3 Steps to Successfully Ending Client Relationships

by Mary Abbott on 8/30/16

Dating through your late twenties generates not only a collection of hilarious stories, but also a unique skill set because of what it ultimately leads to: you get really good at ending relationships. And in the crazy world of advertising and marketing, it prepares you for the worst — ending client relationships.

When a client and agency part ways, it can be a tricky scenario for account services, but you can make it through. Here are the three main steps to take.

1. Assess the Situation (Now What?)

Ending a relationship is never fun, so let’s agree on that now. Especially in the beginning, tensions will run high. Tact is key.

Identify Stakeholders

Once you make it past the initial shock of breaking up, gather your transition team. Your account services personnel will be instrumental in identifying and communicating deliverables and subsequent direction with all individuals, both on the agency side and on the client side.

Before you go any further, determine with the client who your current workload will be transitioning to. Is the client switching to another agency? Get in touch with their new account services rep. Are they taking the work in-house? Ask which employee you should speak with.

No matter what the situation, find your point of contact, and keep communication clear.

Create a Timeline

Next, take an inventory of your current workload, and discuss clearly with the client how they would like the transition to go (and how long it should take).

A month is a good timeline to make sure things are handed off neatly, but depending on the circumstances, the client might need a more barebones transition (read: credentials, working files, and a blessing).

2. Divide the Property (Who Gets What?)

No matter where your work is going — either in-house or to another agency — you will want to transition your marketing efforts in a way that makes sense.

Keep the division of property as seamless as possible.

If the client started at a previous agency, this part is pretty easy. Many client relationships begin with accounts like Google AdWords and Analytics already set up. If that’s the case, you can simply remove yourself from the account access (after making sure they still have their credentials on file).

If you’re the agency that set up different services for the client, this part can get a little tricky. No matter what, follow your contract. If the contract is unclear, go with your gut on what feels right, and communicate that with the client.

If the client’s AdWords account and campaigns were entirely set up by your agency and currently live in your My Client Center (MCC), it’s easy to export their account so that they can import it into their newly created account.

Don’t be the guy (or gal) who fights former clients for access to the work you did while together. But also remember to get paid for your intellectual property.

It’s important to continue honoring your client relationship, even if it was problematic. After all, you entered into an agreement to deliver work for this client — so don’t deny them access after the fact.

However, it’s okay to set boundaries that protect your intellectual property. If a client wants some help with their search engine optimization (SEO), for example, you can give them some general guidelines and principles, but you don’t need to hand over your entire SEO handbook.

People come to you for your expertise — so set a price, and don’t work for free.

3. Get Feedback (What Went Wrong?)

Especially if it’s the client’s decision to terminate the relationship, it’s important to ask for feedback — even the negative. Set a meeting or phone call before the end of your contract when you can go over final reports and ask final questions.

What went wrong? Was it the work delivered? The account services?

Discussing areas of improvement helps both parties improve their businesses. The fact that your relationship is coming to an end means you can use this time to be refreshingly honest.

If a client reaches out post-contract with questions about work your group has done or needs advice, be sure to answer them. Even though they’re not your client anymore, you should still consider your reputation.

You’re now that cool person who can be friends with their ex — you recognize why things ended, but you’re still there for them.

Win It Next Time: Set Everyone Up to Succeed

After closing the book on a client relationship, you enter a fun period of self-reflection. Using the feedback from your client and following what you know to be true for your business, you can find the clients that are right for your agency.

There isn’t a perfect client, and there isn’t a perfect agency — but take an inventory of what your team excels at, and refocus as needed. You will have a better chance of succeeding with client relationships if you follow what you know works.

For us at 9 Clouds, that specialty is automotive inbound marketing. But even though we specialize in automotive, that doesn’t mean all dealerships would work well with our team. We need to be strategic about the partnerships we form.

Account services and client relationships are important for your business. Understand what your service offerings should be, and set everyone up to succeed by being open and honest from the start.

Looking for a new marketing partner? Ask 9 Clouds on a date. Reach out!

Originally published at 9clouds.com on August 30, 2016.