What It Feels Like To Lose Your First Big Client
May 27 2016, Published 3:30 a.m. ET
This story starts in 2012. I looked for a job everywhere except Orlando, and found one there. I was hired on as the Director of Marketing (which wasn’t saying much because they had NO ONE in marketing before) for a large medical group. When I came on I was fresh out of UCF and ready to make an impression.
The company was big; it had 10 offices in the central Florida area. It also had a great reputation. I came in there ready to take the bull by the horns, so I proposed this and that, and we were off. We needed to redo the website. Now, visualize this… a nice website full of browns, khakis, and burgundy. Inviting, right? Wrong. I came in and helped rebrand the whole company in the first six months that I was there. New colors, new logo, new website, and a new slogan. I also implemented the company’s social media, email marketing, SEO and blogging presence.
Let’s fast-forward to 2015. I helped them grow from 10 to 20 offices. They had 17 locations in central Florida, and three out of state. I also helped them jump from 225 new patients per month to over 450. Crazy, right?! Even though this was great for the company, I wasn’t 100 percent happy anymore. Because the company had grown so quickly, I wasn’t seeing a budget for marketing, and my ideas were getting turned down left and right. Something needed to change.
My parents were advocates for entrepreneurship, so in February 2014, I acquired my first client (and still have her today). Once I became serious about starting my venture, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and worked on my business until 6:30 a.m., hopped in the shower and went to my normal job for 8:00 a.m. I’d work all day until around 5:30 p.m. and then come home, eat dinner and work until 11:00. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes.
After I put in my notice at my former company, my boss became my first big client. Fast-forward to 2016. I have my company: a full-time employee, three interns and a part-time employee starting in May. Things are going well. Then I get the call.
It was the office manager from my former company, and my current client. I answer the phone in my usual cheery voice, but Jenny didn’t express the same cheeriness. She immediately told me, “I’m not calling you about anything good.” I was mentally preparing myself for what could have gone wrong when she said, “We’re going to stop all services with you.” I stopped thinking. I stopped breathing for a second. I stopped everything because I didn’t know what to say or, frankly, what to do. This was my BIGGEST client. By big, I mean they paid for my rent AND for part of my payroll. BIG.
I took a deep breath and said, “OK. Why? Was it something that went wrong? Did he [the doctor] tell you anything?” She said, “You did nothing wrong, he [the doctor] wanted to try other methods of marketing. Billboards, door-to-door advertising. Things like that.” Now, this floored me, too, because if I even mentioned billboards in a sentence, I would be cut off and told not to even finish the sentence. I couldn’t fight it. I couldn’t even justify why they were leaving because there was no reason. Jenny just told me that they wanted to go in another direction. There it was. Money down the drain and nothing I could do about it.
But what did I do? I was pretty upset. Not crying upset, but upset enough to not know what to do with myself and upset enough to not want to work anymore because I couldn’t concentrate. I thought it over and decided to call him [the doctor] the next morning. So I did. And I got nowhere. Same story: “I want to try something different.” OK.
When you’re in business for yourself, losing clients is never easy. Even clients that you think will never leave you can do so. The best thing to do is be polite, say you’ll check back with them in a month or so, and monitor what they’re losing out on by not using your services. Then, make a plan. Here’s mine: I figure maybe I’ll get another shot with them in around three months. Over that time, I did social media and SEO for them. If I figure out how many people they’re not reaching in that three months, I can calculate the money lost over that amount of time. I also did social media advertising for them, Facebook ads in particular. So, what I’m going to do is calculate how much money is lost due to patients not being reached and the company not being top of mind.
You also have to be positive. There’s always a plan for things, and I believe that everything happens for a reason. I was sitting at my desk after that shocker of a phone call and thinking to myself, “Why did this happen. What could it have meant?”
I think it happened because I needed to get off my butt and realize that I cannot rely on one client. I need to prospect more, weed the negative people out of my business, and I realized that I need to work hard no matter what. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am prospecting and meeting people like crazy. BUT losing this client opens up a new category that was once filled, the medical category. And, if I think about it, it should be a pretty easy sell with my background.
The moral of my story? Yes, I’m down some money. But I’m going to get new, better clients who value my services and who understand the value I bring. Don’t give up on your dream. Just because there are bumps in the road doesn’t mean it’s quitting time.