Adrian GRECH
Adrian GRECH 18 December 2023

Why Do Clients Leave Agencies? (Spoiler: It's Not Because of Results)

Client turnover is becoming increasingly problematic for marketing agencies. When agency owners get a sense that a client may be at risk, their typical response is to dive into their account and work on their numbers. The irony is that results are not the reason that clients are leaving agencies. This article outlines why clients want to leave agencies and what can be done to prevent this.

You work hard for your clients, you deliver great results for them, yet you still receive an unexpected meeting invitation, a meeting in which a client gives you their notice. It’s a common story across the agency world, and one which leaves agency owners frustrated and deflated.

From the client’s perspective, they acknowledge that the agency has put in the effort and delivered on KPIs. And rather than giving sound reasoning as to why they’re leaving, they instead provide vague excuses like “we want a fresh approach” or “we need an agency that really ‘gets’ us”.

So if it’s not results, then what is it that keeps hold of clients long-term? What is that elusive quality that clients are seeking from their agency?

For clients, it’s less about what is delivered and more about how they feel. They want to feel they’re in good hands with their agency, that their agency has understood their specific needs, and has their best interests at heart.

They want to know that they can trust their agency through thick and thin. In short, it’s all about the Client-Agency Relationship.

And a 10 year study by consultancy group Aprais has shown exactly this. They collated data from over 23,000 agency clients and found that qualities of the relationship “...are now outstripping functional skills” in terms of importance to clients.

In 2022, a study by Havas Media highlighted that Client-Agency relationships are in need of urgent improvement.

A series of other studies have similarly concluded that relationships are now central to client retention.

The Top 40 Client-Agency Relationships Last an Average of 22 Years

Overcoming Top Barriers To Agency Growth

Agency–Client Relationship Factors Across Life-Cycle Stages

Here’s the irony - few agencies work on improving their ability to manage client relationships.

They instead focus on things like upskilling their staff technically, exploring new advertising channels, or investing into the latest and greatest martech. All of which are geared towards improving their client’s results. However…

The Painful Truth is That You Can Deliver on Results and Still Lose the Client!

So next time you sense a client might be at risk, think carefully about what you do next. The automatic response might be to dive into their account to work on their numbers. But, if their numbers are already good, it's far more productive to work on the relationship instead.

Pick up the phone and let your client give you their perspective. Do they see the agency as valuable, are they getting what they need, what are their issues (real or perceived), and then get to work on rectifying things.

Your unscheduled call might be the first step towards preventing an unscheduled call from the client in the near future.

If you’d like more information or want to ask a question, please do so via the comments or contact me directly.

Will Zeal
Will Zeal

Focusing on numbers alone misses the mark. I've seen this firsthand where agencies scramble at the last minute to improve metrics without addressing deeper issues. <a href="">Will zeal</a>

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