It’s fair to say that in a way, the day you get a client is the day you start losing them.
There is a scene in Mad Men – a drama about one of New York’s most prestigious, high-pressure, Madison Avenue advertising agencies, set in the 1960s – in which they have won a huge client. The entire agency is celebrating, yet Roger Sterling, a founding partner in the firm and played by John Slattery is basically in his office, not celebrating with the rest of them.
When his absence is noticed and he has been tracked down by Don Draper – ad man extraordinaire – Roger comments that the client will not be celebrating working with them because,
‘The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them.’
Which is in fact what Don himself has just said to another character who’d also just told him that he’d lost an account.
So, the one thing you can guarantee is that the day you win a client is also the day you start to lose them.
Inevitably, at some point, you are going to get the call that says they don’t want to work with you anymore – and it happens to everyone.
We picked up a new client the other week.
The client (very nicely) rang me on a Friday so I could celebrate over the weekend (which I did with an extra no-alcohol beer – very Mad Men).
But was he celebrating that evening because he was working with me? Realistically, that’s highly unlikely.
So, what does this mean in practice for you?
Well, straight away, even though the parting of ways at some point is inevitable, the day you win a client is also the day when you can, and have to, start to delay that parting of ways.
And you do this by doing as good a job as possible, for as long as possible.
We’re all aware that the first 100 days in office is really crucial for a new US President. Those first three months affects and informs people’s perceptions of what comes after – and probably just as importantly, what they think will come after. First impressions count.
Likewise with your new client. You know you’re going to lose them, so you need to push that point as far as possible into the future. Your first 90 days is also crucial. and you need to be as effective and interesting and valuable to the client as possible – so that they want to keep you.
Never take your clients for granted and never become complacent. You’re going to split eventually, and someone else will get your gig. But that doesn’t mean you should give it up easily or not fight to keep them for as long as you can.