A strong and dependable portfolio of clients is the backbone of any healthy agency. When you have low churn rates, you don’t need to invest all your energies into plugging up the holes. Instead, you can focus on business growth, innovation and providing value to your most loyal clients, whose budgets may even expand over time.

Successful agencies often expand into new markets, attract investments from venture capitalists and can even go public. This is, of course, only possible if you can demonstrate that you are running a sustainable business with secure revenue flow.

It’s inevitable that some of your marketing agency’s clients will eventually stop working with you. There will always be clients who are bad fits for your approach, and business is never fully predictable – especially when it comes to demonstrating marketing results. It can take a long time to see returns from even the best marketing campaigns, which makes it tricky to convince clients that you’re delivering the goods they are paying for. 

That having been said, it’s still worth trying to minimize churn, because good levels of retention are vital for your success. 

Retention has become even more important in recent years, because in today’s business climate, agencies are finding it especially challenging to attract new clients. In 2021, 51% of agencies said that it was easier to get new clients than it had been the previous year, but this improvement is overshadowed by the 56% who said in 2020 that it was harder to sign on new clients than it had been the year prior. 

The net result is that agencies still haven’t quite returned to their 2019 positions in terms of new client acquisition. 

If you service dozens or even hundreds of clients all year long, then losing one or two each month won’t hurt too much. But the stakes get much higher when you are working with fewer, larger clients who represent a significant percentage of your business revenue. Losing even one of them can deal a severe blow to your bottom line. In 2021, 29% of agencies said that one client represented 50% or more of their business, a huge jump from 17% who gave the same answer in 2020.

Despite these challenges, there are steps you can take to improve retention at your agency. Here are three strategies to bear in mind. 


1. Take a bigger piece of the marketing pie

In marketing, nothing takes place in a vacuum, so even if you were hired solely to improve traffic to a client’s website or boost lead generation, it’s often worth it to take a broader view. Look for ways to connect all the dots for their marketing needs, not only the single aspect that they first asked you about. 

For example, instead of just feeding your clients leads, look for a way to take ownership of the entire marketing to sales funnel, so that you can see the full picture and boost the level of value you provide. This will essentially multiply the business impact of your services, because instead of leads just sitting in you client’s inbox, you can ensure that they actually convert into paying customers.

Owning more of the funnel might sound like a tall order, but it’s doable if you use software that gives everyone access to lead nurture workflows, allowing agency account managers and client-side staff to collaborate on optimization efforts.

This way, you can see their whole nurture funnel, spot bottlenecks, identify areas that may seem disconnected but are actually impacting the client’s KPIs, and look for opportunities to boost conversions with more types of services. The more deals you help your clients to close, the more they’ll appreciate what you do, and the more you’ll improve retention. 

What’s more, if you can include your branding prominently in the app, your clients will be even more likely to associate this appreciation with your agency.

In our example, you’d also be able to guide your clients to learn how to nurture leads independently, so they can improve their own marketing skills and capabilities. By empowering your clients to take control of their own marketing tasks, they’ll be more likely to trust you with more challenging (and higher-paying) marketing issues like high-level strategic direction. 


2. Add more services to your roster

The more services you offer, the more attractive your agency will become, especially to smaller and medium-size businesses that need full service marketing support, but can’t afford to pay for it in-house. 

Partnering with other agencies can be a solution, but there’s a risk that they’ll end up poaching your clients. On the other hand, if you can’t deliver all the services a client wants, they might switch to a rival that can, instead of hiring multiple agencies to cover different aspects of their marketing needs. 

But diversifying isn’t always simple. There’s a risk that you’ll end up muddying the waters of your differentiation, taking on more work than you really have the availability to fulfill, or committing to deliver results in a niche that’s well beyond your core expertise. 

Thankfully, white label services and technologies let you diversify into providing SEO and content marketing without overextending yourself. It’s possible to partner with firms and tech vendors that do all the work of managing onsite SEO, offsite link building, local search visibility, SEO analysis, keyword research, search-optimized content creation, and more, so you can concentrate on your core strengths while still adding to your stable of services. 

Just remember, it’s important that these services don’t become fragmented from your client’s point of view – after all, the whole point of diversifying is to cultivate the feeling that they can get it all under one roof, with one login. Ideally, you should be delivering reports on all services, whether they are yours or powered by a third party, in one centralized hub where your clients can see the bigger picture.


3. Stay top-of-mind with data

Marketing data is often a huge blind spot for small businesses, who struggle with proving attribution, tracking KPIs and calculating ROI. One recent report showed that only 23% of marketers are confident they’re tracking the right KPIs, and 54% feel they are succeeding in proving ROI. 

When it comes to attribution, data visibility is likewise a challenge, with 36% of those who use form submissions, 53% who use live chat, and 62% who use phone calls as a conversion tool struggle to track attribution from these touchpoints.

Against this backdrop, clients welcome the gift of reliable and meaningful data insights. A smart reporting mechanism also helps to demonstrate that the marketing activities you sell them are driving results. Your regular reports will quantify your progress on their behalf, making it easier for them to see the impact of your work while also keeping your achievements top-of-mind, all of which will help improve their loyalty and increase retention. 

Arguably, the more reports you give them access to, the brighter the light you’re shining to help clients through the marketing maze. 

What’s more, better data also enables you to help them more effectively. A deep understanding of each client’s needs means you can deliver personalized services that help them meet their distinct goals and objectives. Set up custom triggers related to performance metrics, so you’ll receive early warnings when their lead generation falls or abandonment levels rise, and can proactively offer the right interventions. 


Better client retention isn’t a pipe dream

For agencies today, improving retention is admittedly challenging, but it’s also realistically achievable. By working data to the max, expanding your service offerings, and taking control of a bigger piece of the marketing pie, you can keep your clients happy, satisfied, and at your agency for longer.



Rachel Nulman-Schapiro is vcita's ambassador to the small business and agency communities. She started her own agency when she was still in college, helping businesses build their web presence and shift from offline to online advertising. As a Product Marketing Manager at vcita, Rachel supports agencies assisting business owners as they venture into the digital space.