In the 11 years since I started Truly Texan, I’ve had 4 “good” clients leave me to go with someone else. To me a “good” client is one I like, first of all, and also one I do a fair amount of work for – maybe averaging at least $100/month over and above any hosting fees. (You can spend $300/month with me, but if you’re a jerk, it doesn’t bother me in the least if you decide to leave. I’ve had that happen once and wouldn’t take them back if they begged.)
Of course, I have lots of other clients I adore who I rarely do any work for because they manage their sites themselves or simply don’t need a lot of updates, but I like them and they seem to appreciate me. They’re good clients too, but not in the same way.
But it’s those aforementioned “good” clients I want to talk about now.
It just kills me when one of them leaves because I really do provide good value for the dollar spent. I know this because I know my own work ethic, and how I have to force myself not to do too many extra things for a client simply because I know they would benefit from it. Sometimes clients just can’t afford all the things they need.
I also know I do good work because I know the going rate for people who can achieve SEO results like I can, and because one of those who left came back a few months later, having learned that the grass wasn’t greener.
So… how come they leave? My theory is that a couple of things have probably happened. One, I might not have been at the top of my game for a few days or even weeks. Yes, I’m human and life gets in the way of business sometimes. I make mistakes. And sometimes the mistakes seem to come in clusters. But just as I try to understand my clients’ mistakes (where you think you told me something, but I have every email you’ve ever sent and can prove you didn’t, or at least that I didn’t receive it), my clients are usually understanding when I’m having a bad day or days.
But let’s say one of my family members is suffering from some trauma that is affecting my concentration and, at the same time, some slick local (to my client) web designer makes a sales pitch and presents some mock-ups that catch my client’s eye. Well, if my client doesn’t tell me that they’ve been approached and give me the opportunity to compete or go visit them in person and charm them myself, before you know it, I’m getting 30 days notice.
And bam! I didn’t even know they were unhappy. And the sad part is that they probably weren’t. They just believed the person in front of them rather than the results they’ve actually experienced over the years.
Most of my clients are retailers or wholesalers or service providers who have hundreds, if not thousands of clients and whose repeat customers are negligible.
I have, what with Truly Texan advertising and hosting and web design and website management, between 60 and 80 clients at any one time. I know my clients. Heck, I know most of their spouses’ names and what they like to do in their spare time. I feel like my clients’ success is my success. I’m invested in their success, not only financially but also emotionally.
I quit a great paying job with fabulous benefits to do something that I knew would not make me rich but that I thought would be gratifying enough to make up for the lack of money. For the most part it is.
So when a client leaves me unexpectedly, I spend the next month simply trying to comprehend what I could have done differently to prevent it. And this time, I’ve concluded there was absolutely nothing I could have done. Not one email had been exchanged that wasn’t like every email for the past 8 or 9 years.
But even now, I’m sitting here thinking, “Maybe you should survey your clients annually to see what you can improve, or maybe you should do more chatting up with each of them” but you know folks, as it is I spend 10-12 hours a day working for you and I’m lucky to take an entire weekend off, so I have to draw the line somewhere.
If you’re not happy with me, please let me know.
If some salesperson dangles something shiny in front of you, please let me know.
I’ll try to be professional if you decide to leave, but I do hope you’ll be professional and let me know you’re considering leaving so I can try to keep you.
A final note: I believe in Karma. I would never do anything intentional to hurt your business simply because you’ve decided to leave me. I prefer the high ground. It’s a better moral position, and it allows me to easily take you back when you realize I was pretty darn good.