I wanted to pause for a minute in my normal Ecommerce PPC and Shopping Ads writing, to discuss a little family business. That is, how does ZATO maintain clients if we don't require long-term commitments? I thought it would be good to share my beliefs from a marketing and business perspective, as well as give you insights into how we think about things at ZATO as it specifically relates to our clients.You may be considering joining our client-list, or even referring people over to us, and I hope to be as transparent as possible, so you can understand a little of how ZATO "ticks" in this regard.
The Big Question with Contracts
At ZATO, we have no long-term commitments. Not one.Every, single, one of our clients (biggest to smallest) is on a month-to-month basis with a 30 Day Written Out. You want to walk away from ZATO with all of your accounts and data? Drop us an email with your intentions, pay off any balance, and in 30 Days you leave with no legally binding... anything.The first question that comes to people's minds (those who don't openly scoff when they hear we don't require long-term commitments) is, "HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR CLIENTS?"Well first, three important facts to demonstrate this isn't a naive attempt by a startup:
- Our normal Full Service client tenure with ZATO is measured in years, not months.
- Our very first client is still with us. They signed on in 2011 and we're approaching nearly a decade (😱) with them.
- We have multiple clients who have been with us longer than 5 years.
So how do we keep clients when we don't force them into a long-term contractual relationship?
3 Ways To Maintain Relationships Beyond a Contract
We lean into 3 things that allow us to maintain solid relationships without holding a contract over our clients' heads:
- We vet new clients exhaustively.
- We price ourselves competitively.
- We service our clients fastidiously.
Client Pre-filtering: While we don't hit a homerun every-time, we really do believe in "client / culture fit". We utilize various questions in our process to determine if a client will be a good ZATO fit, and if so we pursue a relationship with them. This ensures from the beginning that we're more likely to be satisfied with each other.As one example, while we have grown accounts rapidly before, we're typically not interested in startups who contact us saying the want to triple their revenue in the first 6 months. That is a recipe for frustration and poorly managed expectations, and we pass on those instead of taking them on and wasting all our energy chasing difficult if not impossible growth. I'm not saying it's wrong for them to have that perspective, I'm saying that's not a good fit with our team, our process, and our own objectives so we honestly communicate that to them.Competitive Pricing: We believe in pricing our services in a way that demonstrates our value, but isn't so aggressively expensive that it is easy for a client to leave us simply because they could save money. Typically, we've found that ZATO will be in the middle of the crowd for PPC Agency pricing. That's okay with us, because with the 3rd point, it means we're even more likely to keep clients for a LONG time without a legal document forcing them to stay.Happy Clients Stay: With affordable pricing, and our client filtering process, once we land a client we work hard to put all of our expertise into destroying it (in a good way, like how the word "sick" was used to discuss the very best skateboard moves on the pavement... and I've just demonstrated how radically "uncool" I truly am) on their account.While this doesn't mean we put up with unreasonable expectations in terms of over-communication or constantly changing goals (we'll have a heart-to-heart conversation if that happens), we do think it means that we do our very best to work hard to exceed our client goals.We like to say it like this, "we want our clients to stay with us because they're happy with our work, not because we're holding it over their heads with some legal document."
Wait, So Is There a Contract?
Okay, so is there a contract or not for clients of ZATO to sign? Great question! While we don't do long-term commitments, we *do* sign a legal contract. This is because we value the power of the written agreement, the purpose of our contracts is not to force an unhappy person to work with us longer than they want, it is to clarify the agreement to which we all discussed in the beginning in terms of pricing, objectives, and management process to make sure we all begin on the same page. In this way, don't be surprised if you're asked to sign a contract by us, but be assured that it has a written 30 day out attached (did I tell you we make sure you take your accounts and data along with you?).Why a Setup Fee? By the way, this is also why we charge a setup fee for our initial work. We want to ensure our initial onboarding value is taken care of, which allows us to have more freedom in offering a short-term commitment. We don't spread out all of our initial onboarding work in pricing over the next 18 months of our arrangement. You pay for that up front, and you can leave at any time.At the end of the day, we believe the best partnerships are built around trust rather than legal agreements. This doesn't mean we don't value the power of a good legal agreement to clarify the arrangement, but it does mean we won't be hiding behind a legal agreement if you are unhappy with our management. We value close relationships with our clients, and frankly, we aren't happy if you're not happy so why would we string you along and keep you, unhappy, for another year because you "have to". Talk about a recipe for disaster! Call it a "Satisfaction Guarantee" or whatever you want to call it, but we give you the ability to leave our services at any time with a 30 day written email or letter. That's all it takes, but you better believe we'll work pretty darn hard to keep you so happy you won't ever want to get to that place ;)