One of the biggest problems most marketing agencies grapple with–or will grapple with at some point–is growth. Growth means bringing more customers into the agency. But customer acquisition isn’t the issue.
Sure, you have to commit significant time, money, resources, and effort into targeting the right, new clients, nurturing potential-filled leads, and making sure the pipeline is full and healthy. But the real challenge you face–when trying to grow your agency–is doing all of the above, while still keeping your existing base of clients happy and fulfilled.
If you pour the majority of your time, resources, and budget into new client acquisition, there won’t be enough time, resources, or budget left to retain your existing clients.
Think about it: Say you put all your time, effort, and resources into bringing new clients into the agency. So much so, you end up with a nice, big pile of shiny new clients, and your agency is booming.
But because your time, attention, and focus is on these shiny new clients, before long, your loyal client base–who have been by your side since day one, and who you have worked tirelessly with, to build strong, mutually-beneficial relationships–will start to feel neglected and unimportant. They’ll feel like they’re at the rock bottom of your shiny new client pile.
And because–unfortunately for you–it’s a buyer’s market, there are way too many other agencies out there for anyone to be at the bottom of any pile for too long.
So, before you know it, you’ll be back at square one, with just new, unfamiliar, and demanding clients that you have to bend over backward to appease. You’ll have to learn their individual nuances, smooth out the wrinkles in your working relationships, educate clients, and carefully manage their expectations. It’ll be a long, hard slog.
And guess what? You won’t have grown a millimeter.
So what’s the answer? How do you increase client stickiness and reduce churn, while also achieving growth?
Together, they’re going to share their ideas on how we can keep our cash flow positive by growing our agency and how to reduce churn along the way.
How Agencies Can Grow (and How to Reduce Churn) at the Same Time
Let’s get into the three ways agencies can grow while reducing churn.
Improve growth & reduce churn tactic #1: Diversify your services
Diversifying your services means you’ve got to expand your proposition.
You’ve got to find more things to sell to your existing customer base. It’s effectively like adding an additional revenue string to your revenue bow.
“What diversifying services really means is expanding your existing proposition, and being able to deliver additional value, at an additional cost.” (Rachel Nulman-Shapiro)
The key thing to remember when looking at what additional services or products you can sell to your client base is that whatever additional revenue strings you add to your bow should not suck up budget, time, and resources.
Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of either diluting your acquisition efforts or ruining your retention strategy.
How can you diversify services without draining time, resources, and budget?
Find a tool that takes the leg work out of what you’re offering.
Take vcita, for example. Vcita is an all-in-one business management platform that has everything a small business could possibly need–from payment collection and billing features to client management, and SMS marketing capabilities–to run and grow their business.
But rather than just selling their product to small business customers, vcita also sells to agencies, who either use the software to manage their client’s day-to-day business activity or whitelabel the software and resell it to their clients.
Using an all-in-one tool that takes care of their client’s day-to-day management of vital, core business activity is a perfect way to offer additional value to your client base.
On top of building your clients’ website, running their lead-generation campaigns, and keeping on top of their SEO strategy, you’re extending your services to include the daily management of their business, but without hemorrhaging your own time, budget, or resources.
“You go from just being their marketing agency to being an essential, core part of the entire business. Every time your client receives a message, every time they get a booking, or every time they issue an invoice, they’re going to be using this platform, delivered by you, the agency.” (Rachel Nulman-Schapiro)
Suddenly, you’ll go from being the agency that just builds websites to the agency that also provides the foundation for vital, everyday business activity.
It’s a similar story with a platform like Agorapulse.
“We do this huge agency summit in June and a lot of the content we put out there is designed to help agencies diversify their services. I say, ‘You’re an SEO agency? Great! Come to this event.’ So they come, and they realize that with an all-in-one social media management tool–like Agorapulse–they can also be a social media agency, too. They can use Agorapulse to manage multiple client social accounts, with minimal time and effort.” (Mike Allton)
It’s all about perceived value and finding a solution, like Agorapulse or vcita, that can fulfill a hidden client need, without costing you all your time, effort, and money.
Improve growth & reduce churn tactic #2: Prove your worth
“Being able to prove your worth and prove the direct impact that you’re having on your client’s business? That’s gonna help that retention for sure.” (Rachel Nulman-Schapiro)
In agencies, success or failure will always be tied to whether you’re making your clients a return on their investment for your services. They’ll never stop questioning if the amount they’re paying in agency fees is worth it … or not. They’ll never stop questioning if what you’re doing is working … or not.
And they’ll never stop questioning if you’re moving the needle on their key objectives. Or not.
Clients will always want proof that they’re getting enough value from your services to continue using you. You will always be under scrutiny because, as we established earlier, there will always be another agency waiting on the sidelines, ready to take over if you don’t deliver. It’s the only certainty in life (aside from death and taxes, of course).
“Nothing is done in the dark anymore [with the exception of dark social]. You’re held accountable for every single click and every single traffic source. Your clients want to know exactly what the net value of the services you’re delivering is, because everything is measurable.” (Rachel Nulman-Schapiro)
If you’re diversifying and offering your client additional services, though, this pressure is even higher.
For example, if you’re charging your clients more but promising them that your efficient completion of their day-to-day business tasks will save them money, or that their social media strategy is going to boost business, they’ll want to see those promises come true.
In cold, hard cash.
They’ll need to see that your additional services are worth their extra dollars.
How can you prove your worth to clients?
