Client Retention Is NOT a 4-Letter Word

IMG_0143Client retention and the seemingly ever-present threat of client churn keeps public relations agency principals up at night. If you know any, just ask them.

Client retention keeps other agency leaders, like vice presidents and account directors and account managers up at night too.  If it doesn’t, well they’re in the wrong role.

There are so many good reads re: client retention advice out there that I dare not try to list them here.  But there are a few that stand out.  One in particular is the Tenacity Clients for Life Blog.   I highly recommend you check it out.  John Gamble and Steve Wurzbacher have been consulting companies on client retention for close to 30 years.  If client retention is important to you, you’d be remiss if you pass on their posts.

But while reading what the experts advise is often very helpful, those of us (and that may mean you) who have been living the agency life know that client retention doesn’t have to be a 4-letter word.  If you have ever been on the receiving end of a phone call where a client is firing you, then you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

100 per cent client retention is not possible.  If you think it is, you’re living in La-La Land.

But a high level of client retention (70-80%?) is possible.  And a business requirement if a firm is going to prosper.

So what are a few of the keys to client retention?

First and foremost, every prospect should be looked at by an agency individually.  What is your client acquisition strategy to help create and sustain value for a particular prospect?  It’s always easier said than done, especially when business is soft, but if more agencies closed the door on non-aligned business, client retention rates will edge up.

Secondly, take a really close look at why clients leave your firm.  There are as many reasons as there are clients.  But outside of M&A and financial issues (Chp. 11), core reasons for losing a client likely include the following:

  • you’re not acquiring the right clients under the right terms
  • you’re not proactively managing and measuring the expectations and the value of the agency-client relationship
  • your new business team is held in higher regard, are the agency “rock stars,” than are members of the client relations team; the reward for bringing in new business is higher than the reward for retaining business or growing existing business.

What’s your client retention magic?

Stay tuned for a few more ideas on how to keep client churn below the industry average.