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When A Client Walks Away
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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In the agency world, you will not have the same clients working with you forever. Though it would be nice, it just doesn't happen. Sometimes the work gets too expensive for the client, people change within the agency or brand and a "new direction" is suggested, or a difference in strategy or approach is stark enough to warrant an end to the partnership.

In any case, it is never fun to lose business.

GS&P are going through the result of losing business. It was reported last week that layoffs began at the shop due to the failed partnership with another agency for Ford. Jeff Goodby, who is quickly becoming one of the voices for the agency world, wrote a memo (which was later released to the public) that told the employees how much it sucks to let people go, but they hope to gain many of them back as they win other business.

It can be frustrating when a client walks away, especially when it takes you by surprise. But this is the industry that we have chosen, and in this environment, the power is in the client's hand.

It's hard to not take it personally, but you really shouldn't, depending on the reason. For example, we work mostly with small and new businesses. When it comes to "volatile," the small business world defines it perfectly. There are times when our clients request a pause in activities because funding has run out, or we circle around the initial brainstorming session again and again because they continue to change the identity they want to push out to their prospective audience.

We can't get offended when they can't use our services; and sometimes, depending on how unprepared they seem to be, we insist for them to walk away and come back when they're ready.

We have seen and heard many different reactions to losing clients, too. Some go on a business development spree, looking to fill the hole. Others approach current clients and see if they can offer more services, increasing the depth in the offerings and the relationship. Others still complain about losing them, and attempt to discredit why the client may be walking away. We're not saying that one method (or a combination of) is the best approach, but we should all think about what we do and what our own best response should be.

Because sooner or later, your agency is going to lose a client, and you have to be prepared for it.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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