It seems like only yesterday you were chasing after your first client.
Whether it was the car wash down the street, your friend the jewelry artist, or your uncle the small business owner, you went after them with the tenacity that’s grown your digital marketing agency to the powerhouse it’s become.
You’ve come a long way, but today you’re starting to realize that the business relationships you built your agency on aren’t as beneficial as they once were. For one reason or another, you’re starting to think you’ve outgrown them.
If you recognize any of these six clients, it may be time to rethink some contracts.
This contract started as a favor to your close friend who, after finding out you were starting your own agency, asked if you wouldn’t mind posting to his company’s Facebook page a few times a week.
Short of work and needing money, you met the request knowing full well that getting into business together could potentially ruin your longstanding relationship.
Years later, your friendship is still intact, but business-wise you’re starting to recognize that things aren’t working as well as you’d like them to.
Ask yourself: Is your friend significantly contributing to your agency’s overall revenue? Are you performing work for them that you no longer offer? Are your skills beyond their needs now?
The answers will determine whether or not you refer this client to someone else who can better handle their requests.
Try to let this client go by gently hinting that a freelancer or a smaller agency might be a better fit for them now that you’re accommodating bigger organizations.
If they can’t take the hint, be honest with them. Let them know that they’ve been a valuable part of your growth up to this point, but that you need to focus your staff’s efforts on larger, more relevant sources of business.
Similar to the close friend, this client can be tough to deal with. They’re close to you — you’ve known them your whole life, and, as a result, it can be difficult to acknowledge that you’ve outgrown them.
What likely started as a favor for family has now turned into another favor. And another. And another. But favors don’t pay the bills.
Even if you're being compensated for your time, it’s likely at a discount because you either don’t feel comfortable charging your full rate or your family member has specifically asked for special treatment. Either way, it’s time to determine whether or not you should move on.
Relationships that start with favors are almost never equal. Remember that your time is valuable, and you deserve to be fairly compensated for your work. If your family member is making more and more demands without paying the price, you’re being taken advantage of.
Dropping a client that you’ll likely see occasionally at family get-togethers isn’t easy. But one thing you have going for you is that they’ll (hopefully) have your best interest at heart.
Try to explain that your business can’t afford to do free work. If they really do love your work (and you) and aren’t just interested in getting a bargain, they’ll pay for what you produce. If they’re not willing to cut you a check, then they don’t deserve your services.
These clients have been with you since the beginning, and because of that, they believe they’re entitled to preferential treatment. They want content produced on short notice, they want you on conference calls multiple times a week, and they want unlimited revisions of your work.
Unfortunately, that’s not how marketing firms do business. Often the biggest contracts are the ones that get the most attention, not the longest standing ones. If your client can’t understand that, you may have outgrown them.
If you hear things like “But we’ve been with you since the beginning,” or “You wouldn’t even have made it to this point without us,” it’s likely your clients are trying to guilt you into preferential treatment.
Don’t fall for it.
While you’ve probably maintained a friendly relationship with many of your first clients, this is business. If they can’t understand that they need to share your attention, then it might be time to move on.
If it’s more attention they want, and you can’t give it to them, suggest they seek out a smaller agency with more time to give them what they want.
When your agency was in its infancy, you charged a modest rate. You were more concerned with collecting clients and earning experience than you were with making money. As a result, years later there are still clients who are getting your work for a bargain price.
Now you have more than enough experience, and business, to keep your agency growing, it’s time to prioritize which sources of business are most valuable to you.
Imagine all the revenue from all of your clients as a big pie. If one client takes up more than 10% of that pie, then it’s detrimental to your agency. Losing them could mean financial trouble.
On the flipside, if a client takes up less than 5% of that pie, then they’re not a big enough source of revenue to warrant retaining.
Before you drop this client, try to get them to pay what you’re worth. At this point they’ll do one of three things:
When one of these happens, you’ll need to determine just how flexible you’re willing to be, if at all. If they can’t break that 5% mark, you should probably go your separate ways.
Doing this will not only keep your agency financially stable now, but it’ll set a precedent for future negotiations as well.
There was a time you were taking any work you could get — social media marketing, link-building, press release writing. But over the years you’ve tried to differentiate yourself from other digital marketing agencies by narrowing your focus to just landing page marketing.
Now that you have multiple clients who have contracted you do what you specialize in, the less relevant work like link-building is something you no longer need to generate revenue for your agency.
It’s easy to spot when you’ve outgrown this type of client. Are you performing services you no longer offer? For example, are you managing paid social media advertising even though your specialty is copywriting?
If the answer is “yes”, it’s time to decide whether or not to let this client go.
You don’t have to immediately kick this client to the curb. If you’re still doing some work that’s relevant to your business, it’s worth trying to work out.
To put yourself in a win-win situation, let your client know that you’re moving away from services you once offered. If they believe those services are a key component of what you offer, they may also feel that you’re no longer a good fit for each other. A mutual understanding like this will make moving on pretty easy.
But you may also find that they’re willing to hire another agency or a freelancer to do the work you no longer want to. In that case, you’ll not only be able to keep their business, but you’ll be able to do the work you want, too.
Like the client for whom you perform services you no longer offer, this one expects you to continue doing tasks that are best left for an intern.
At one point you may have been willing to complete grunt work, but now you’ve got a clientele that pays you to do the higher-level tasks worthy of your experience.
If you’re a small team consisting of a few experts with no lower-level staff to delegate to, and you’re being asked to complete tedious busywork, it’s time to speak up.
Make it clear to your client that you feel as though the work you’re being assigned is no longer a fit for your skills. Like the outdated client, this one may also be willing to hire someone to meet the needs that you’re no longer willing to, while giving you more important tasks complete.
But keep in mind they’re also just as likely to tell you they no longer need your services. As long as you’re ready to move on, there’s nothing wrong with being frank.
For your benefit, and your agency’s, it’s important to disregard any personal feelings you may have about your clients. Conduct a simple cost-benefit analysis. Are these clients worth your time and effort? Are they giving you what you deserve (assignments, pay, respect)?
If they’re not, it might be time to move on. Focus your attention on mutually beneficial relationships. Write those clients compelling articles, create great designs, and build them optimized landing pages with Instapage’s easy-to-use, designer-friendly software.