Can your agency do too good of a job for clients?

Is it possible to lose your client’s business because you have done too good of a job for them? Should you intentionally underperform in an attempt to keep the client longer?

These questions may seem far-fetched, but they have actually been asked — so Chip and Gini address them in this week’s episode.

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin 

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin,

Gini Dietrich 

and I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin 

And I want to apologize to all of you listeners for the fact that we’re just too good. We’ve done too good a job with this podcast. And so I know that this is the last time you’ll be listening. right after this. So today, Ginni, we’re going to turn to the Comedy Central of business advice. The read it read it small business subreddit. Yeah,

Gini Dietrich 

it is the Comedy Central of business advice.

Chip Griffin 

I the questions, the answers. There is much humor to be had. There are some nuggets in there, though. And so we’ve we’ve uncovered one that on the surface is all humor, but there is some substance that’s worth discussing from an agency perspective.

Gini Dietrich 

Are you ready?

Chip Griffin 

The bated breath, Jenny,

Gini Dietrich 

I’m still a little in shock, because I don’t know what to make of the situation. However, a client of mine who runs a service industry business recently messaged me saying he won’t be needing my SEO Services anymore. Essentially, I won’t read the whole thing. He says no, which is good,

Chip Griffin 

because he apparently doesn’t know how to use paragraphs.

Gini Dietrich 

So that I mean, or punctuation for that matter. He says, Now I’ve had this conversation with clients before who weren’t happy with their ranks or how their website was progressing early on. However, the difference with this client was that his website was killing it. So when I had the conversation with him, he told me something along the lines of, well, now that I rank on the first page, I don’t think we’ll be needing to pay you for your monthly services anymore. You broke my heart a little, as we’ve been working, working together for a while. But what should I do? Can an SEO service provide too great of results to where your customers might not need you anymore? What do I do?

Chip Griffin 

First of all, snap out of it, buddy. Because the idea that you’re too good at what you do, is like one of the most insane things I’ve ever heard from a business person, I know you cannot be too good, it is simply not possible to be too good. You can be too arrogant, which is what it sounds like maybe the case here, but you certainly cannot be too good. You may not do a good enough job, in fact, of selling the client on other things they should be doing, or maybe even understanding what they should be doing going forward. Because if you think they’re going to just pay you for everything you’ve done in the past, you are sorely mistaken. You got to have a plan for the future. And they’ve got to understand why it matters. And you haven’t done that buddy. That’s why you lost the business.

Gini Dietrich 

Or you could take the advice of a personal trainer who says I run my own business as a personal trainer and was finding a lot of my clients either stop training with me or dramatically reduce their volume because I was doing such a good job of making them self sufficient. I actually toyed with the idea of doing a worse job of educating my clients.

Chip Griffin 

I really just I don’t understand what goes through some people’s minds I I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around all of this. And what struck me at the point where I looked at this thread, and since I’ve looked at this thread, there are a gazillion more comments on it. This is apparently touched a real nerve. And there are a lot of people who think that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Almost nobody called out this guy and said look or gal, I guess we don’t know whether it’s a guy or It sounded like but who knows. Nobody called him out and said, Dude, the the problem isn’t that you’ve done too good a job. Right? They all accepted the premise that he’s done too good a job. And now what? Well, no, no. First of all, this is one of the issues I have with SEO only agencies generally. Because most SEO only agencies don’t really paint the picture of what you need to do on an ongoing basis. They say, well, you need to keep doing backlinks and creating content or something like that, but they don’t really help educate the client. And and that’s part of the thing as an agency when you’re doing work for the client. You don’t just do the work. You have to educate them. They have to understand the value of what they’re doing. You have to help them understand what are the next steps. And by the way, those next steps shouldn’t be focused on just maintaining the status quo. those next steps should be focused on how do you take it to the next level, cuz there’s always a next level. It also is, and someone did point this out that it might be that he was getting that this client was getting too many leads to handle, right, that can be a problem. But that’s as an agency, you need to understand how your work is fitting into the bigger picture. And if the problem is that the work you’re doing is generating too many leads that they can’t handle, well look at that, there’s, you could probably have a lower volume of leads, but higher quality, right, and that might work better because there is no business that’s going to be successful, that takes in more leads than it can handle and doesn’t grow. Right. If you’re not growing, it’s because the quality isn’t there, or there’s something else broken in the process. And your job as an agency, even if you don’t directly control that other work, you’ve got to be aware of it and figure out how to work with it, if you want to maintain that relationship with the client.

