Image by George Redgrave via Flickr
Conventional wisdom may suggest keeping any client that will happily pay you. But when we do that, we capitalize on short-term opportunity and forgo building a meaningful business with a sustainable brand. Separation is natural as capabilities and priorities shift for you and your client.
When it makes sense to part ways, you should be fully prepared to sever ties. Here are reasons why you may want to weed out bad clients, followed by a quick guide for gracefully bowing out of any engagement.
Pruning unproductive relationships
Dropping sub-par accounts can dramatically improve workplace happiness, morale and productivity.
That is because poor-fit clients are "emotionally draining," says Leigh Steere, owner of Incisive, a B2B integrated marketing communication firm. "You will get more done in a day if you feel energized and have clients who are sensitive to your deadlines in the same way you are sensitive to theirs." How can you accomplish anything when you are miserable?
Also, if a client regularly misses deadlines, blocking any progress you may be able to make on deliverables, it is a no-win situation. Steere advises that if an account makes it a habit to reschedule meetings with the expectation that you would rearrange your schedule to accommodate the client's availability, it may be time to reconsider the long-term viability of the engagement.
Seb Atkinson, a search marketing executive at Selesti Limited, knows the positive effects of abandoning a bad project. Doing so helps "reduce staff turnover [and] create a more productive working environment." With a healthier and happier atmosphere, your team can focus on delivering results to clients who actually deserve your time.
The negative consequences of an unproductive engagement are far-reaching. That is why removing yourself from an account makes a lot of sense for many agencies. Jennifer Martin, a business consultant and founder of Zest Business Consulting believes, "You wouldn't let one employee with a bad attitude ruin your business and there's no reason to let one customer (or a handful of them) do the same." Martin adds, "Let them go, start standing up for what you deserve and the world will start to treat you with the respect you are showing them you (or your product/service, or business) deserve."
Long-term, you increase both your billings and clients' ROI when you partner with cooperative firms on mutually beneficial projects.
Exiting the engagement
Often, contracts help outline logical conclusions to any particular working arrangement. Atkinson of Selesti Limited recommends you "use contract terms as an exit opportunity. Most agencies and freelancers ask their clients to sign a minimum contract length to protect themselves from losing accounts unexpectedly. This can also protect you from bad clients. At the end of the contract term, use this opportunity to explain nothing else can be done to provide similar ongoing results at the same price point."
Of course, if you are not interested in renegotiating terms and believe the engagement no longer makes sense for both parties, you may also explain that in an honest and almost vulnerable manner. Most reasonable clients won't fault you for acting with their best interests in mind.
Furthermore, this allows you to protect your firm's reputation. When you avoid taking another company's money simply because it is on the table, you demonstrate your commitment to furthering your clients' long-term goals. The most successful agencies thrive because they choose to take on accounts they can drive immense value for.
Whenever an agency-client relationship turns toxic and you recognize that your resources are better used for other projects, do not be afraid to fire yourself. Your agency and your client will be better off because of it.
This post originally appeared on the Central Desktop blog and is republished with permission.
Danny Wong is the co-founder of Blank Label, an award-winning luxury menswear company. He is also a digital marketing consultant and freelance writer. To connect, tweet him @dannywong1190 or message him on LinkedIn.