I screwed up and lost a great client

The dangers of complacency and why your best source of future revenue is from clients you've already helped

😴 TL;DR

About: My firm was growing and I focused our collective energy chasing new opportunities allowing existing clients to potentially walk out the door.

Insight: Even if existing clients know and trust you, without regular nurturing, they will find someone else that makes them a priority. Current revenue sources should not be the only metric for determining which clients get your attention.

Action: Invest in processes to automate communications and establish consistent and sustainable touchpoints with all your clients. The only clients that should fall off your radar are those that you explicitly decide are no longer a good fit for your business.

If you know someone this would help, I’d appreciate a share! Thanks!!

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🤔 What is complacency?

I screwed up.

I lost a long-time client - my first actually - when I took my eye off the ball.

This happened years ago while building my first consulting business. It was growing quickly and it had more demand than my team could manage. So we were hiring at a fast pace relative to our small size.

My focus was on landing new clients and making them happy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that perspective yet it comes with consequences. My existing clients, the ones that were not actively engaged or contributing to a significant portion of current revenues, stopped hearing from me.

I had no process to stay top-of-mind. Up to that point, it was manual outreach and the occasional, ad hoc message to share something that made me think of them. When my focus shifted, they fell off my radar.

At the time, I allowed myself to blame other circumstances. Yet the fault was mine. I failed to talk to them and, as a consequence, I missed a change in power dynamics within their business. My close contacts and advocates no longer controlled the budget, which allowed a competitor to enter the picture.

The promise of a massive upgrade, several years in the making, disappeared.

I recall reaching out to my biggest advocate in that client business and he was clearly frustrated. Frustrated with me for letting it happen. That opportunity had been mine to lose and I let it happen because I didn’t check in regularly.

That’s complacency - I thought the future work was a slam dunk and let another consulting firm swoop in while I was chasing potential clients.

I made an implicit choice to chase a ‘maybe’ while I allowed a ‘promise’ to walk away.

😖 What does this all mean?!

If a client is relevant to your business, they must be a consistent priority.

It’s healthy to pursue new clients but not at the expense of your existing clients.

As I’ve shared before, churn can kill your momentum. Even worse, you’re inadvertently allowing a known client to leave while you’re pursuing others that may end up being inferior in the long run.

This is where systems and processes come into play. As your business grows, manual practices must evolve too. You can’t rely on your own efforts alone.

There are a number of ways to combat churn. I’ll focus on three of them and they are all high-leverage activities that can benefit many clients at the same time. This list barely scratches the surface of what can be done to stay on your clients’ radar.

1. Newsletters — the most important thing here is consistently delivering value over a long period of time. They provide an opportunity for your business to:

  • share new capabilities

  • share awards and media coverage

  • highlight new team members

  • discuss trends that may affect your clients’ businesses

But most importantly, it keeps your business top-of-mind. The more unique and valuable the content, the more they will come to anticipate and rely on it.

2. Webinars — like newsletters, these share insights and information that is helpful to your clients. These add value to many clients - even when they are not actively using your paid services - and to prospects. It’s an extremely high leverage activity.

The bar is very low for most service businesses. Yet there is a treasure trove of expertise and experience sitting there just waiting to be tapped. It’s also a great growth opportunity for ambitious employees.

3. Subscriptions — just because most service businesses choose to be transactional doesn’t mean your business has to be as well. Look for pain that must be reduced or eliminated on a consistent basis. Build a subscription service around that and bake in touchpoints for frequent communication. Share what you’ve done to proactively help your client and use that opportunity to learn more about their business. You’d be surprised by what you can learn. Listening is a powerful way to build rapport.

Nothing I’ve called out is brand new. Yet few consider them. With just a little effort, you can surpass most of your competitors and build an even bigger flywheel.

The key is consistently showing up.

🛑 — What do you do to stay top-of-mind for your clients? Share it in the comments.

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