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The Business of Losing Clients

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 by Slaughter Development

Local brand experience design firm Kristian Andersen + Associates just got fired. It was an amicable divorce, but getting dumped is part of the consulting business, right?

On the KA+A blog, Kristian Andersen writes:

Recently we were informed by a client, with whom we had been working for several months, that they were moving their account to a design shop, located in a very large city on the east coast. It wasn’t ugly or contentious, there were no angry words, or overt slights – it was all quite civilized. But that didn’t temper the sting of rejection. This particular relationship was, by our standards, extremely short-lived.

[To quote] the AMC drama Mad Men: “The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them.”

A business relationship begins at the moment of a signature and a handshake. Yet, as the old adage of the advertising and marketing business concludes, retaining clients is a losing battle. No one knows when the partnership will end.  All the firm can do is work hard and try to keep the customer happy.

The reason many consulting companies attempt to keep clients forever is that there’s no expectation that the company will ever be in a position to succeed without outside expertise. Indeed, Andersen’s story is not about a company that decided they no longer needed brand experience design. Rather, the customer decided to switch to a different design shop. Luckily for service consultancies and reputable user experience gurus in general, assistance with marketing, visual design, brand management, advertising, copywriting, media buys or any of the other services of the PR/marketing/design industry will always be needed until companies go out of business or start their own department. Outsourced services usually do not rub off on internal people.

This concept of infinite consulting involvement is the essential difference between service consultancies (like KA+A) and instructional consultancies (like Slaughter Development.) Our goal is to help you improve workflow and productivity through comprehensive training and re-engagement. We don’t expect to be involved with you for more than 12-18 months. Believe it or not, we are in the business of getting rid of clients.

Every business has non-core functions that are best addressed by service consultancies. If you need help with accounting, legal services, marketing, public relations, catering, event planning or cleaning your facilities, it makes sense to consider hiring outside experts. Of course, businesses also have core functions with productivity and workflow challenges, which are areas that can benefit tremendously from productivity experts; however, such engagements should be limited.

As we see it, there are times when you need to buy fish at a supermarket and times when you need help learning how to fish. If workflow issues stifle your success, contact Slaughter Development. We’re in the business of helping you and your business move forward.

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Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

Understanding Mystery Clients - A Brazilian man was recently rewarded $17,500 after a judge ruled his weight gain resulted from managing a McDonald’s franchise. And though his clothes were snug, his argument was far from tight. Read on »
The Value In Seeking Expertise - Today’s post on The Methodology Blog is from Denise Speer, founder and owner of c3-indy. As a marketing specialist and entrepreneur, she knows the exhilaration that comes with building a company, but doesn’t deny that certain projects can be more difficult than others to accomplish. Her advice: don’t be afraid to consult experts. Read on »
Surveys, Contests and Prizes (Oh My!) - Last week, we announced the winner of a promotion based around a customer survey and a chance to win a free $50 gift card. But as productivity experts, we have to ask: are prizes linked to surveys a good idea? Read on »
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2 Responses to “The Business of Losing Clients”

  1. jpmwhelan Says:

    A statement of work, is one tool that will assist business consultants with establishing a repore with their clients. A clearly defined statement of work, will establish expectations, and deliverables for each of the clients that the business consultant is attempting to secure. It provides the framework for the work that will be done, how it will be done, and most importantly, when it will be done. Consider this step as a vital one in your organization. It will truly benefit all parties involved.

  2. rslaughter Says:

    Thanks for your response!

    A Statement of Work (or any other form of proposal) is a great way to help clarify roles and responsibilities. But like any other contract, its most useful when the document is used for informational purposes rather than as defensive shield. Too often, a statement of work becomes a reference for winning arguments.

    Perhaps the most is to help clients understand the cycle of your relationship. Are you going to provide an ongoing service for as long as they need help, or until the issue is resolved? Either path may be appropriate depending on the nature of the services and the client’s needs. If a statement of work helps everyone to comprehend the structure and timing of the relationship, it might the best tool for you.

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