Agency Client Turnover And New Business-Uncomfortably Numb

I had an agency principal describe his current feelings toward the agency business recently, including client turnover, project work, and new business.

On the whole, he still enjoys what he does, has a strong agency and is, for the most part, keeping up with new business.

But he’s staying about the same year over year, not really growing (the reason he was talking to us).

He described the other side of the coin in regards to the business (this is a paraphrase):

“I’ve just become numb to the turnover and the account losses.  I genuinely still like the business, but the lack of client loyalty, the RFP slog and potential clients constantly shopping make it harder every year.”

Thankfully, business is good, so while the quote comes off as a little grim, this principal recognizes the daily struggles and is taking the appropriate steps, in terms of hiring, diversification and supporting new business for the agency.

Agency Client Turnover And New Business-Uncomfortably Numb

This principal isn’t alone-I’ve heard the same struggles from other firms and I’m betting many of you reading this can relate as well.

There are positives, looking to the future.  For example, in our most recent report,

Marketer plans for marketing and advertising spending in 2017 has reached a new high with 67% of respondents indicating budgets will increase “somewhat” or “significantly.”

To give you some perspective, in 2011, it was 44%!

With that positive comes further realities though.  Another stat from our report:

35% of agencies say over 60% of their work was billed as projects, rather than within a traditional AOR arrangement.

In 2015, it was 20%, so an increase of 15 percentage points.

That trend doesn’t seem to be dissipating, and in order to turn it into a positive, and cope effectively with client turnover and increase new business, it means several things:

You have to be more open to conversations with potentially ideal clients.

Even if there is no immediate work in hand.

Critical to this is “potentially ideal clients.”  I’m not advocating you’re talking to anyone and everyone, but if they fit your ideal client profile, you should be talking to them if they’re showing willingness or interest.

You have to be more open to those projects (again, with potentially ideal clients), specifically, those that may not be at your ideal billing initially.

Of course, you have to be discerning, this can be a dangerous path ongoing, but the recommendation here is simply to be more open.

You must have a consistent new business program.

A lot to be positive about in this business, but also a lot of reasons to be ever-vigilant.

I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.