October 7, 2021
Whether you have just launched a new startup or have crushed campaigns for decades, you likely want to get clients that contribute toward your goals for scaling your agency. From client bases of Fortune 500 corporations to dedicated networks of local businesses, the quality of your client roster plays a direct role in your ability to scale.
Every agency leader can name at least one client that causes the most friction with their team. It feels like, no matter what you do, the client just does not align with the way that you conduct your business.
This does not mean they are a “bad” client. However, it indicates that they are not compatible with your agency. Having a large number of incompatible clients can cut against your ability to scale as much as other pain points like struggling to hire more of the right people.
When searching for the best clients to help your agency scale, it’s about finding the right opportunities, not just casting a wide net and hoping for the best. What might look like a “white whale” client on the surface may not always prove an ideal fit for the way you run your own business.
Today, we’re going to discuss how to identify both high-compatibility and low-compatibility clients. Practicing discernment during your lead nurturing process can help you better identify which current and/or potential clients are the right fit for your long-term business goals.
First, let’s cover some ways that you might be able to identify an incompatible client:
People and businesses are too multifaceted to simply label as “bad” or “good.” Instead, when it comes to determining if a potential or current client is the right fit for your agency, we prefer the terms “compatible” or “incompatible.” They may run an excellent business, but their culture, processes, or expectations may just not align with your own.
An incompatible client can hinder your team’s ability to deliver consistently on campaigns and drive true results for their business. Sometimes, these issues can be resolved, but in many cases, they become persistent points of friction. Large agencies with more expansive teams and client bases can continue to scale beyond incompatible clients with less difficulty than smaller agencies.
When an incompatible client drives a wrench in the gears that make your agency machine hum, this takes the focus away from your core objectives.
Here are some factors you should consider when screening potential clients:
As an agency leader, you do not have to expect your client to possess senior analyst-level knowledge of your products and services. Instead, you should pay attention to how much the client understands the value of what they are paying for.
Does the client understand why you are doing what you’re doing to achieve a campaign’s desired outcome? If not, this can affect their ability to trust your team to manage the campaign in the way that best benefits their business goals.
In these situations, a client will either not understand aspects of digital marketing and want to learn more, or they will not care to understand. If they do not care about their marketing as much as you do, this is a key indicator of incompatibility.
Simply put: The more competitive an industry is, the more budget you need to generate results from your campaigns. A lawyer in New York City will require an exponentially larger paid search budget than one in Cape May County, New Jersey. Why is that? The Big Apple has more hands reaching for a piece of the same pie than a highly seasonal shore community.
Continuing with the NYC lawyer example, if a lawyer based in the city wants to spend $2,000 each month to try to achieve 20,000 monthly conversions on their contact form, this will not generate the desired outcome. Why? There are many other lawyers in the same geographic area with monthly budgets in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. They will always have the larger budget to win PPC auctions for more keywords.
If the client’s expectations are not realistic, they will seldom show satisfaction. This can create an adversarial aspect to your agency-client relationship that cannot be truly resolved until either the client lowers their expectations or increases their budget to match it.
Great client relationships are built on trust. The client trusts the agency to manage their campaigns with a large amount of autonomy and the agency fulfills their digital marketing needs consistently. In short: Both parties allow the data and results to speak for themselves.
In reality, though, incompatible clients will examine every aspect of your team’s operations with a fine-toothed comb and look for reasons to complain about the results they are receiving. If the client continues to remain skeptical of your team’s work, despite months of driving success for their campaigns, you will hit a point of friction that is not always easily resolved.
Lack of client trust often comes down to objectivity: Are you delivering what they’re looking for? As marketers, we view achievements on a metrics basis. Are the numbers on the spreadsheet where they need to be? Are the checkboxes checked off? To the client, their perceived achievements are more aligned to their big-picture business goals. They are looking at reports that you provide them to see if their investment generated the desired return.
