#PPCFright2014 Day 4: The 5 Omens of a Departing Client

imgresThe black cat, the perching crow, the flicker of a candle. In a horror movie these harbingers are soon followed by carnage.

Even if we are all providing brilliant, premium digital advertising services, we can still lose a client to a rare breech in best practices, changes in the client’s growth plan or internal structure, or other unforeseen dangers.

Here are five terrifying signs your client is creeping away:

  1. Someone is lurking: Suddenly there is a new PPC expert joining your calls and asking lots of questions.

When a client adds a new mysterious team member to your calls it should give you the heebie-jeebies. It has been our experience that this means the account is moving in-house. And beware the new CMO. Eager to make quick and highly visible changes, a new CMO can be the bloodiest of axe murderers.

Perhaps the most terrifying lurker of all is the outside consultant.

  1. The Mark of the Beast: You find a login from an unknown email address in your clients MCC account.

Your client is officially shopping around for your replacement. Might as well be a hillbilly gas station attendant claiming, “something bad happened here a long time ago. . .and the hills never forget.”

  1. Vanishing Money: Budgets are getting smaller or invoices are delinquent.

This can be a sign of internal financial struggles. Often this struggle causes panic, and a panicked client can make hasty and ill-advised decisions.

  1. Eerie Silence, deafening screams: What your clients are, or are not, saying can say a lot.

Notice changes in the frequency or the tone of their communications. Are they asking for more detailed reporting? Are they skipping meetings? Has future planning slowed or halted? Are your calls less friendly and chatty?

  1. They are being eaten alive: Mergers and acquisitions.

As soon as they mention a merger or acquisition the hair on your neck should stand up. If your client is the smaller organization then it is likely the new entity will choose the larger organization’s current management situation.

What are the silver bullets and the wooden stakes to rescue you from these horrors?

  • It helps to have a lookout. Train your campaign managers to know the signs of a departing client. Ensure that your team feels comfortable relaying a client’s dissatisfaction or changes to you. (Some agencies like surveys. I have mixed feelings about surveys.)
  • Once you know they are considering leaving, have the courage to ask them why and then listen intently to their answers.
  • If they feel neglected, let them know how valuable they are to your agency. Show them the behind the scenes work they may not even know is happening on their behalf. Dig deep to find data to support your previous efforts.
  • If they are experiencing growing pains or financial struggles talk about their goals as an organization, understand their structure, present a fresh competitor analysis and brainstorm ideas for solutions to their specific pain.
  • If they are under the advisement of a consultant ask to see the consultant’s findings and strategy. Address his concerns about your agency. Show your client how you can assist in the strategy, or if the strategy is faulty, explain this to the client.
  • If they have a new CMO let her know that you are there to help with her transition. Show her that you have valuable history and understanding of the account. Make it obvious that you are eager to make new implementations and explore new strategies with her. Show her that she needs you.
  • If they are merging or being acquired try to arrange an opportunity to pitch to the other organization.
  • If they must leave, find a solution that allows you to continue servicing them. Whether it is transitional assistance or future audits, you can usually find ways to continue the relationship in some capacity.
  • Always be nice and helpful, leaving the door open for their return. We have had several prodigal clients return and stay with us for years.

Do you have omens to share? Post them in the comments! Be sure to check back for upcoming posts in our #PPCFright2014 Series.

Comments (2)

  1. One of the best articles I’ve read in a while. I don’t think I’ve ever read an article on the topic of clients leaving but we all deal with it. Maybe it’s faux pas? The suggestions are great too. Nice one M!

  2. Luke, thank you! Even in the early days of Clix I noticed that there were certain omens that preceded a client leaving.

    Once we identified those warning signs we were able to address the issues earlier- sometimes saving the relationship.

    I didn’t consider that it might be a faux pas to discuss it! We have great client retention, but we still occasionally lose a client or need to fight to keep one.

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