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2023 Best Practices Session 2: Customer Retention Strategies for Ad Agencies

Statistics for client retention isn't what it used to be for creative ad agencies. In fact, today clients are only staying as long as two and half years, with other reports indicating that clients ditch one in three agencies every twelve months. So, what does that mean for your ad agency? Well, the thing about statistics is that you can either become one or rise above the status quo.

In this Best Practices session, we'll provide a number of customer retention tips for ad agencies to ensure they achieve robust, long-term relationships with clients.


1. Understand your client's objectives and deliver on them

It might be a well-worn cliche, but client relationships are all about trust. So, one of the best ways to improve client retention is to earn the trust of your clients. To do this, your ad agency needs to prove that it can deliver on its promises. From the outset, you need to understand what a client's business objectives are and what they want to achieve. If a client has come to you for a brand refresh to reinvigorate sales, then you need to deliver innovative campaigns that are going to make a long-lasting impact. Remember that goal posts change along the way, so check in regularly with clients to make sure you're still on the same page with their goals.

2. Establish clear communications from the beginning

After any preliminary discussions on creative projects, it's critical that your creative team gets a comprehensive brief from the client so that there can be no room for confusion. Remember that communication is a two way street, so you need to keep the client up to date on how projects are tracking as well as any issues that arise. While highlighting a mistake can be a difficult conversation to have with a client, in the long run this can engender further trust. Just be sure to get it right the second time round!

3. Nurture your client relationships

Like the beginning of any new relationship, we put our best face forward, work hard, invest time and nurture it. Then we get comfortable and sometimes we get lazy. That's not to say you have to invest the same kind of energy you did in the beginning with clients, but some time is required to make sure they know their business is important to you. Take the opportunity to check in with them from time to time, do lunch occasionally, remember a birthday, send a thank you card, just something that makes them feel valued.

4. Demonstrate to your clients that you can grow from your mistakes

We're all human so mistakes happen. The critical factor here is that you demonstrate to your clients that you can learn and grow from your mistakes. Perhaps a few changes were overlooked in the approval workflow process which lead to more rounds of artwork revisions. Go back to the project and find out why the changes were missed. Were the changes saved in a central location where the designer had easy access to them? If not, then update your processes for saving documentation. Perhaps the designer guessed the handwritten mark ups instead of clarifying them with the client. Whatever the reason is, find it, fix it, and prove the next time round that you can get it right for the client.

5. Comprehensive reporting

Clients love to see stats because it gives them a window into your operations that they don't normally get. If you're required to provide reports to your clients, it's best to confirm with them what kind of reporting they'd like, how often and in what format. Make sure whatever reporting you send to them, it's relevant and easy to digest. Offer to take them through the reports the first time you send them so if they have any questions you can answer them

6. Implement digital tools to streamline your operations

Today, more and more brands are stipulating that their agency clients utilise agency management software to manage their approval workflow. The reason being that these tools offer brands unprecedented transparency over creative work. There's a range of digital tools available in the marketplace that can help you to streamline your operations. Agency project management software or approval workflow software can assist you in better monitoring and tracking projects. All files are saved in a central, online location so that all stakeholders can access it at any time to check a summary of work in progress. Some solutions also have integrated resource management such as admation so that you can always make sure your client projects are properly resourced. Simple reporting tools can also help you to generate instant WIPs to keep your clients happy.

7. Request feedback from clients to monitor your performance

Sometimes one of the best ways to improve client retention is to see what your clients think of your brand and services currently. Feedback from your client is a great way to see what your ad agency is getting right and where it can improve. Some companies like to send a survey form and, while there's nothing wrong with this, it can be a little impersonal. This might be a good opportunity to take a client to out to lunch or coffee and have an chat about your agency's work. Even if it's informal, be sure to document the key points afterwards and write an action plan to build on your weaknesses. By showing the client you can take feedback on board, it's a great way to demonstrate reliability and loyalty.

We hope these tips have helped you create a retention action plan you'd like to follow. Stay tuned for more articles in our Best Practices series. 

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