“My biggest client which represents 60% my income doesn’t need this [strategy]. I need to focus on delivering for them.”
This is the most common reply I get when I ask marketing agencies or consultants if they are making progress doing more strategy and coaching work with clients. It scares me every time.
Building a business… or chasing a dollar?
Your biggest client also represents your biggest risk.
When one client represents more than half of your income, you are in a position to lose over half of what sustains you and enables the freedom that is part of being an entrepreneur - in the blink of an eye.
We have bills to pay, mouths to feed: we will do anything to protect that client and prevent the unthinkable from happening. To “save” our business. This is where our decision making gets turned upside down and we start working for the client, not for ourselves.
Once we start down this path and adopt the mindset that the sun rises and sets to please this one client, we lose control. We cease making choices that are good for our business by rationalizing what is good for this client.
What happens when, for the best of reasons, we confuse our vision with that of our biggest, most important client? We lose sight of a consistent, scalable offering: our identity as a differentiated business. That identity is replaced by the mindset of providing whatever the client needs. We become reactive vs pro-active.
The business now looks more like a contract employee chasing a dollar for their next gig rather than an entrepreneurial venture with a unique value proposition in the marketplace. We’ve become a commodity, enslaved to a client that defines us… sets how much we will earn… what we will do… when we will do it. Ouch!
The idea that you can prevent a client from cancelling is an illusion. The risk is always there, and mitigating that risk is a matter of filling your pipeline with new opportunities and making sure you never put yourself in a situation where more than 50 percent of your income is at risk during any given quarter. If you have two clients coming up for renewal in May, together equaling 50 percent of your income - you fall into the same trap.
Spread the risk across multiple clients, keep your pipeline full, and stagger your client renewal dates.
Market vs client opportunity
Top performing entrepreneurs see the big picture, an opportunity in the marketplace, and they go after that opportunity with a business model that is profitable and scalable. In contrast, contractors only see opportunity with the client sitting in front of them telling them what they want.
At the CMB Institute, we’ve built a peer network to help professional marketing organizations learn best practices and from each other, how to capture the current MARKET opportunity for strategy as conditions drive a shift in demand from “doing” services to strategy and planning.
The entrepreneurs, consultants and agency owners that make up our community do not look at strategy as something they could sell “if” the client needs it.
Instead, our top performing agencies embrace the mindset that strategy, planning and “knowledge” IS the business, because it represents the largest market opportunity.
Strategy is not something you sell, it’s something you become.