Client Management

15 Proven Ways to Maintain and Grow Client Relationships

Check out these proven ways agencies can retain more clients and do additional business with them.

15 Proven Ways to Maintain and Grow Client Relationships

Maximize the business you do with your clients.

In today’s competitive creative agency environment, it’s challenging and costly to attract new business. That’s why it’s important for agencies to do everything possible to maintain — and grow — current client relationships.

Here’s what you need to know to retain your clients and increase the amount of business you do with them.

1. Earn client trust.

Just because clients do business with your agency, it doesn’t mean they trust you and all your coworkers. Just like the time it takes to build trust between people, it also takes a while to get clients to trust an agency.

The best way for agencies to earn the trust of their clients is to keep their promises and live up to their brand ideals. While this can be challenging, it will pay off with clients who respect your operation, which means they won’t be tempted to move to another agency.

2. Make it easy for clients to provide feedback.

Nobody wakes up wanting to hear bad news about their agency. Still, it’s better to know the truth than to ignore it. It’s the best way to find out about client issues as they happen so you can solve them in real time. This makes it possible to turn unhappy clients into satisfied ones, preventing them from moving on to your competitors.

There are many ways you can gather client feedback, including surveys, focus groups, rating and review programs and educating your agency team mates on how to ask for it. An agency management system, like the one offered by agencyMAX, can collect feedback in every step of the creative development process. It’s a proven way to identify bad service, missed deadlines, ineffective communications or other issues in real time.

Once you have feedback, it’s important to not only respond to it on a one-off basis. It’s also a good idea to look for patterns and trends in it, which could point toward bigger systemic issues. Share feedback with the people on your team so you can work through problems together.

3. Monitor turnover metrics.

The only way you can figure out whether you have a client turnover issue is to diligently track the number of new clients your agency is bringing in and how many are leaving. If they’re both too high, you could have a serious issue.

Cycling through clients at a rapid pace indicates a client service problem that could do serious harm to your agency. Sure, you’re collecting revenue from new clients, but that revenue is less than that from current clients because of the marketing and onboarding costs required to bring in the business. Then consider the damage that could be done to your firm’s reputation from unhappy clients who abandon your agency. Most agencies can’t afford to stay in business very long when they’re spending a lot on marketing and onboarding only to have clients leave quickly.

By consistently looking out for high client turnover, you’ll be able to repair client service and other issues as they come up.

4. Develop a client communication plan.

How often does your agency engage with clients? If you’re not sure, it could be a sign that it’s not often enough.

Staying in touch with clients keeps your agency top-of-mind, which is especially important when they have new creative projects and aren’t sure who to assign them to. It can also help prevent clients from jumping ship to competitors that are communicating with them more.

Develop a plan that includes a mix of personal and digital communications. It can include things like regular phone calls, coffee dates, lunches, meetings, email newsletters, virtual events, social media interactions and more. Start with a basic plan, and over time, you’ll find the ideal mix for the people in your client base. What’s important is that you stay connected.

5. Educate your clients.

Organizations turn to creative agencies to fill gaps in their knowledge base and talent pool. Those gaps are a good reason for your agency to launch a client education program. It could take many forms, from in-person seminars to virtual events to informative email newsletters. What’s important is that you provide clients with something of value that demonstrates your agency’s expertise. There’s no better way to prevent clients from leaving than regularly demonstrating the expertise of your talent, while showing that they’re up-to-date and always at the top of their game.

6. Offer unique creative services.

Can you define what makes your agency different?

  • Does it offer one-of-a-kind creative marketing services or solutions?
  • Do you do something better than all your competitors?
  • Perhaps your agency serves a special segment of clients.

If your operation makes a genuine difference to the people it serves, it’s far less likely they’ll want to — or even be able to — find another provider. It can be doing something as simple as implementing an agency management solution like agencyMAX that eliminates bottlenecks and makes working with your firm easier. It might make all the difference when it comes to making your agency stand out.

7. Launch a client retention program.

A retention program should be meaningful to your clients, provide value and get them to want to keep doing business with your organization and increase the amount they do. Here are some of the most common types of retention programs:

Onboarding program

Why not start rewarding clients on day one by providing benefits for learning how to follow your agency’s processes and procedures and getting set up to do so? Clients will be less likely to leave because you’re better positioned to deliver an optimal client experience if they follow your agency “rules”. Plus, clients who are already set up in your systems will feel more a part of your organization. And, if you structure things right, you can incentivize clients to do a second project with your agency.

Customer loyalty program

Do you have clients you love working with? Perhaps you have some that are more profitable or beneficial to do business with.

Why not create a program that encourages them to keep doing what they’re doing and gets others to do the same?

A client loyalty program should reward customers for their continued commitment to the success of your agency. The more they do to contribute to that success, the more they’re rewarded. Rewards can include things like discounts, upgraded levels of service or opportunities to attend expert panels, workshops and events. A client who is recognized for their loyalty will be more likely to stay loyal.

