How To Retain Agency Clients in a Challenging Economic Climate

29-Sep 2022
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Chelsea Williams SENIOR COPYWRITER

One of the hardest things about being a business leader is navigating the impact of external change. The post-pandemic move to remote work and the resulting rise in the need for digital services has been mostly good news for agencies over the past couple of years.

A survey by Productive and the Society of Digital Agencies found that 44% of agencies experienced 25% or more revenue growth in 2021.

Per Forrester’s 2022 predictions for agencies, perhaps you’ve been experiencing increased productivity and expanding your services to be more akin to consulting. But staying on this track requires a consistent stream of clients to serve, and recent economic changes may have put yours in jeopardy. Holding onto a client base could be difficult in a period marked by inflation and recession fears.

We’ll discuss how to retain your agency clients in difficult economic circumstances by:

Connect About Goals and Future Plans

When you’re bogged down in projects and churning out deliverables, it’s easy to neglect the bigger picture. But to wisely prioritize clients’ requests and encourage longer-term relationships, you have to understand their fears, goals and needs.

Making those connections doesn’t have to take away from your team’s billable time. It can be as simple as sending out automated surveys to find out how they’re adjusting due to rising costs or setting up quarterly check-ins with your highest-value clients.

If it’s been a while since you onboarded a client and you suspect their goals may have changed, it could help to ask them to complete an updated needs inventory. The results could be a great help in assessing how to make your services indispensable.

Demonstrate Understanding and Honesty

The last thing people want to encounter when they’re already feeling pressured is a salesy service provider. 

If you have to raise your prices, be honest about why. If your client is going through difficulties and needs some accommodations, consider them and respond in a straightforward manner. And if your team can’t accomplish what the client is requesting, simply say so. Perhaps there’s a way to work around the challenges you’re both facing and find a mutually beneficial solution.

Be real, and be human. Your clients will appreciate the truth and be much more likely to stay loyal if they feel you value them. 

Add Value Consistently

Although research by Bain & Company shows that a 5% jump in customer retention can result in a 25–95% increase in profits, it can be tempting to get distracted by the thought of shiny new business. Your current clients need some attention if you want to convert them into ongoing relationships.

A good rule of thumb is to give before you ask. That could mean suggesting additional services, doubling down on internal workflows to improve your project turnaround time or sending relevant new content to a client who’s been tough to get in touch with.

Bottom line: Don‘t take your existing client relationships for granted, as they could be the ones that offer you the most tangible ROI in a period of time when you need to be extra careful about each investment.

Be Sure Your Clients Are a Good Fit

Mindlessly aiming for across-the-board client retention isn’t always the best approach, even if you’re scared of losing business. Perhaps some of your clients are draining your resources and not getting the most out of working with you.

The prospect of letting go of clients in hard times might seem counterintuitive. But if it makes your agency more efficient and allows your team to dedicate more time to the clients who will stay the longest and therefore generate the most revenue, it could be worth it. Sometimes, quality is more profitable than quantity.

When you nail values alignment, you’ll find that retaining clients is no longer a struggle.

Stay Organized and Accurate With the Help of Tech

Despite common fears about adopting new tech, digital transformation is an effective way to improve client retention in a challenging economy. Not only will your clients appreciate speed and automation, but they’ll get concrete evidence of how much effort you’re dedicating to fulfilling their needs when you accurately track billable hours and sync those with invoices and project progress. A client portal with current status updates can ease their minds about the investment they’ve made in your services.

Smart tech that’s built specifically for the client journey will help you get a good handle on the full value of each client relationship and highlight which ones are worth protecting. Accelo is just that — a client work management platform made for service businesses like your agency. 

See how Accelo increased one agency’s profits by 40%.

Schedule a demo to see how the platform could support your business through economic ups and downs.

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