Gini Dietrich 

Well, and you brought up this at the very beginning, which is you should be looking at other opportunities. And if that’s the case, and there are too many leads, perhaps you you help them figure out a lead scoring program. And then anybody who’s on the quote, unquote, lower end of that scoring gets a lead nurturing program, and the client can focus on the higher end. And now you’ve helped not just with the lead scoring and implementing that, but you can help with the lead nurturing, and maybe that’s not something you do, maybe you have to bring in a partner to do that. Or you have to refer them to somebody else. But they’re always going to keep coming back to you because they trust you and they know that you’re going to help them, you’re going to help them solve business problems, not just an SEO problem.

Chip Griffin 

And I have to say, seriously, in 25 years of being in business, I don’t think I have ever run across a business that is truly receiving too many leads that it can’t handle. Unless they’re garbage. Yeah, right. Yeah, is it the problem is almost always the quality of the lead, not the number. And because the fact is, if you send me all of the right leads, I just take that money that I’m getting, and I invested in growth, right. So there’s no reason to be sitting there. And assuming that that is the likely cause, the more likely cause is that you didn’t help the client understand what the heck you were doing, how it mattered, and how they could then continue to move forward. And so so you need to be thinking about that. Not when you get to this point in the conversation, because one of the things this person was looking for is, you know, how do I go back and have a conversation? It’s too late like this, you’ve lost this battle, you’ve lost the war, move on, go find another client, right? Someone someone said, Well, you know, ask for a referral, and to help them understand how painful it is to lose their business. Know, ask for referrals. Sure, right? I mean, if if you really believe that you’ve done such a good job for them, and that’s why they’re not working with you anymore. Absolutely ask for referrals. But don’t include in there, because it sucks having to lose this revenue. I mean, it just makes you look pathetic. No, that’s not their problem. They are not responsible for your livelihood, you are responsible for your own livelihood, you have to figure out how to get and retain the right clients for you. Their job is to do what’s right for their business, not yours.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah. And when you’re looking at, and this is the time of year that people start to look at expenses for the business. So as they go into planning for the following year, they look at that, and they go, Hmm, we’re on the first page of Google, for the keywords that we need. We are getting enough leads, we are able we are going to be able to to use this pipeline to go into next year. No, we don’t need to keep paying for this. That’s a business decision.

Chip Griffin 

And I let you in on a little secret, Jenny?

Gini Dietrich 

Yes, please.

Chip Griffin 

No client lasts forever. Nope, none.

They don’t know.

Chip Griffin 

nor should they. It’s, it’s not healthy for an agency to have clients that are around for forever. Because if they are, then the relationship probably is no longer working in your favor. As the agency or your agency client relationships need to be two way streets, it needs to be beneficial for both sides. If you get to a place with either the client isn’t seeing the value or you’re not getting the value, then it’s time for that relationship to end.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, I totally agree. And I said this before we started recording, but I will say to brand new clients, our job is to make you self sufficient in the PESO model. And if we do that, then and we help you build your internal process and organization to be able to do that, then we can go on to help you do other things. And they never believe me. And they’re always like, Oh, yeah, we’re gonna need you forever. And I always feel like we’ve done our job when they finally it might be a year later. It might be five years later, but They finally go, you know what we have built the internal structure to be able to do this ourselves. Now we need you to do help us with X, Y, and Z or right, it’s time for us to go on our way.

