If Only Retaining Clients Were as Easy as Retaining Water

Building Trust Is Key, but It Isn't Easy

By Published on .

Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
According to agencyfinder.com the average client/agency relationship is two to three years. The site also gives two main components in a successful relationship: trust and confidence. This seems pretty fundamental. Obviously, we agencies are not so hot at establishing either. Perhaps we feel that what is required to build trust and confidence is a bit less than what clients believe is necessary.

I plead guilty to believing clients should trust me because I have a track record of successfully advertising other products and services. If I needed life-threatening surgery, I would not go to just any surgeon -- I want the one that has the most successful operations in my area of need. But that doesn't mean I would trust him. Even with a great track record, I would want to spend some one-on-one time with the doctor to find out if he or she cares about me as a person.

What we agencies are being asked to do for our clients is just as serious and complex for the life and health of a client's business. When we realize and apply this truth to how we view our relationship, we will do a few more things right than wrong.
  1. Listen. Listening is not an easy skill to master, but it is imperative to be a competent listener if we want to stay in business. Listening takes time and it is easy to want to move things along when a client is requiring explanations of things that are fundamental to us. I am constantly working on my patience clock. I am not one to waste time, so I must be careful to properly evaluate what is a good use of my time. Listening to a client when they have a concern is a good use of time.

  2. Respond. Everyone can make a mistake. The difference between agencies that overcome mistakes and those that do not, is usually dependent on how each agency responds. If a client even perceives something is not what it should be take care of it immediately. Clients never see the full care and effort agencies perform on their behalf. They see very clearly when they are being ignored or taken for granted. It would do us agencies good to have checkups with our clients frequently.

  3. Be accountable. Accountability is key. Clients want results, not excuses. This means clients need to hear the truth and not an unrealistic promise. It is a cliché, but so true, that a client never has time to do it right, but always has time to do it over. We are the experts. Our clients depend on us knowing how to do things properly. We must have the backbone to tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

  4. Invest. The culture of our clients has a lot to do with their success and their brand story. If we do not immerse ourselves into a client's culture we are missing a huge opportunity to discover a truth that helps them successfully market their brand. Small clients can barely afford good branding, much less the extra time it takes for an agency to be immersed in their culture. Agency owners must decide if it is a worthy investment. Many times it results in a much longer relationship. A long-term retention plan can be a worthwhile effort in the beginning of a client relationship.
It's not easy to retain clients even when an agency is at its best. This is why we should avoid the pitfalls of taking client relations for granted.
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