“Usually when partnering with a SaaS provider, like vcita, this type of measurement is actually really, really easy. You’ll have access to this type of data and be able to see exactly how much revenue you’re actually driving from this new service you’re rolling out. And these types of products are also usually built to seamlessly integrate with your existing tools, like reporting dashboards, etc.” (Rachel Nulman-Schapiro)
It’s a little trickier to prove revenue with a channel like social media.
This is because the data you have easy access to covers intangible metrics–like shares, likes, and follows–which demonstrate engagement, not cash.
But it isn’t impossible.
Not with Agorapulse. Agorapulse is the only social media management platform that connects to Google Analytics and auto-adds UTMs to every link that you publish.
This allows you to track user journeys through the funnel and establish what social media content is and isn’t driving Social Media ROI.
Plus, you have access to a built-in ROI calculator that allows you to track, in monetary terms, how effective your social media activity is.
Improve growth & reduce churn tactic #3: Keep them engaged
There’s a great metric that’s used a lot within the SaaS market, which is called the engagement score.
“We calculate activities that are happening on the platform,” says Rachel Nulman-Schapiro. “We know when the user is on the platform. We know what they’re doing on the platform, and we’re able to determine the level of engagement at any given time. We’re then able to bucket users according to their behavior within the platform. We’re able to say, ‘These guys are super-engaged. They know exactly what they’re doing. We should continue nurturing and engaging them and giving them more ideas about how they can leverage the platform.’
“Then, on the other side, there are users who are completely disengaged. Maybe they haven’t logged in for a while. So we adopt a different, more specific approach and strategy for them.”
If you’re able to understand the different levels of engagement your clients have with you, you can use that knowledge to create a plan to prevent churn.
“We also pay close attention to our users at Agorapulse,” says Mike Allton. “We have an engagement score, and we know exactly how many things they need to do–within their first 30 to 60 days of using us–to know whether they’re going to become a paying client or not. [But] at month six, twelve, or eighteen, are they still engaged? Are they still using the app? Are we reaching out via email, text messages, even phone calls to ask?”
How can you make sure your clients remain engaged?
“We have this automated alert system where we’re able to tell when users are dropping out of adoption,” says Nulman-Schapiro. “If someone was super-engaged on the platform, but then suddenly slows down, we get a red flag alert and we’re able to jump in, at that point, and ask the customer what’s going on: ‘How come you haven’t you logged in for several days? I’m sending you these leads, is anything happening, are you in touch with these people? Am I bringing you any real value?’
“If we don’t catch them early, they’re going to become less engaged in the platform, they’re not gonna see the value, and they’re going to churn.”
It’s the same for agency professionals.
Sometimes, you’ll have accounts where you have no idea if they’re engaged or not because they go quiet, or they give little feedback.
You’re not sure if they’re getting the leads they want, if the website is performing as they’d like, if the campaign is converting as they anticipated, or if they’re doing anything with the leads you’ve generated for them.
So, ask your clients.
Set up regular communication opportunities, such as monthly or weekly update calls or automated weekly emails, to stay at the top of their minds and catch any underlying issues before they churn.
But it isn’t always easy to reach out to a customer and ask if they’re happy with you or not.
“I think a lot of people might be afraid to reach out to a customer who seems like they’re distancing themselves from you.” (Rachel Nulman-Schapiro)
People worry that if they ask a client if something is wrong, it’s going to encourage that client to hit the cancel button.
“This is something we think about when we send out an email blast that we know is gonna reach people that haven’t been engaged. We worry that the email might encourage them to re-evaluate our services, and question whether or not it’s bringing them value. If they think it isn’t, they’ll simply turn around and say, ‘You know what? We don’t need this.’ And hit cancel.” (Mike Allton)
At the point they cancel, you’re pretty powerless to stop them from leaving. But if you’d had the conversation about perceived value earlier on, you could’ve helped them to see the value in using your services and persuaded them to stick around. This is because, more often than not, people want to get the value they signed up for, more than they want to leave.
Clients want the service they paid for. They want those additional leads. They want assistance with growing their business. It’s only if they believe they’re not getting what they were promised that they become disengaged and at risk of churn.
“Small businesses are really passionate about what they do. The sole reason they went into business is because they love their product or service. So they want what you’re offering because they want to see their business succeed. You just have to make sure they’re receiving what you told them they’d get.” (Rachel Nulman-Schapiro)
Make sure your clients are getting the value you promised them.
If you make the effort to proactively find out if they are, and you discover that they’re not, they’ll respect and appreciate your commitment to rectifying the issue.
“Speak to them in their language,” says Nulman-Schapiro. “It’s not about you, ‘Oh! Please don’t cancel our service.’ It’s about saying: ‘Hey, we know you have this dream, and you signed up for our service because you want to pursue that dream. We’re committed to helping you do that. So let’s see how we can make this work for you.’
“Bring them back into the engagement pool. Keep them engaged, keep them close, make sure they don’t churn, and make sure they don’t move over to our competitors.”
What to Learn About How to Improve Growth and Reduce Churn
The key to growth without churn is to pay close attention to your existing clients.
Look at how you can expand your offering and add value. Make sure you can prove–in monetary terms–that your offering is bringing them a return on investment. And keep a close eye on their engagement levels.
Don’t be afraid to ask your agency clients whether they’re happy. And have a plan to re-engage them, if they aren’t.
Make them remember why they fell in love with you in the first place.
Sign up now for a free demo and see all the remarkable things you can do for your agency by using Agorapulse!