Chip Griffin 

Right? Yeah, I mean, if your clients are growing, they’re going to have changes that are happening within their organization that will add a minimum of change their relationship with you. Or it may lead to it ending and moving on, because there’s a better fit for them. Or maybe they just don’t need an agency at that point in time, because not everybody needs an agency all the time. And I know that that that comes as a shock to many in the agency community, you think, Well, you know, everybody could use an agency, not necessarily. I mean, it really depends on what their business model is, what they’re trying to accomplish, where they are in their own life cycle. And so it is your job to be, you know, looking down the road on behalf of your clients, and understanding how you fit in 612 18 months down the road. And if you are still part of that picture, the way that you’re looking at it, they need to understand that and not at the point in time when they’re making their Europe decision. Not when it’s time to renew the contract, they need to start seeing that well in advance. And part of the problem is that as agency folks, we often live in the moment and part of that’s because we always feel like we’re drinking out of a firehose, because we don’t price appropriately, which means we can’t resource appropriately. And so you know, we’re just fighting today’s battle. And so, you know, I talked to a lot of agency owners who say, I just don’t have time to step back and look at the big pack, just got to, I got to get this done, I got to deliver results today. That’s fine. But that’s what leads to risk in continuing your engagement with any client because you haven’t done what you need to do to help them see what’s down the road and how you fit into that. Because you want to build that anticipation from the client about your future work. Yep. Not just your today work.

Gini Dietrich 

Yep. And I think I mean, I would venture to say that, for the work that many of the listeners do, I think it’s harder when you specialize in something like SEO, or, you know, one thing, events, media relations, whatever happens to be when you specialize just in one thing, I think it’s harder from that perspective, because it’s seen as very transactional and tactical. But if you can look at it from a business perspective, and say, you know, agency owner to client, business owner or client executive, we are learning these things in our business, and I think they can apply to yours. And here’s how so you start to have an elevated conversation about the business, and not just about the services that you provide.

Chip Griffin 

If there’s, there’s nothing wrong with agencies that are doing time limited services, right? No, absolutely not event management, SEO, those kinds of, you just have to understand it and build your business model around that. And the problem in this particular example seems to be that they’ve built a time limited finite project, and are expecting it to go on forever, right. And so if they want it to go on forever, then they need to structure it in such a way and make sure the client sees it in such a way that they understand it’s ongoing. Or they need to accept that it’s, I’m just getting you from point A to point B, and then I’m handing you the keys, you may need to come to me again, when you have your next event or you have your next SEO challenge, you need to build your next website or whatever that individual project is. I’m happy to have you come back. But your business model needs to be built to that and not anticipating that I’m going to pay you to rebuild my website every month. Because that doesn’t happen. It does not. I mean, I’ve done a lot of work for web clients, and they seem to want it rebuilt every month, because they think everybody’s looking at as much as they are. But anyway, that’s a whole nother rant for another day.

Gini Dietrich 

Well speaking of other brands for other days. One thing about this one other thing about this that really bothers me is that this long term client messaged, the agency owner saying they wouldn’t be needing this SEO Services anymore. Like if a client messaged me and said that and essentially fired us without having a conversation with me, I would be like, Where did I go wrong? Because it’s disrespectful. It’s rude. It’s means you don’t want to face any conflict. It means you don’t want to have a hard conversation. And I would be like, what Where did I go wrong and that they they don’t have enough respect for me and my team to be able to pick up the phone and have this conversation with me. That to me is huge. And maybe that shows my age but do not message me. If you text me and say that you’re firing me I will be

