5 Reasons Your Client Isn’t Renewing Their Contract

Posted on November 10, 2020
  • They put you on a pedestal
  • Your relationship got boring
  • You’re treating the symptom and not the cause
  • The two of you just grew apart
  • It was you the whole time

The end date of the contract is fast approaching. You’re trying to lock in that renewal, but your client is being cagey. It’s getting tough to get the formerly responsive person on the phone, and even tougher to get them to return your email. Meetings seem kind of tense, if they even happen at all.

You’re getting the sense that they’re just not into you anymore. But you’re not sure why — you thought everything was great.

After waiting in agony, the Dear John letter lands in your inbox. You open it up, and it says a more business-like version of, “it’s not you, it’s me.”

Your stomach drops. You were afraid this would come, but other than their recent odd behavior, you can’t figure out why.

Just like the last time you heard that line, it’s full of nonsense. They’ll never tell you the real reason why they left, but we will.

Here are five of the most common reasons your client won’t renew their contract.

1. The Relationship Was Built on Unrealistic Expectations

Think of this reason as the marketing equivalent of being put on a pedestal. From the first time the client met your business, the sales team pulled out all the stops. To get that contract, the sales team had to bring their A-game, even if that meant not being totally honest.

Your company over-promised, you under-delivered, and you probably didn’t even realize it. Just know it isn’t your fault. You did the best you could, but the relationship just wasn’t meant to be.

The sales team might’ve committed to impossible deadlines, without realizing the work that goes into your campaigns. Or they may have completely oversold your skills and promised that yes, of course, you could turn their business around — when in reality, there’s just no saving that mess.

Regardless of what they committed to, they promised results without consulting the team members who live and breathe marketing.

Why would they do such a thing? The answer is simple: They just want to close as many deals as possible, and they’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. Close the deal today, figure out how to do the work tomorrow.

Your relationship was doomed to fail from the beginning.

a stale and boring relationship

2. Your Relationship Has Grown Stale

Have you ever had a partner where you woke up one day and just kind of realized your relationship was over? In hindsight, all the signs were there, but you either didn’t see them or pretended they didn’t exist.

This is kinda like that. The rapport between you and the client had been slipping over time, and neither of you put in the effort to spice up your relationship.

On the agency side, there are a few reasons why your client might fall out of love with you. Maybe you’re not listening to them, or giving them enough attention. It could be that you’re not prioritizing your relationship enough, leaving the client to feel unimportant.

Maybe your agency wants an open relationship, so they swap account managers and other key players often. But the client wanted to be monogamous the whole time and missed who you used to be.

On the client side, any time your point of contact leaves, it should send up major red flags. In many cases, relationships end because your client point-of-contact changes, and they just don’t love you like their predecessor did.

Regardless of the reason why your relationship has grown stale, it’s time for you both to part ways. And for you to move on to bigger and better clients.

missing the point

3. You’re Missing The Big Picture

In this scenario, you and your client are fighting all the time, but neither of you really understands why. All you both know is something isn’t working, and at some point, it’s just not worth it to try anymore.

In this case, it could be that you’re treating a symptom of the client’s issue — but not the underlying cause. One example could be that your client hired you to boost traffic to their website. You’re a skilled storyteller, so you write all kinds of original and thought-provoking pieces to drive traffic through SEO.

But the traffic never comes. You’re doing everything right, but you just can’t make it work. You’re trying to treat the symptom - lack of traffic - without realizing that the actual issue is snails move faster than their website. In a situation like that, you just can’t win (without a strategic partner).

It could also be that you’re not digging deep enough into their underlying issues. You hear their complaints in meetings, but take them at face value instead of getting to the “why.”

Or it could be that you’re preventing them from seeing the bigger picture by not fully communicating wins and owning losses.

Take a step back and look at the relationship from a different point of view. It could simply be a case of the client needing something you just aren’t capable of giving.

burning a picture after a breakup

4. You’re Growing in Different Directions

Have you ever had a long-term relationship where you woke up one day and realized that somewhere along the way you and your partner just became different people? No explosive fights, no major problems. Just a slow journey to different hobbies, different friends, and different bedrooms.

In business, this can happen when you’re not keeping up with what’s going on in your client’s professional life. They may have new goals, responsibilities, or metrics they’re responsible for. Or maybe they have a new boss to impress. It’s up to you to make sure you’re growing with the client, and doing your part to help them shine.

It could also be a situation where you see the problems coming, but fear stops you from facing the truth. Your client could have an unrealistic idea of what your working relationship is, but you’re hesitant to call them out on their bullshit. Or, maybe you need to call out your own bullshit and admit you’re not the right person for the job.

Here’s the lesson in all of this: If you feel that you and your client are starting to drift apart, be honest and direct. Best case scenario is that you get your relationship back on track. Worse case is that they’ll leave anyway, but you can at least part on good terms.

It is your fault

5. The Problem Actually Was You

We saved the worst for last, because seeing your own faults is often the toughest pill to swallow. There are times where you just weren’t your best self, and it poisoned the relationship.

Let’s break this one down a bit. There are a couple of reasons why you might be a less-than-perfect partner to your client:

1. You’re not properly educating them on what you do and why it’s important. The less a client understands what makes your work unique and special, the more susceptible they are to get wooed by your competition.

2. You’re not being proactive in recommendations or changes. Like the point above, if you keep coasting on autopilot, one of you is bound to have that realization where they wake up and realize you two are both very different people.

3. You’re not recommending vetted and trusted partners. Sometimes you won’t be able to fill all the client’s needs — and that’s OK! But it’s important to realize that and bring in trusted partners to fill the gaps before the client finds someone to take over for you, too.

4. Not working well with others. Maybe your client has a strategic partner you have to work with, but you just hate them. Just like with an annoying mother-in-law, sometimes you just have to smile to their face, and rant about them in private.

Just like in the other kind of relationship, you’ve gotta work on yourself first. Make sure you’re the best version of yourself, and you’ll be ready for all the great client karma to come your way.

The Takeaway

Whether in love or business, sometimes a relationship just isn’t meant to be. You may never know the actual reason why it didn’t work out.

But before you move on to the next one, take some time to reflect. Use those lessons learned to make your next client relationship a healthy and happy partnership for both of you.

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