Using a framework like Key Performance Actions (KPAs) provides a more objective way for both agencies and clients to set goals and measure performance on the path to achieving them. A KPA campaign builds from the overall business goal the client desires and reverse-engineers a campaign structure to meet it. Whereas a conventional campaign might track only conversions, KPAs track audience behavior data from all aspects of the campaign to paint a more holistic picture of the engagement your marketing efforts are generating.
Does the client fail to meet their financial obligations to your agency on time? If you are losing revenue for the services you are providing, this can create a rather large strain on the account relationship. For example, the client may say that they want to continue receiving services but cannot or will not pay for them at the moment the bill comes due.
From a project management standpoint, this also creates a large risk for scope creep. If account growth is not managed within the confines of the client budget, this can result in your team performing way more work for a client than what they want to pay for. Having an airtight process structure, clearly defined obligations in your MSA agreements, and a team of high-performing project managers are three key ways to combat this.
At the end of the day, your agency is a business, and it needs to operate profitably to achieve scale. If a client fails to honor their payments on time, it can cut directly against your own business goals.
Financial warning signs can also be identified during the screening process for potential clients. Ask them what their average monthly revenue is versus their desired monthly budget. For example, if they make approximately 20,000 dollars each month, but they need an $8,000 monthly marketing budget to achieve desired outcomes in their market or industry, they will not likely be able to consistently sustain spending 40% of their monthly revenue on marketing.
Many successful sales teams utilize the concept of buyer personas. What are the ideal types of customer avatars that you want to target? Similarly, in the agency world, consider the ideal types of clients you would want to have at your agency.
Some agencies dedicate the majority of their business to specific industries or geographic regions. Others may only work with agencies that can afford a certain minimum monthly marketing budget. Regardless of the exact type of ideal clients you’d want to have, knowing what it is you want in an ideal client can help you identify them.
To create ideal client personas, make a checklist of traits that you want to look for in an account. These might include but aren’t limited to:
Clients turn to agencies for digital marketing solutions that help them generate more traffic and key performance actions from target audiences. Knowing the client’s industry, developing a solution that meets their needs, and possessing the right team to execute on these initiatives can play an instrumental role in both expanding existing accounts and landing new ones. Lack of specificity is a major roadblock toward scale.
Client needs can evolve with time, and if your team has the means to adapt alongside, you can expand the account indefinitely. To assist in deploying a full suite of solutions, many agency leaders consider a white label digital performance partnership. This can help extend your in-house capabilities without the overhead that comes with hiring and training new internal team members.
Develop content for your own agency that shows your knowledge of digital marketing within the context of your ideal client’s industry. For example, if you wish to target healthcare clients for your business, dedicate blog posts and landing pages to digital marketing needs that these types of organizations commonly encounter. Nothing helps generate leads for your agency quite like a client viewing your killer pieces of content and saying “They get it.”
As you learn more about potential clients during the lead nurturing process, look for any red flags that might indicate low compatibility with your agency. If you identify them, be sure to ask the potential client about them to ensure that no miscommunications are happening during your sales process. If it turns out they may actually be incompatible, then you can make the decision whether or not to continue to try to land their account.
Many agencies are hesitant to let go of incompatible clients, even if they do not mesh with your internal processes or team. The thought of losing revenue is not something that helps agency leaders sleep at night.
However, if an incompatible client is impeding your ability to scale, it may require either terminating the account or choosing not to renew it when the service agreement expires. If you decide that you want to rid yourself of an incompatible account, start looking for a new, more compatible client that could replace the revenue that you would otherwise lose by letting the incompatible one walk. In most cases, a lateral move financially for a client that is better aligned with your agency can bring more long-term benefits over time.
With the right digital performance partnership, your agency can stand a greater chance of getting the right clients to meet your scale initiatives. With a full suite of digital solutions, you can remain competitive to land the clients you want and offer them the services they need in the moment to retain them long-term.
At Conduit, helping successful agencies to continue landing and expanding high-quality clients is the reason we open our doors every morning. With a full suite of expert-managed in-house digital solutions, we can bridge the gap you need to pursue your ideal client accounts with confidence. To learn more about how our team can help you say yes to more of the right opportunities for your agency, visit our partnership page for more information.