Chip Griffin 

well just don’t text me anyway. But

Gini Dietrich 

I don’t I don’t mind the texting unless it comes from a PR person

Chip Griffin 

who I don’t know but I will almost nobody has my text. Not Did I just I don’t share a lot of people think they do. She does okay now my wife and kids do my baseball umpiring assignor does apart from that. That’s about Yeah, that’s about it. Yeah, I just anyway, I don’t like texting. But that’s that’s a whole nother story. But But I suspect what that means if it was a digital communication of some sort, email, text, whatever. That suggests to me that in all likelihood, I’d be willing to bet a fair amount of money on this. They didn’t have regular phone calls or in person meetings or something like that. And so that’s a problem. Right? All I love, I love email. I love digital communication. It’s, it’s it’s fast, it’s quick, it’s asynchronous, there’s so many benefits to it. There’s still no replacement for phone calls, or zoom, or in person, or those kinds of opportunities where we can engage, just like the two of us are here today, in a way that’s more meaningful, where you can hear people’s tone of voice, you can ideally see their reactions. You’re building the relationship. And so my bet is that this was a relationship built largely on digital communications. And that’s why the client felt comfortable terminating the relationship that way. I don’t know that for sure. But I, I just suspect based on my experience, that that’s likely what it was they were conditioned to communicate that way. And your job as an agency is to condition the client communicate in the way that’s best for building the relationship and getting the results that they’re looking for. And that almost certainly means having phone calls and zooms and in person meetings. Yeah, those are your opportunities to spot early that something’s amiss. That’s where you start paying attention to someone saying, so we’re almost there. We’ve almost got our goal. Right? We’re almost at the number one spot. Okay, cool. What’s next? Yep. That’s what your mind should be thinking. As soon as you hear the client sound like they’re talking about some end. Action, you need to think Oh, no. What’s next? Yep.

Gini Dietrich 

Yep. Yeah, you raise a good point. That is a fair point. And, and I will say, as an introvert, I prefer email, Slack, whatever it happens to be. But I have learned in in last few years, that it’s just not as effective because first of all, it goes on forever. And you can’t get the infant same amounts of information or body language or anything like that through Slack, or email or text, you just can’t. And so I will often say to clients, Hey, can we jump on zoom just real fast, it’ll take three minutes. And just, you know, or I, we love to do slack video, because it’s easy. And you’re right there, right. But it makes things significantly easier. You can make decisions faster, you can hear for the things that you should be listening for. And you can see body language and understand what’s going on, but in Slack, or into in text, commerce conversation, that all gets lost, and then it becomes it builds into something that doesn’t necessarily need to be there. So I always say, hey, let’s just jump on video real quick.

Chip Griffin 

Yeah, it is incredibly beneficial. And I think that people often disparage zoom. They disparage meetings are a waste of time, you know, we have too many meetings, too many calls, blah, blah, blah, no, you’ve got the wrong calls, the wrong meetings, the right people in them, right, they last too long. You know, you don’t have to last an hour. The problem is not that you’re having them. The problem is that they’re not the right ones. And they’re not structured properly. If you get the right ones in there structured properly, meetings of all kinds can be super helpful. And particularly in building the relationship that’s going to cause you to keep a client and not lose them, because you did way too good a job. But, you know, I think we did I think we did a good job, Jenny. I don’t I don’t think we did too. good a job. So So hopefully, hopefully, there’ll be back, you know, we can paint the picture that you’ll have some more enlightening, lively conversation, I’m sure that we will have something to rant and rave about next week. No idea what that may be. Because we don’t come up with a topic until about 30 seconds before I hit the record button. And it would be three seconds. It just didn’t take me so long to

Gini Dietrich 

find the two pages of topic ideas that we add to we just choose one of those before 30 seconds before.

Chip Griffin 

Sure. Or we pick something like we did today something off of our email communications because we do use email I, I email quite regularly, my crazy thoughts and things links I find and those kinds of things just to aggravate me. And some of them turn into topics so and the topics ultimately come to an end just as this one has. And so we will draw this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast to a close. I’m Chip Griffin

Gini Dietrich 

and I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin 

and it depends.

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