The title of this post sounds ominous. It’s for a good reason.
There’s a simple fact in this world. If you don’t email your clients and stay in contact with them, someone else will.
No matter what service you offer, someone else is always reaching out to your clients. They’re engaging in outbound marketing and trying to turn your client’s head.
Will they succeed? That depends on you.
Who’s staying in touch?
In the recent 2023 WordPress Professionals Survey from The Admin Bar, 667 agency owners, freelancers, marketers, and designers responded to a series of questions.
One of those questions asked: “Do you do any kind of email marketing for your agency?”
Out of the 667 professionals asked, only 11% said yes that they were sending out emails regularly.
Another 25% said they were doing some email marketing but weren’t consistent with their habits.
However, a staggering 64% said no; they weren’t carrying out any email marketing for their agency.
To put that into perspective, 64% equates to 427 people.
While they may have other methods to communicate on an ongoing basis, such as a weekly email during a project, this doesn’t leave much scope for communication after a project ends.
The end of a project is a critical time in the lifecycle of a client with your agency. It’s the handover point where they enjoy the product or service you’ve created for them.
It’s also where many agency owners stop communicating with a client entirely. Instead, they move on to the next project or task on their list, giving their attention to another client.
Unfortunately, the lack of ongoing communication is a big mistake. It doesn’t seem like it at the time, but it sets up a problem later on. Your client’s head could be turned by someone else.
“My client is leaving”
If you spend any length of time inside Facebook groups for digital agency owners, there’s a common type of post you’ll see weekly (sometimes daily).
It roughly looks like this:
“Hey everyone, I need some help!
My client has emailed today asking me to transfer the hosting of their website to another web designer. They want to go with someone else for future work.
What should I do?”
You can replace “website” with SEO, digital marketing, social media marketing, and almost every other possible service. I’ve just used web design as an example here.
Messages like this suck. It’s never nice to hear from a client that they no longer want to work with you, especially if you’ve always had a great relationship and they’ve been delighted with your work.
You won the client over, you delivered a great project, they said they were happy… and now they’re going.
What went wrong?
Why do clients leave?
There are many reasons why clients choose to leave an agency and work with someone else.
To keep this post concise, I’ll leave out things like poor results, lousy service or disagreements.
We’ll assume that you deliver outstanding projects and that your clients are happy with your work, which is ultimately what you want as an agency owner at the end of the day.
There are three main reasons why a “happy client” could choose to leave:
- Communication – If your client doesn’t hear from you regularly, you may not be in their thoughts when they are looking for help with their website or a new marketing campaign. So, communication (or a lack of it) is a primary reason clients could choose to work with someone else.
- Head Turned – This fits hand in hand with communication. If you’re not speaking to your clients regularly, many others are. Your clients will regularly receive emails from other agencies, web designers and marketers offering their services. It only takes the right message at the right time to turn someone’s head.
- Price – Your client may be happy to pay an alternate fee elsewhere for what they perceive to be the same level of service. Now, this isn’t always bad, especially if you’re being smart and raising your prices each year. It’s better to focus on the clients who value you and are happy to pay your fees. I include this as it’s one of the three most common reasons.
If you’ve been running your agency or working as a freelancer for any reasonable length of time, you’ve likely already experienced the process of a client leaving.
It’s easy in these situations to take it as a slight on you or your work, but as you can see above, this isn’t really the case.
Communication is the driving force that builds stronger and better client relationships.
If you want to keep hold of the great clients that work with you, you need to stay front of mind with them.
Staying front of mind
It costs you a lot more money to attract, engage and land a brand new client than to nurture relationships with your existing clients and communicate regularly with them.
Your existing clients already know, like and trust you. They’ve spent money with you. It’s much easier to sell them additional products or services than to onboard a new customer.
If you’re serious about your business, you need to stay front of mind with your clients.
Being front of mind with your clients means you’re the first choice when they need help. For example, if they have a problem with their website or are thinking about a new marketing campaign, you’re the person they’ll turn to.
It’s also a great way of getting more referrals.
Looking back at the 2023 WordPress Professionals Survey, we can see that 73.5% of the agencies that responded have referrals as their primary source of new leads.
I took a moment to filter the data from the survey in AirTable. Of the 667 agency owners who responded, 320 (48%) said they’re not carrying out email marketing, AND their primary lead source is referrals.
That’s a scarily large number of people who could lose out on those referrals if their clients have their heads turned by someone else.
You can boost the number of referrals you get from your clients by communicating with them more. Choosing to build and nurture a better relationship means that you’re the person they’ll think of when talking to a friend or family member who needs your help.
