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Tips for retaining clients and growing recurring revenue

A healthy long-term relationship requires trust, open communication, and a willingness to commit from both parties. Unfortunately, in the dating world and the business world, finding the perfect match can be difficult. For agencies hoping new clients will outsource marketing and creative services on a recurring revenue basis, getting clients to commit to mutually beneficial retainer relationships can be a lot like dating: finding the right give-and-take is crucial.

Of course, it’s easy to see why retainer relationships would make sense from the agency side, since for recurring revenue businesses, 70-90% of revenue comes from renewals and upselling to existing accounts. However, clients who are often overwhelmed by choice and constantly inundated with offers to try new services might not immediately see the value in making a long-term commitment.

Here are a few ways to prove the value of recurring retainers to your clients.

Content produced in collaboration with SharpSpring.

Understand your client’s needs

If your client paid for your services but isn’t using all of them, it could be time for a serious relationship talk. According to Metasaas, 31% of software as a service (SaaS) products just sit around unused. If you’re not thinking carefully about how clients might use your products, such as marketing automation tools, and services to solve their unique problems, chances are they’re not thinking too much about it either. Sit down and make a plan for engagement that will actually deliver a tangible outcome rather than just billed hours.

But don’t over-promise

The sales process is kind of like those first couple of dates, where everyone is trying to present themselves in the best light possible. It can be tempting to say “yes” to solving all a new clients’ problems. But in dating as well as sales, honesty is what most people are looking for, and being upfront about the problems you can and cannot solve will help to avoid painful breakups later.

Small engagements build trust

Solving a few small problems is a great way to show a new client you’re in it for the long haul. For example, when 454 Creative, a digital marketing agency in Orange County, CA, wants to prove value, the company starts with a discovery phase that serves as a road-mapping process and includes a competitive analysis for lead generation or inbound engagement and a brand positioning audit for a marketing retainer. These fixed-fee, fixed-timeline engagements not only demonstrate that the company is comprised of experts in the field but also serve to prove that team members will listen to a new client’s needs and meet expectations on time and budget.   

These beginning stages are also a great time to introduce the concept of marketing automation to clients who might not be familiar with the process or even those clients who already license a system on their own. Taking over the management of these platforms provides an excellent opportunity to provide value-added services and report on results.

Work together to create long-term goals

In today’s competitive environment, there’s really no such thing as a “set it and forget it” mentality. Relationships take work, and setting actionable deadlines for mutually agreed-upon goals proves to clients that you’re able to deliver on those early promises. After you complete those early-stage engagements, launch into a three-month trial to prove you can make good on the outcomes you initially promised.

To deliver on their own commitments to clients, 454 Creative relies on SharpSpring’s automation tools to  provide quantifiable value by tracking the number of leads, opportunities and sales they were able to influence without needing access to the client’s CRM or accounting software.

SharpSpring’s advanced analytics and marketing attribution reports put the agency in the middle of their clients’ value conversations, not to mention delivering results almost immediately from the beginning of the engagement.

Watch out for these red flags:

Sometimes even the most promising new relationships turn sour. Here are the warning signs that indicate your partnership is in trouble.

  • Clients aren’t paying their bills on time.
  • The client doesn’t seem to value your expertise.
  • The client isn’t taking action on your insights.
  • They don’t seem happy with the relationship.

To learn more, check out SharpSpring’s white paper, “Growing Your Agency with Marketing Automation.”

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