It’s About Service: The Ad Agency Client Retention Problem

Those of us in the marketing and advertising services industry work pretty darned hard at new business. Hunting for prospects. Jumping on leads. Participating in RFPs and pitches. It’s often said that new business is the lifeblood of a successful marketing services partner business because one way or another an agency will lose every one of its clients. But shouldn’t our industry be paying more attention to keeping clients?

We’ve shared before that the average tenure of a client-agency relationship is about 2 ½ years (AdAge), which rings true for small- to medium-sized agencies. Forty percent of medium agencies and 50% of small only keep clients for up to three years. 

There are a few different reasons why clients leave a marketing partner and they all come down to one thing – service (more specifically the LACK of good service):

  • A Lack of Connection: The client’s wishes and the agency’s process and thinking just don’t jive. Clients often complain that their partner doesn’t truly understand their industry, products, customers, competitors or brand. 
  • Lack of Communication: If a client doesn’t feel their agency partner is responsive or listening, they’ll start looking for an agency that does. This doesn’t mean you drop everything to solve a challenge, but it does mean acknowledging that you’ve heard your client and are putting the heads of your best people together to help.
  • Lack of Consistency: While an agency’s first media or creative push may knock things out of the park, most clients won’t stick it out if there isn’t disciplined follow up and follow through.
  • Lack of Fresh Thinking: Few things kill a client-agency relationship faster than a lack of strategic thinking or  recycling the same old ideas. Our clients’ businesses are moving faster than ever and they face constant pressure from competitors. You can’t stay ahead with stale, cookie-cutter strategies. 

Sure, there are several other reasons that clients may choose to part ways with agencies as well. A lot of them even fall on the client’s side of things, from internal decisions or changes in corporate culture. We can’t do much about that.

Even if you don’t have a client turnover problem, it’s not a bad idea to examine how your clients perceive you. Consider conducting an annual client satisfaction survey. It gives both clients and agencies a chance to reflect on what’s working and what needs to be improved.

Brkthru conducts an annual Client Performance Survey at the beginning of each year. We learn from our valued clients about what we could do better as well as where we’re meeting or exceeding expectations. Our survey scores us on services such as industry knowledge, communication, strategic thinking and digital media expertise. While our clients consistently score Brkthru between 90-95% in overall satisfaction, what’s most telling is that 56% take time out of their busy days to participate. That response rate is well above survey norms and speaks to the mutual trust and respect we share with our clients. 

If you’re an advertising agency or marketing services partner interested in hearing how Brkthru measures client satisfaction and achieves top scores, reach out to We’d be happy to start a conversation to help you keep happy clients, and of course, win new ones!

Ed Note: Current clients – be on the lookout for your 2024 Client Performance Survey invitation in January. We want to hear from you!

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