Did I mention reviews yet?
If you’re anything like me, you thrive on getting great client reviews. It’s like a little happiness boost when you see those golden stars arrive alongside a great comment.
Staying front of mind and being present with your clients will help you to get more reviews.
How do you nurture better client relationships?
The foundation of every client relationship is formed at different stages of the lifecycle of your projects.
Let’s look at each stage in a bit more detail:
- Project Start – How you communicate here sets the tone for the project and could affect its success. You’ll want to set boundaries and expectations, showing your client the best way to communicate with you and how you’ll communicate with them.
- During a Project – You should communicate regularly with your clients. This could be a weekly update or monthly if it’s a long-term project such as SEO. One of the best options for this is the Friday Email, which Nathan Ingram spoke about on the TAB Podcast. It’s a simple three-part email that you’ll send to clients, letting them know what you’ve done this week, the project status and what you’re working on next week.
- Project Live – At the end of a project, you should communicate with your client and let them know what happens next. It’s the perfect time to celebrate a new website going live, let your client know how they can get help, ask for a review and more. It’s even the perfect place to position an upsell to the next service that you recommend for them. This can be set up as an automated sequence. If you’re interested, we’ve already written it for you – check out the “Go Live” Email Sequence.
- After a Project – Here’s the point where most agencies are making a mistake – 64%, as we saw in the 2023 WordPress Professionals Survey earlier in this post. Sending a regular email newsletter is the easiest way of staying front of mind with your customers and leads who are interested in hearing more from you. Emails help you to nurture and build stronger client relationships. You deliver value, share ideas and establish your expertise as the ideal person to help your clients and leads.
Of these four stages, the biggest issue comes at the end of the project.
This is the danger stage.
If you don’t choose to stay in contact with your clients after a project ends, you’re running the gauntlet. It’s a gauntlet full of other agency owners, designers, marketers and freelancers sending marketing communications and offers to your clients.
These are likely to have little effect in the first few months. But the longer you go without communication, the easier it is for your client’s head to be turned by someone making an offer to them.
The right offer at the right time will turn someone’s head. You’ve almost certainly experienced this yourself in your inbox. There’ll be at least one time in the last year when you received an email that spoke directly to a problem you were having, so you clicked a link or looked for more information.
Choosing to send out a regular email doesn’t just help your clients; it also brings control to your business. You can stay front of mind through communication while delivering value and expertise into your client’s inbox.
Fancy a head start?
At this point, you’re likely nodding along and understanding the value of email marketing. That’s a good thing, as I’m nodding as I write this. So let’s nod together for a moment.
Okay, now we’ve finished nodding, it would be remiss of me not to tell you about Nurture Copy and how we can help your digital agency.
We offer a monthly subscription where you’ll receive pre-written newsletter emails, blog post ideas, bonus tip videos, tutorials, and even access to the vault!
It’s not difficult to communicate
The difficulty with this whole process doesn’t come from communication. That’s the easy step.
Instead, the difficulty comes from taking action.
As an agency owner, you’re motivated to complete projects and deliver outstanding client results. In reality, this means that when you finish a project, you move on to the next paying client and help them.
Carrying out email marketing doesn’t make sense to some agency owners. It’s understandable. They haven’t yet realised that email marketing is both a sales and communications tool.
Thinking about email marketing can be a struggle. You don’t know what to write, and you wonder if it’s even worth it for your agency.
The truth is that there has never been a better time to choose email marketing.
It’s a platform where you control your data. Not a Facebook page, Instagram account or Twitter account (if that even exists later this year). Each of those options is for places where you’re growing something on someone else’s platform.
Controlling your own data and being able to nurture relationships, deliver value and sell regularly puts you in the ideal position for growth. Whether you want to sell new services, generate more referrals, get more reviews or stay front of mind – email marketing will help you do this.
You might say I’m biased in writing about email marketing. As of right now, you’d be true. I am an email marketer, a copywriter and an entrepreneur.
But I’ve been in the 64% of agency owners that didn’t do any email marketing activities. I’ve been in the 48% of agency owners who relied on referrals for leads and didn’t send emails.
And you know what?
Everything got infinitely easier when I finally committed to sending emails.
I had more referrals and more reviews. Clients would return to me for a second project, then a third and so on. They read my emails and took action. The stronger relationships helped me to grow my business.
As I said at the start of this post, the choice is yours.
Are you going to be the person that emails your clients and stays front of mind? Or will you let someone else email them instead?