Let’s talk about churn
Ah, churn. It’s that aspect of business that tightens the stomach of any agency owner and keeps them awake at night.
Akin in some ways to a breakup, churn (also known as client turnover) can cause major headaches for an aspiring freelancer or a smaller agency looking to get its footing. This hurts even more in continued periods of client drop-off. It might even feel like a negative spiral leading to an agency’s doom.
It’s not; we promise.
Churn is an inevitable, part of owning an agency.
Clients come and clients go. No matter how much you love your clients and they love you, it’s unlikely that they’ll stick with you forever.
It’s not you — well, not always you.
Motivations for Churn
There is no set reason for client churn, but there are certainly a few that appear more often than not. These include:
- Low client engagement.
- Poor initial results and satisfaction.
- External motivations.
- Declining sales and successes.
While it’s obvious that you can’t control what happens to your clients within their own markets, there are many other factors that you certainly can, and should address immediately.
Churn shouldn’t be defining your business strategy
As you’ve surely discovered by now, it’s much easier — and less expensive — to gain business from continuing clients than to chase new ones.
(In fact, according to Zarema Plaksij, it’s 16 times more expensive to develop new clients than maintain the ones you already have.)
In addition, if you’re doing a great job, it would be natural that your happy and successful clients would do some of the lead-finding for you, through recommendations to friends and family.
You should not be wasting your time and heartache on a continuous cycle of chasing and churn.
Check out these 7 ideas instead.
Though it’s impossible to completely eliminate all client churn, these strategies can help you reduce it to a point of reaching harmony and stability within your agency.
7 Ideas for Reducing Client Churn
Resolving high churn rates isn’t rocket science — more than anything, it has to do with a shift in focus.
Consider the following ideas as potential solutions for your churn-based woes.
Best of all, most of them are completely free or come at an extremely minimal cost to you.
1. Keep personal content relatable and presentable
Have you ever scrolled through pictures of someone on your phone, frantically assuring your audience that the person on your screen was actually very attractive?
Don’t make your clients do that for you. Tackle the problem at its roots.
While it might be tempting to spend all of your time working on your clients’ sites, don’t forget that the inevitability of churn means that you must keep yourself looking fresh, too.
Be discoverable, and be presentable.
2. Maintain active communication with your clients
Any good relationship requires regular, if not constant, communication. Don’t make your clients chase you down to ask for site changes or to discuss updates.
Make sure that you’re carving out time for regular conversations and feedback.
Not only will this assure that your client continues receiving exactly what they’re looking for, but it will also benefit you in the long run by shaping data around your successful and less-successful strategies.
Consider sending out a regular (but not incessant) newsletter to your current clients about your latest updates and improvements, plus special offers and features that they can add to their pre-existing plans.
3. Be ready to pivot
If it’s not broken don’t fix it.
If it is, fix it — immediately.
If certain plugins are causing glitches in your clients’ sites and filling up your inbox with angry emails, it’s time to ditch it yesterday and opt for a better solution.
If layouts are leaving your clients’ typical site traffic stagnant and unengaged, don’t wait ‘til tomorrow to make the change.
It’s up to you, in your promise to your clients, to ensure that you’re always actively vigilant and have their best interests at heart.
4. Use tools and tech to your advantage
Depending on your budget, you might benefit from some tools and applications to keep you on track with your churn rates and to maintain a realistic perspective, like this customizable measurement system by Totango.
Other plugins and apps such as Pollfish can help reduce churn for both you and your clients by creating engaging and informative surveys.
5. Build in incentives and binding elements
Growth is not diagonally ascending, and it’s not constant. You need to ensure that your clients stay by more than verbal promises and reassurances when the going gets tough.
Incentivizing the creation of longer contracts through deals and promotions will go a long way in giving you the chance you need to jump-start a client’s tangible success.
What’s more, it’s unlikely that they will skip out on the last few months of an established contract, so as not to waste money.
6. Ensure a steady trajectory by staying on top of trends
Be hip. Be happening.
Be on the pulse of what’s new in terms of the programs you’re using to create eye-catching and relevant sites for your clients.
A client will be much more satisfied with you if you’re informing them about new online trends and potential upgrades than the other way around.
With a little bit of application, experimentation, and virtual elbow grease, any of these ideas could set you up for success.
But, wait for it — the seventh idea might be the most shocking of all!
7. Embrace the Positive Side of Churn
It seems like a contradictory statement, but in fact, churn does have its benefits!
While churn is something that no one welcomes with open arms, you can use it to your advantage to better both your individual sites and your agency’s overall approach.
Churn as a learning tool
With churn, we learn! There’s a story behind every client coming and going. Don’t forget to consider these aspects after you’ve watched your client walk away.
Churn can be valuable (unspoken) client feedback
As previously mentioned, there are some reasons beyond our control that clients drift away from us, primarily related to the success of their businesses. Unless the causes of that failure are directly related to your role within the operations, let those losses roll off your shoulders.
Instead, seek out trends that form among the other clients that have churned, looking for patterns such as business size, industry, and other defining factors. These can help you pinpoint certain areas where you could be better prepared in the future.
See if the strategy you used with those categories of clients was similar, and, if so, make adjustments where needed.
Without the clients having directly stated this to you (maybe they didn’t even realize it themselves), you’ve gleaned valuable insights that better your agency for the future.
Let churn be a motivator!
How do you react when you find out that, for whatever reason, a client has dropped off? Do you wallow in self-pity, or do you use it as fuel to double your efforts, ensuring that one client lost results in two clients gained?
Perhaps the client you lost was impossible to please, taking up far more of your team’s hours than what they paid for. Maybe an opportunity has unexpectedly opened up to tackle different types of challenges and clients.
At the end of the day, our perspective plays a huge role in the long-term effects of churn.
Clients are the lifeblood of a digital agency, but churn doesn’t have to be the poison. By implementing new strategies and being proactive in the face of churn, churn has as much potential to serve as a force of good as it does to be the alternative.
So get out there and make churn work for you.
For more advice and ideas on how to minimize churn rates, check out our Digital Agency Owners Facebook group.
We have conversations with other agency owners each week, plus webinars and roundtable discussions with those who have dealt with the same issues. Come discuss with us!