Are you sick of hearing the same old excuses from your content marketing clients when they stop working with you?
They either don’t see the value in your work, have run out of money, or chose to handle their content marketing in-house.
It’s easy in this situation to place the blame externally.
I bet you’ve muttered this to yourself almost every time you lose a client…
“They just didn’t get it…”
I don’t mean to play devil’s advocate here, but is there any chance this is your fault?
Is there a reason that your clients don’t see the value in what you are doing for them?
It’s time to take some responsibility for the growth and prosperity of your agency. Instead of making excuses, learn from every blow to the ribs. Get better at what you do. Understand how to block more of those blows before they ever come your way, and start to alleviate the risk that comes with relying on other businesses to pay your bills.
In this article, I look at seven common reasons agencies lose content marketing clients. Each is within your scope of influence.
Of course, sometimes you will lose clients. I get that. But if you minimize the chance of these seven things ever happening, then your losses will become less frequent. Client retention will improve. And your agency will grow.
Reason #1: You Didn’t Set Clear Expectations in the Beginning
What exactly do your clients think they’re getting from your services? If you don’t set clear expectations right from the get-go, then they are unlikely to be impressed with the results.
Your clients are paying you good money to raise their company’s profile. As with any investment, they expect results worth their dollars. Too often agencies over-promise and set themselves up for failure.
The expectations you establish during the sales conversation are critical to the long-term health of your client relationship.
You need to create a commitment from the client about what they are actually paying for. Don’t sign a contract until you hear them commit to a set of outcomes and expectations that you know you can deliver.
The expectations you set at the beginning of your client relationship aren’t just about results either. You also need to establish expectations for things like the scope of work, lead times, accountability, key deliverables, communication channels, and potential bottlenecks.
If at any point in time your client has a different definition of what success looks like in any of these areas, then it becomes a risk in the relationship. Reduce as many risks as possible and your chance of retention skyrockets.
If you set clear and accurate expectations from day one, no one will be disappointed.
Reason #2: You Over-Sold the “Lead Gen” Component of Content Marketing
Anyone that is investing in content marketing wants leads, of course. So it’s natural to bring up the lead gen conversation when you are setting expectations and trying to close new business. But try not to go overboard with it. In fact, I’d recommend leaning towards under-selling this component as much as possible.
The reality is, content marketing isn’t AdWords. You can’t just turn on a tap and start getting leads the next day. It’s a slow burn with a complex model for attributing leads and sales. Most marketers still use a last-touch model for attribution. This will almost always be an ad, an email, or a phone call. So despite the 10-touches you had with a new customer through content, prior to the time they clicked on an ad, content marketing doesn’t get the kudos.
Instead of going all-in on lead gen as a selling point, focus on the endless list of benefits that content marketing can deliver to a business with clear attribution. Social proof, authority, lead nurturing, customer education and SEO performance are better outcomes to be held accountable for. The leads you generate can be the icing on the cake.
If you over-sell the likelihood of content marketing delivering leads to a client, then you won’t meet their expectations. They will critique the performance of your work before you even have a chance to get going.
Reason #3: You’re Not Delivering Consistent Quality
Publishing consistent high-quality content is hard work… we all know that. But that’s why you have a client in the first place. They have probably tried to do it themselves and failed. So now they are outsourcing it with the hope that it will remove headaches and establish consistency.
But as your agency grows it becomes hard to maintain the same level of quality that your first group of clients experienced. As much as you can tick all the boxes from a recruitment and training perspective, your team members will have nuanced ways to deliver. You can bridge the gap between your expectations and the end deliverables by documenting quality assurance (QA) checklists and guidelines.
QA documentation helps set expectations with your clients and gives them confidence that you have systems in place to meet those expectations.
Reason #4: You’re Missing Deadlines
Even though you have your systems and processes in place to create and deliver content, sometimes things don’t go to plan. What if you lose a content writer or designer? What if you can’t find a content marketing manager when you land a new set of clients, and your team is working down to the bone? What if you let scope creep destroy your ability to meet deadlines?
All of these things are a harsh reality in #agencylife. But you can do a few things to minimize these risks:
- Use a content marketing calendar to plan in advance.
- Remove client bottlenecks for creating or approving content. Ie. Get them to trust you to deliver without a 101-step approval process.
- Always have a Plan B, C, and D, when it comes to creating content, just in case life gets in the way. (Freelancers are great for filling a void)
- Front-load content creation. For example, if you’re contracted to create 4 blogs a month for a client, get them all written at once and have a backlog.
- Use project management software or a content workflow tool to establish a multi-tier internal deadline system. That way, you have 2 or 3 deadlines for your team to meet before the “real” client deadline approaches.
At the end of the day, you don’t have an excuse for missing content deadlines. That’s what you are getting paid for.
Reason #5: You’re Not Reporting Back to the Client
Have you ever settled into an engagement and taken it for granted? Don’t worry you’re not alone…
It’s human nature to get into a comfort zone and start looking for the next kill. “Ok, they’re happy. Whos’ next?”
But as soon as you take your eye off the ball for too long it can be a slippery slope. The big problem is that you may not find out that your clients are unhappy for several months, which can result in further complacency. By the time you find out, it’s too late.
Sure, you can’t hold their hand for the entire engagement, but it doesn’t mean they don’t like to be kept in the loop.
Set a few ground rules with them regarding progress reports, either by setting face to face meetings periodically, or sending them reports over email.
The way you communicate with them is up to you (and them), though it’s probably better for all parties if you hold a meeting to discuss results.
Your reporting process should show the client resource allocation, content output, and relevant outcomes, and closely align with the initial agreement.
Reason #6: You Don’t Practice What You Preach
Is your agency’s content strategy as good as the hype you sell to clients?
If it’s not, then take a look in your backyard. Perception is everything. If your blog is a ghost town, your YouTube channel hasn’t seen a new video in 3 years, and your social profiles have a combined engagement rate of zero, why would I buy your content marketing services?
Things get busy. I know. But this is the lifeblood of your business.
Too many agencies forget to maintain the same high standards for their own marketing activity that they expect their clients to uphold. Not only does this hamper your ability to land new clients, but it also makes it hard to enforce deadlines on your clients and convince them that your approach is the best option for their business.
Practice what you preach. If you can’t market your own business, why should your clients’ trust you to market theirs?
Reason #7: You’re Working with Businesses That Have No Money (or Don’t See the Value)
The reason a client stops working with your agency could have nothing to do with you at all.
Maybe they were unconfident about content marketing as a means to boost their business all along. Or they always seemed worried about how much your fees were going to be, because they couldn’t afford them.
Either way, losing them is not entirely on you but you should still be held accountable.
Develop a sixth sense for analyzing the viability of a business opportunity, and choose to work with businesses on a positive trajectory – both financially and with their content efforts.
Instead of scraping the barrel and working with small businesses who are using you as their last-ditch effort, align yourself with successful businesses that will result in growth, case studies, and more business for your agency.
Losing clients is part of the job description… it will happen, and sometimes there is not much you can do about it.
But can you confidently say that you are not making any of these 7 mistakes?
Be honest with yourself and think about where you can refine your sales, onboarding and execution processes to minimize these risks.
It’s not all on you, but for the health of your business, you need to take ownership of it.