The Mire of Misunderstanding – A Reason Agencies Lose Clients

by Mark Appleton

No-one like losing anything. Even if you didn't want it anymore, or in the first place, it can still be irksome to lose it. I can only imagine the devastation of, say, losing one's mobile phone these days. They are so personal, they contain everything from phone numbers to messages and photos of loved ones. Despite the fact phones are just objects, ones that, despite their cost, we treat with an indifference that staggers me, we still cherish what's inside them.

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No-one like losing anything. Even if you didn't want it anymore, or in the first place, it can still be irksome to lose it. I can only imagine the devastation of, say, losing one's mobile phone these days. They are so personal, they contain everything from phone numbers to messages and photos of loved ones. Despite the fact phones are just objects, ones that, despite their cost, we treat with an indifference that staggers me, we still cherish what's inside them.

Agencies feel the same losing a client as you would be about losing your phone. It's a devastating blow and, to many in the agency, it is a personal blow. "Why did they leave?", "What did we do wrong?". These questions, and many more, get bandied around and asked to every man, woman, child and agency dog. Sometimes they may even get asked to the client who has just left…sometimes.

In those small circumstances when the question is put to the leaving client, an agency will rarely believe the answer. "That can't be it, there's something else going on" they'll say, or believe, or want to believe at any rate.

Sometimes there is genuinely nothing that an agency could have done. There are plenty of occasions when someone new comes along on the client side and decides that they liked the agency they were working with before, and they wish to continue. In those instances, it does not matter how good or otherwise you have been, some people just like the safety and security of what they know, new can be scary to some.

There are those other occasions that most agencies will find themselves involved in at some point, probably more than once. I like to call this nugget of a circumstance the "mire of misunderstanding". Very often an agency will only come to realise they are in the "mire of misunderstanding " when a client says that they are going to leave, or begins to be unhappy.

At this point the client will start to point out that you, Mr Agency, have not brought anything new to the table for a while. Where are all the new ideas? Why weren't we told about that latest fancy widget on the expensive system you sold us all that time ago? This will usually wrong foot you. Isn't this the same client that hasn't spent any money with you for the last X amount of time? Isn't this the client that won't sign up to a retainer, or perhaps has the smallest retainer ever? Isn't this the client that argues over every penny on every invoice…ever?

And so begins the "mire of misunderstanding ". Except, if a client has said this to you, you entered into that relationship with the client already in the "mire of misunderstanding ". You, as the agency, know that what you're selling is, essentially, thought. You are selling ideas, plans, thinking, and maybe some licenses and Adwords. The client bought in to you because of what you came up with, what you wowed them with, at the beginning of the relationship. They bought into your thinking and they want it all the time.

However, we all know that time is a valuable commodity within an agency. And, as the old cliche goes, time is money. The "mire of misunderstanding" is that the client expects you to be sat around thinking of ways to make them brilliant and believes that's what you do all the time. Meanwhile, in the reality that is running a business, your team are flat out on a different project, their time fully booked across many projects even. When do they have time to sit and think what would work for a client who isn't paying for that time?

This is the "mire of misunderstanding". A fundamental difference in how an agency plans and monitors time spent on projects versus clients who, well, don't really. They pay wages, they sell a service or a product, they check the financials. For most businesses, the thought of tracking time against a project is an alien concept. It's this difference that see's client after client leave agency after agency, essentially shouting over their shoulder "you don't love us anymore", as they bid a retreat into other welcoming agency arms elsewhere.

This is one of a multitude of reasons that clients bid farewell from an agency. The Agency Advantage are uniquely positioned to help you put a halt to this. We can speak to clients on your behalf, who talk more openly to us as we're independent, and can help you make the changes necessary to ensure the "mire of misunderstanding" isn't what brings your agency to a sticky end. Why not get in touch to see how you can help your agency be the best it can be.

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