How do you retain clients? Retain your staff.

Client retention starts with good staff retention. Columnist Adam Weiss discusses the ways leaders can motivate their team and keep their employees on board.


As a client services professional, I spend time thinking about client relationships and the significance of retention. Questions like, “How are we, as a business, developing our clients to ensure they’ll stay with us?” come to mind. And thinking about these questions and relationships has taught me to evaluate and understand the dynamic between the account representatives and clients.

Account representatives are more than the face of your business — they also perform and are viewed as an extension of a client’s team.

In fact, in recent years, many client satisfaction conversations have shifted to focus on client-facing employees, with companies asking questions such as, “How are we, as a business, developing our employees to ensure they’ll stay with us?”

Leadership looking to retain clients will start from the core, within their own team. To keep employees on board, there are five things every leader should do.

Personalize leadership

Personalization is an increasingly hot topic in ad tech news, but do you personalize your leadership style? Similar to the way consumers respond better to relevant ads that are custom-tailored for their browsing activity, team members are likely to perform better when they feel heard and are empowered to act.

Taking the time to get to know your staff and learning how to work effectively with each member of your team on a one-on-one basis is a key part of personalized leadership. It’s invaluable to spend time learning about your employees’ personal and professional ambitions and motivational drivers.

Research continuously shows that engaged employees who are motivated and fulfilled are more productive, drive higher revenue growth and have more satisfied customers.

When developing a personalized leadership style, constructive feedback and input from peers and employees is important. One way to facilitate it is through 360 reviews.

These performance evaluations provide holistic feedback and are customized from the team to the individual to address weaknesses and highlight strengths. By implementing a personal 360 review system, employees receive feedback from managers, direct reports and peers, which provides multiple perspectives.

I have always admired leaders who can both talk the talk and walk the walk. While powerful leaders throughout history have been revered for their winning speeches and motivational tactics, above all, they are valued for their ability to lead by example.

This is key in showing personalization of leadership and will motivate and inspire employees to exceed goals, individually and collaboratively.

Chart the course for your employees’ careers

Tenured employees are wonderful additions to every team. They have deep knowledge of their field and can provide a company-centric perspective to team members at all levels.

This deep understanding should be tempered with continuous growth to avoid monotony. Without new and exciting challenges, tenured employees may feel that their growth has reached a plateau.

To avoid this feeling of latency, it’s important to create custom career paths that reflect their individual ambitions, and also to challenge and push your team to new heights.

One way to do this is through introducing team members to new skill sets. By providing various training programs, even if they are not directly related to their current position, you can allow employees to broaden their horizons and transform into a T-shaped team that’s always innovating.

When possible, in-person meetings are a great way for you to connect to your staff and build their trust. Last year, my colleague wrote about the importance of face-to-face communication, including the demand for attention, showing value to the other person and inspiring trust.

These meetings also can be valuable times to discuss goals and explore new opportunities to accelerate growth.

Tightly manage talent

Client-facing teams are like the lifeblood of your company. They keep the accounts running and the client happy.

Often you hear “a happy employee equals a happy customer.” Assigning a well-rounded and customized team to each client will help address the many facets of each account and its needs.

In order to do this, it’s important to identify and extrapolate the varying strengths and interests of each person on your team to establish roles. Each position provides members the opportunity to shine in their role and contribute their strengths while learning additional skillsets from colleagues.

I would certainly recommend this type of fluid system for account management; I have experienced firsthand the positive impact it can have on both clients and staff.

Even the best plans are subject to change, so in the unfortunate event that your top talent leaves the company, it’s always important to have a Plan B. Talent turnover is just a fact of professional life, but utilizing a fluid system will enable your account management teams to quickly make transitions until replacements are made.

Create open lines of communication for feedback

Similar to other regular events — like dentist appointments, medical checkups and oil changes — employee reviews can be a painful event for all parties involved. In the case of poor performance, it’s hard to deliver bad news, and the receiving party rarely wants to hear your criticism, however constructive it may be.

Despite a busy schedule and an agenda chock-full of meetings, setting time aside every week to meet with each team member will show you value them and serve as a reminder that you are there to help. Weekly check-ins can help open the communication channels so both you and your staff can identify areas for improvement.

Opening the door — perhaps literally — to your team can help them progress toward their goals and empower them to be proactive in their professional development. What’s more, when feedback is communicated clearly and often, actions can be corrected immediately, and the formal review should come with zero surprises.

Continually cultivate company culture

Despite what the murals or mission statements splayed across your office walls say, company culture is truly defined by employees. Embodying a safe-to-fail environment at the company will foster a culture that makes it okay to mess up, because failure can fuel learning when taken in stride.

Even better, this environment often leads to out-of-the-box thinking and employee innovation. When they do something well, recognizing and publicizing their achievements will motivate them to carry on.

Whether you provide a personalized system for recognition and rewards or participate in a companywide initiative, it is crucial to give credit where credit is due. Employees will appreciate it.

Staff retention translates to client retention

To retain clients, look no further than the faces in your own company. Having a solid and hard-working team that is motivated by goals and new challenges will create an internal buzz and increase employee engagement.

This energy and drive won’t go unnoticed by clients. It will create and reinforce long-lasting relationships that are beneficial to both parties.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.