EDITOR’S NOTE: This client retention marketing infographic is part of KlientBoost’s 25-part series. We’re super excited to partner with them so you can enjoy a new gifographic once a day in your inbox. You should subscribe here.
There are a whole heck of a lot of marketing optimization posts out there to read, but just a tiny amount of client retention posts that are dedicated to marketing agencies.
If you run an agency like I do at KlientBoost, or even work at one, then you know how crucial client retention is to the growth of your business.
With a crappy retention rate, you feel like you’re treading water.
But instead of water, you’re treading in quick sand and slowly being poked by a million small toothpicks, while elephant poop is being dumped on your head.
Couldn’t find one GIF that had all three - GIF source
But joking aside, client retention is a serious thing. You’ve worked so hard to obtain a client, so why not set some things in place to keep them around longer?
That’s why we partnered with AdStage to bring you our biggest client retention lessons that we’ve learned in the two years of significant growth we’ve had (to almost $250k in monthly recurring revenue) all in one fun gifographic (with no elephant poop. Promise).
Where’s The Money?
Being an agency owner, there’s a good chance that you’ve spoken with other owners about the painful things they endure.
But one of questions I often get revolves around client reporting and the amount of time it takes.
The only issue is that reporting outside of the bottom line isn’t that important. Too many agencies get caught up in reporting in metrics like CTR, impression shares, or quality scores without talking about the most important thing:
Money being made
It wasn’t until recently that we started requiring all account managers to ask that very important question to their client, which could either give a dreaded response or an exciting answer:
“Are you making more money?”
It’s too easy to get caught going through the motions or adjusting a few things here and there that have no real business impact.
Once you know that a client isn’t making more money (and you ask the question early enough), then you have enough time to make any pivots needed to get them in the right direction.
Fail to ask that question, and you’re hoping that your client is honest enough to tell you they’re not happy before they randomly stop working with you.
Just by having that one question up our sleeves, we’ve been able to catch fires way before they happen, and that has helped our retention in a very positive way.
The Four Client Phases
Once you know that a client is or isn’t making any money, the next step is to have a game plan for how to get them to make more money, again.
We decided to create four phases that all clients go through, and once they’ve graduated from one phase, the next phase has a new set of tasks we need to take care of before they move on to the next.
Here are the client phases we use at KlientBoost to identify client progress:
#1 Traffic: Nothing starts without traffic. If your client isn’t getting enough traffic, then any CRO tests you try to run are most likely going to fall on their face.
This means that the goal isn’t to try to run display campaigns to get cheaper CPCs to get more clicks. Instead, ask the client for more budget so that some quicker wins become a reality.
This is where you shouldn’t focus on the landing page.
This phase should take no more than a week.
#2 Conversion: Now that you have traffic, the next step is to generate conversions. And after that, you need to make sure that the client is able to make money off those conversions.
This is where you focus on the landing page side, and not so much on traffic side.
This phase can take one to two months depending on how many different CTAs you have to test.
#3 Profitability: Once a client has traffic and conversions, the next thing to know is whether or not they’re profitable. With ad spend and agency fees in mind, is the client able to achieve a higher ROI?
If not, then you need to figure out why and adjust. Going multiple weeks with the same traffic and same landing pages most likely won’t turn a corner fast enough.
This phase can take one to two months as well.
#4 Scaling: This is the final phase and the one that’s the most fun to get to. Once you have traffic, conversions, and profitability, the next step is to start growing the account.
Here, you’re able to start testing new PPC channels to grow the entry points of your clients funnel.
This phase can last forever and never plateau.
By knowing which phase your client is in, your account managers can easily decide which tasks to focus on for the week.
If a client is in Phase #3 and the account manager is still spending most of their time adjusting bids and testing ads, then there’s a good chance that client will never graduate to the next phase.
And if that happens, then your retention rate suffers, too.
Deep Deep Communication
If there’s a thing I’m obsessed with when it comes to working with clients, then it’s having a pulse on them.
Are they happy, sad, not confident, or excited?
But a pulse is much more than knowing how they feel about your services - it’s more about honesty and having the client feel like they can tell you anything to help both of you out.
So many clients are afraid of hurting feelings and they would rather not share what irks them. The biggest downside of this lack of communication is that you feel blindsided and shocked when they decide to stop working with you.
See, it’s easy to have your clients think you’re too busy and have no time for them, and that’s actually one of the biggest reasons they choose to leave.
Not lack of performance.
Surprising, right? - image source
What I’ve also found is that clients are more than happy to give you time and are patient enough wait until you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Once they know that you have their best interest in mind, they’ll give you more time before they cancel, because they like you.
I’ve sat in on a lot of client calls as a fly on the wall, and I keep seeing that a lot of client and account manager communication is super shallow and filled with pointless small talk.
Being honest with your clients and letting them know that you agree things aren’t doing well will help them be honest with you.
This strategy has oddly helped us have clients who canceled with us, refer people they know to work with us.
That doesn’t happen very often.
Speed, Pivots, Feedback, & Audits
There’s nothing that I value more than execution and speed. And I know it’s the same for our clients.
Having your client know that you have a sense of urgency is one of the best feelings you can give them.
Here are the four things we’ve found help our speed and retention rates as well:
Speed: The faster we can move from one campaign or landing page to the next, the faster we’re able to move a client from one phase to the next.
Pivots: This means that you need to be able to see if a campaign won’t work early enough for you to do something about it. It’s common for us to pivot once a week for a client until we’ve gained traction.
Feedback: Having regular feedback calls with a client has done very well for us. During the first month and second month mark, we have another team member (other than the account manager) call the client to get insight on what we can do better.
The most important part of this is doing it early enough in the relationship so you have time to salvage it.
Audits: This point is for the owner of the agency.
We’re coming up on our two year anniversary as an agency and the amount of changes we’ve made to our processes has been astounding.
By auditing our processes, we’ve been able to identify things like:
- What skills do certain account managers lack so we can train them to be stronger?
- Grouping one CRO designer with two account managers for better education transfer between all.
- Giving every team member a topic ownership to teach all other team members about. They’re now the resident experts on LinkedIn Advertising, Google Tag Manager, or CRO tools.
Sometimes your best bet is to attempt something and then adjust. Most of what we’ve learned has come from pure trial and error.
Back To You…
The best part about running an agency and priming it for growth, is that you can split test your own company, just like you split test things for your clients.
By neglecting change, you’re not only going to continue to suffer, but you’ll eventually burn out and throw in the white flag.
Agency life is tough, but so is anything that’s worth pursuing.
I hope some of these insights can help you spark change and get your retention rate up and to the right. :)