We’ve all been there: A longtime client goes dark, then they ghost you entirely, and you aren’t really sure why. You had a relationship with them, so what gives?
They go dark because they don’t want to break the bad news to you. They don’t want to tell you that they no longer need your services. So, instead of ripping the bandage off, they go quietly. It’s not an ideal way to break off a relationship, but it happens. Some say goodbye and some don’t.
But when clients leave, what do you do?
Why Clients Leave
There’s not really a wrong answer to the above question because there are so many variables at play. Clients leave for all sorts of reasons, and sometimes you can control those reasons. Other times, the client may just break off the relationship and move on no matter what you do. Here are a few reasons clients depart:
You’re just not in their budget. This is one of the biggest reasons clients stop buying from you. They’ve evaluated their budget and the funds to continue purchasing from you at this time just aren’t there. This is very common in the first quarter of the year, especially January.
They no longer see the value in your products or services. They crunched the numbers and their return on investment (ROI) just isn’t there. They wanted or needed more out of your offerings to make it worthwhile.
They’ve moved on. It’s possible they no longer need what you offer. They may have shifted gears in their own business or life, so buying your particular products or services might not make sense anymore.
They no longer trust you (or there wasn’t any trust from the start). Perhaps you never created a solid relationship with that client. Maybe you never added them to your mailing list (and they never got your monthly newsletter), or you made a mistake and it was enough to push them away.
The competition swooped in. It could be that your competitor is doing your job better than you. They may offer better services, products, prices, marketing, or all of the above.
You Are In Control
If your client leaves because they don’t trust you, that’s on you. You didn’t put in the effort to build and maintain that relationship, so the client sees no reason to stick around.
If you made a mistake and didn’t own up to it or left the client hanging, you’ve given them a reason to buy from someone else. You failed to work with the client to make it right. Many clients are happy to forgive when you make a mistake, as long as you do something about it.
You can say the same thing when a competitor swoops in. If you “do something about it” by offering stellar service and putting effort into your relationship marketing, it makes it a lot harder for competitors to sway your clients. You could have higher prices than the competition, but if you’re offering unparalleled service and forging those relationships, it won’t matter. Your clients see you as worth it.
And then there’s value. If your clients no longer see value in your products or services, there’s a very good chance you failed to communicate that value. The client might not be getting the most out of what you offer. They might not realize that if they do X, they’ll get better results. Sometimes, you need to coach your clients to help them get the most for their dollar.
These reasons for leaving are preventable. You can and should be taking action now with your current clients to prevent these kinds of things from happening. You have the power to build trust with your clients. If you make a mistake, you have the power to correct it; it’s up to you to deliver exceptional service and value.
Of course, you might be wondering about those instances when you’re not in a client’s budget or they just don’t need your services. While you can’t control the client’s external factors, you can control your response. Just because a client leaves does not mean they can’t or won’t come back.
Are you tracking client departures? If you’re not tracking why clients leave, you should be. This is data that can be put to good use. Over time, you may notice trends or discover areas that your business is falling short and then course-correct.
It will also give you a better perspective with your current clients. It’s possible some of your current clients are thinking about leaving right now for the same reason a past client left. Take action today, and you could end up preemptively saving that client relationship.
Are you keeping your bridges intact? Never burn a bridge unless you absolutely have to. (Sometimes, we need to fire a client, which gets messy, but that’s a different topic for a different day). Instead, do the opposite. Leave the door open and put out the welcome mat for their possible return.
If you can end a relationship on good terms, it can pave the way for future success. For example, just because a client leaves doesn’t mean they aren’t still a referral source. They may not need to buy from you right now, but they may know others who could benefit from doing business with you.
Are you respecting their decision? When a client wants to leave, don’t complicate their departure. At the same time, make it easy for them to return. It should be just as easy to part ways as it was to become a client in the first place. The client shouldn’t have to jump through any frustrating hoops. If they’re on contract, follow the terms of the contract, which will help facilitate a good split.
Chances are when you respect their decision to leave — and you keep the door open — you may find them returning sooner rather than later. And if it’s not your former client, it may be a referral.
Keep The Relationship Alive
Once the client has moved on, there is no reason to not keep the relationship alive (unless, of course, you ended on bad terms). So, if they left on good terms, you should continue to foster that relationship. You certainly don’t want to push it, but you want to serve up a gentle reminder that, no matter what, you’re here for them and their family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. Every relationship matters.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. It comes back to that all-important referral. The fundamental fact is that former clients are still referral sources. When you send them a reminder that you’re there and can solve their problems, you once again make it easy for them to refer you — and you should ALWAYS make it easy for people to refer you.
And there’s also the other fundamental fact that former clients can return. They might not have you in their budget come January 2021, but who’s to say that won’t change by July 2021, October 2021, or further down the line? Be there for them, even if they aren’t currently there for you.
How do you keep the relationship alive? It’s all about communication. You have their contact information, so don’t be afraid to use it (unless they explicitly tell you not to). Continue to send them a card for their birthday. Send them the occasional email. Make sure they still get your monthly newsletter if you have one (and if you don’t, we have good news for you). If you stay top of mind, you put yourself in a better place to rekindle the relationship when the time is right.