Client advisory program

Your clients will feel more connected to your agency if they play a part in guiding it into the future. Instead of using your intuition to make changes to your business model, why not ask your clients for their opinions? Involving them in an advisory panel or in regular surveys will help them feel like they’re a part owner of your operation. This will make it less likely they’ll leave. It could even turn them into advocates. Best of all, you’ll get real world information on how to make your agency more valuable to them.

Social responsibility program

People today are more likely to do business with companies they respect, not just like. One way to earn that respect is by not merely doing well by your clients, but by also doing good for others. Consider rewarding your clients by supporting the causes and charities they care about. This type of client retention program goes above and beyond the rest by demonstrating that you’re passionate about your clients, along with what they’re passionate about.

Testing group

Is your agency thinking about offering a new or enhanced service or stepping into a new area of specialization? Why not let current clients be the first to try it out? They will feel special because they’ll be the first to sample your new offering. You’ll be able to partner together on working out the kinks. And they can take advantage of reduced rates during the trial period. If they like the offering, they’ll stick with it — and your agency — over the long term

Remember: You don’t have to limit yourself to just one client retention strategy. Use as many as it takes to keep clients engaged with your agency.

8. Adopt client service tools.

Few agencies have enough staff to provide perfect service to their clients. The issue can be magnified during busy periods — times when an agency could be succeeding, but may be putting itself at risk, especially if communications get lost, or mistakes are made because people are stretched too thin.

Client service tools, like the agencyMAX solution, can help extend your staffing by allowing your people to do more. It can streamline project management, scheduling and communications all in one system. If you’re interested in upgrading your client service without expanding your team, implementing a modern client service system could be the solution your looking for. It might be the most cost effective investment you can make in keeping more of your clients.

9. Apologize when things go wrong.

Every agency strives to provide awesome client service. Still, things go wrong. Mistakes give clients a reason to move on to your competitors.

The truth is that for many clients, moving to a competitor is a complex and time consuming process. One error may not be enough to make them move on, especially it the agency takes steps to rectify it, has a plan for preventing it from happening again and sincerely apologizes for what happened. Just because something goes wrong doesn’t mean you have to lose a client. When bad things occur, work with your team to make things right as quickly as possible.

10. Have a mission and live by it.

Most agencies have a mission statement. It’s usually lofty and inspiring. It appears on their website and new employees learn about it during orientation. It may also be included in sales presentations. But not much happens after that.

If you want clients to respect your agency, it’s important to have a meaningful mission statement and that everyone at your firm lives by it day after day after day. It will help prevent disconnects between what clients expect and what they experience. Disconnects between the two cause clients to lose trust with their agencies, giving them reasons to check out other creative providers that seem more honest and reputable.

11. Let clients engage with your agency how they prefer.

Some agency clients expect a lot of personal contact and hand holding. Others prefer doing business digitally with very little human interaction. Why not develop processes and procedures — and implement systems — that let them interact with your agency how they choose? This will make them feel more satisfied with your operation. They won’t be forced to engage in ways that make them feel uncomfortable, which could make them go shopping for an agency experience aligned with their preferences and expectations.

12. Make it personal.

Whether it’s online shopping, getting an insurance quote or finding information online, almost everything today is highly personalized. Shouldn’t your agency experience be as personal and customized to each client? If your service model is one-size-fits-all, it’s time to make adjustments that allow for greater flexibility. Empower your client service team and account executives to adjust their approach so it’s effective with each client. Make it possible to customize templated marketing and communication materials and experiences so they’re more personal. While you’re at it, implement technology like the agencyMAX system that makes it simple to individualize client interactions.

13. Figure out what’s next for each client.

No two clients are the same. Your cross- and up-sell activities shouldn’t be one size fits all. Map out an individualized growth strategy for each business you work with. It will make it more likely that they’ll take you up on your offers, building on the relationship and making it more sticky. It will also help prevent irritating valued clients with offers that are meaningless to them.

14. Leverage subscriptions to encourage repeat business.

More and more agencies offer subscription services to their clients. They provide discounts for bundling projects or for doing a defined amount of work over time. This makes it easier and cheaper for clients to try out new types of projects with your agency and not turn to competitors. It’s worth it to run the numbers to figure out what kinds of discounts or incentives you could offer to clients for agreeing to do a certain amount of business with you or to partner with your agency over a defined period of time.

15. Encourage your clients to interact.

Do your clients think you’re great? Why not provide a forum for them to communicate with each other and share the news? Give them a chance to discuss their successes, ask questions of peers or provide knowledge and information. It will reinforce and magnify their positive feelings about your agency and make them feel more confident about their decision to partner with you. And in the end, what could be better than that?

If you take these steps now, and resolve to keep doing them every day, you‘lo feel more confident about keeping your clients — and doing more business with them over time.