangible action items and goals that contribute to the success of the campaign.
  • The lines of communication for delivering reports and asking questions.
  • How the results within each report contribute to their overall goals.

Step 2: Upgrade & Refine Your Reports

When you report to clients, make sure to contextualize your data.

Be sure to preemptively answer the following questions in your reporting:

  • How does this month’s progress contribute to their overall goals?
  • What actual value did your services deliver?
  • Which data points should your client be focused on?
  • Are there any areas with poor performance to account for?
  • What should your client expect to see one, two, and three months in the future?
  • Does your client understand what the data is and what it means?

Reporting is one of the most vital aspects of data-driven marketing. Make sure your clients know what metrics to focus on, and explain each data point in simple terms to avoid confusing jargon.

Learn more about how to avoid vanity metrics and beef up your presentations in CallRail’s client retention guide.

Sign 3: Your Client Says They Aren’t Getting The Results They Expected

So, you’ve prepared a detailed report and presented it to the client. You’re proud of your team’s work because you’ve made significant progress on a campaign.

But the client isn’t happy.

They don’t see the results they wanted, or they’re not getting results fast enough.

Somewhere, there’s been a miscommunication.

Properly onboarding and educating your clients is key to a healthy working relationship with them. If they misunderstand something about the process at the beginning, it’s much harder to keep them happy in the long run.

If you identify a misunderstanding within the first weeks of working together, it’s quite easy to address! But later on, more weeks or months down the road, a miscommunication becomes a failure to deliver, in their eyes.

As unpleasant as these conversations can be, you need to understand exactly what went wrong.

The most important question is: Was it a misunderstanding, or is there a real issue with your agency’s performance?

Either way, you may need to adjust your onboarding process.

What To Do: Improve Client Onboarding & Prove Your ROI With Data

If it makes sense, now is the time to defend your work.

Back it up with data, and ensure that the client understands exactly how your efforts benefit them.

Step 1: Think About & Consider The Following:

  • Are they focusing on the wrong metrics?
  • Have you explained that not all conversions are equal, and that some are worth more than others?
  • Do your clients understand that qualitative data can be just as important (or moreso) than quantitative data?
    (For example, did you deliver fewer overall leads, but more high-quality leads by refining a landing page’s audience targeting?)

Check out CallRail’s guide for some great examples of these concepts, and how to communicate the intricacies of marketing data to clients.

Step 2: Reassess Your Onboarding Process

It might make sense to redo some portions of the onboarding process for unhappy clients if they’re willing to work with you.

This can introduce new stakeholders to your process, and remind existing ones what the overall goals are, as well as your plans to achieve them.

Step 3: Adjust Your Own Marketing Efforts To Target Clients With Priorities That Match 

If you’re running a long-term campaign for a client who wants quick wins, the miscommunication might be in your marketing.

What promises and metrics are you focusing on in your marketing materials?

Are you setting expectations quickly and clearly with SLAs?

Are you taking time to evaluate leads and how well their goals align with your services?

If you’ve got gaps in your marketing and lead generation processes, you might end up with the next sign:

Sign 4: Your Client Is Always Upset

We’ve all had them. Clients who just can’t be pleased. No matter what you do, it feels like they’re always mad at you, always demanding answers, and despite all your best efforts they eventually leave.

This isn’t just a problem for the sales team in having to find a new client. Sour relationships can damage your reputation.

In the end, it might be best to let these clients go, as you’ll find out in CallRail’s guide.

Instead, focus your energy on improving your marketing communications and audience targeting.

If when a client leaves, you breathe a sigh of relief – they weren’t right for your agency in the first place. The relationship was doomed from the start.

What To Do: Use Data-Driven Marketing To Find Clients That Align With Your Services & Goals

Step 1: Decide What Your Ideal Clients Look Like

Who are you targeting and why?

What are their goals?

What are their pain points and how do you plan to solve them?

These are basic questions that you’re familiar with, but if you’ve attracted clients that are difficult to please, then something may have gone wrong with this step.

Step 2: Reassess Your Audiences

It can help to start thinking about the audiences of your audience. Do you specialize in reaching a specific audience? With what cohorts and demographics have previous campaigns seen the most success?

You might want to pivot and focus your marketing based on previous successes. Sometimes, it can take a while to learn what your agency excels at.

Case studies are a vital part of not only your marketing efforts but your understanding of your own success.

Step 3: Implement Lead Scoring To Get A Clear View Of Qualified Clients

Another key process you should implement is lead scoring.

Download CallRail’s client retention guide to learn about lead scoring and other tactics to ensure your clients are a good match.

Sign 5: Your Client Is Reducing Their Spend Or Says They’re Outgrowing You

Sometimes, you haven’t done anything wrong.

In fact, you’ve done your job so well that the client doesn’t need you anymore.

If you notice that a successful client is reducing their spend or having you communicate with newly hired internal experts in digital marketing, these could be signs that they’re outgrowing you.

Often, there isn’t much you can do if a client ends your relationship for budget reasons, or because they’re taking things in-house.

But you should still take a last stab at proving the value of your work.

What To Do: Create Success Story Case Studies

A case study is a great opportunity to remind the client just how effective you are.

Step 1: Ask If They’d Be Willing To Be Part Of A Case Study

Reminiscing on your successes together might just convince them to keep their budget allocated to you.

It’s also an opportunity to talk to them about any new services you’re planning to offer.

If they are going to leave, then a case study is a positive note to end the relationship with. It helps you highlight your successes in future marketing campaigns, and can keep lines of communication open once they leave.

Step 2: Implement An Exit Survey

Make sure to have an exit survey in place.

You can learn what services to offer in the future to keep clients on for longer and give them a final opportunity to talk to you about any pain points.

Step 3: Start A Referral Program

Of course, don’t forget to ask about setting up a referral program. As they move on and grow, they’re bound to encounter businesses that could use your services, and they know exactly how much you helped them.

Relationship-building is key for any agency’s success, and partnerships with current and former clients can help bring in new business. It can also deepen existing relationships.

Armed with data and communication plans, you can create longer, more fruitful relationships and reduce client churn.

Learn more about all of these data-driven strategies in “The Agency Marketer’s Guide To Client Retention” from CallRail.

Learn more about all of these data-driven

strategies in our guide

The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor's own.

Learn more about all of these data-driven strategies in our guide