Those extra special legacy clients were the reason you were able to build your agency up to what it is today…but are they now limiting your continued growth? Hear me out.
In my experience, a lot of digital agency owners have a number of legacy clients on their books, clients they’ve worked with for years and years, with who they love and who have really positive relationships. The trouble is, these clients have been around since day-dot and all these years later, they’re still paying day-dot prices which are breakeven at best, and entirely unprofitable at worst.
This is troublesome for a few reasons, some more obvious than others.
Firstly, these clients are unprofitable and are costing the agency money – but the long-standing relationship actually means the agency owner feels beholden to them so they keep the work and grin and bear the cost of doing so – which impacts your bottom line.
Secondly, in an agency environment, the service on offer is essentially time – time spent by your employees to complete certain tasks for your clients. When these legacy clients, who are already getting an absolute bargain, start to encroach on their fair share of the agency’s team and billable time, the loss to the business compounds.
Suddenly these breakeven clients are costing money, and worse still, everyone in the team is tied up servicing them and there’s no capacity left to service the profitable ones.
I’m referring to the Pareto Principle (or 80/20 Rule). Which in this instance, means that 20% of an agency’s clients, should be generating 80% of the overall revenue.
While this is essentially just a model, in my experience the Pareto Principle absolutely rings true for digital agencies – if you have doubts, export your own client list and test this out for yourself!
With that in mind, and given what we’ve just unpacked in the paragraphs above, it’s clear that the revenue potential and the path to success lies in the hands of an agency’s top 20% of clients.
Allocating your resources (human or otherwise) to servicing those highly profitable clients, rather than the unprofitable/breakeven clients, is what’s going to grow your agency.
This doesn’t mean over-servicing these clients and doing more billable work for free. Instead, think about what your team can offer in order to maximise your client’s business. Perhaps you have a PPC team, who up until now were tied up servicing an unprofitable client – you could pitch your PPC service to your profitable client to complement the SEO work you already might be doing.
Offering more services to these clients will a) make your client’s know you have a genuine interest in the success of their business and b) generate more profitable revenue for your agency.
Raise your prices, drop your unprofitable clients & make the profitable ones feel like royalty.
Start by exporting your client list, sort them by revenue and then calculate their gross margins. You’ll be able to see quick-smart which accounts are profitable and which ones are not. From there, your next step is to raise your prices to a profitable level so that both your clients and your business are winning.
In my experience, there are three potential outcomes when it comes to proposing a price increase – so here’s my advice for every eventuality:
Everybody Says Yes – Great, now all your clients are profitable and your agency will continue to grow, and they’ll continue to receive high-quality service as you can now afford to do so.
Some Say No/Some Say Yes – Fine, losing a handful of unprofitable accounts won’t impact the profitability of your agency. The reality is, they were costing you money, so by letting them go, you’re still in the black.
The ones you have retained, have agreed to your price increase. You’re now making a healthier margin that covers the cost of any clients you had to let go of.
Even better, the time your team were spending to deliver the service for the unprofitable clients, can be reallocated so you can give back to your top 20% of clients who are generating 80% of your revenue.
Worst Case Scenario, They All Say No – Another positive outcome. These clients were costing you money and now they’re out of your hair. With fewer clients, you might have to slim some costs and reduce the size of your team – now you have a leaner agency that is easier to manage.
This might sound a little counterproductive, but you’re still guaranteed to be generating the same profit because you’re no longer losing out on the unprofitable clients.
What I’m trying to get at is, don’t fret about losing some clients who aren’t prepared to pay you the margin that a) your work deserves and b) you need in order to grow your agency. Chances are, your loyal, legacy clients will want to support your business and continue working together and will happily agree, which will cover the cost of any who might say no.
If you need any help increasing the profitability of your agency then Get In Touch with my team at Digital Agency Coach.
We’ve helped hundreds of clients achieve stratospheric growth through strategies just like this and we’d love to help you too.
Me and my team of experienced and dedicated Coaches are here to help you understand your business better and the best growth strategies for you, your agency and your team.
I'm an ex-agency founder now coach and mentor to digital agencies and trusted by Google and Forbes to deliver agency growth programs across the globe.