How To Respond When a Client Fires You: 7 Agency Experts Weigh In

How To Respond When a Client Fires You: Agency Experts Weigh In


Navigating client loss is a critical challenge for marketing agencies. This article offers strategies for understanding and responding when a client decides to terminate services. Decipher potential reasons for the client's decision, effectively communicate for closure and explore ways to retain clients. Focusing on agency-client dynamics, dig into insights for agencies to handle client departures constructively and strengthen client retention strategies.

You think you have the perfect client: great communication, an open feedback loop, and stellar work delivered. But then things take a turn for the worse–and fast: an email comes from your client saying they will not be working with you again.

What do you do? Knowing how to respond when a client fires you is key to bouncing back and turning rejection into an opportunity.

In this article, we’ll look at how best to handle the situation to retain your best clients and grow your agency, including insights from seven agency owners who’ve been there/done that.  

What To Do When A Client Fires You

For a marketing agency, losing a client is always a possibility. But there are some steps you can take to try to prevent it from happening–even after they say, “You’re fired!” (but not in those exact words). They’ll likely say, “We won’t be needing your services anymore, thanks for all that you’ve done.” 

So whether your client called or emailed you to let you know, or started ghosting your billing requests and not paying on time, you probably have a million questions running through your mind, like: 

  • Did you miss out on any red flags that caused them to churn? 

  • Did something happen that triggered them to fire you, or are they just a bad client? 

  • Is your agency accurately tracking their success and reporting on them effectively?

  • Did they get the attention they needed? 

  • Is your agency’s unique selling proposition still differentiating you from the competition?

This is enough to cause a headache, so instead of dwelling on the possibilities, you’re going to want to get the answers straight from the horse’s mouth. So while your response will be to acknowledge the client’s feedback, ask for a follow-up call to understand their reasoning. 

You know that a new client is much harder to acquire than retaining one client. And retaining many clients is key to recession-proofing your agency. So what do you do? The short answer is to try and keep them–but not at all costs. For instance, if it’s a toxic client with a rocky history of impossible requests, then take it as an easy pass and let those difficult clients go. 

But most often, your agency is going to want to keep the client. If that’s the case, here’s what your retention specialists should do:

1. Listen to Their Concerns In a Live Conversation

If your client has decided to fire you, it's important to understand why. Schedule a meeting to discuss their concerns and really listen to what they have to say. Take notes and ask questions to ensure you fully understand their perspective. 

Never argue. Listen to their concerns and see if there is any common ground that you can build upon.

– Dan Alper, VP at RankWorks

Approach this as you would a client discovery meeting: you’ll need to gather all the intel you need to understand what’s not working for them and listen.

Agency Tip: Don’t wait too long. The call should be booked in the next few days while giving your team enough time to do a quick internal assessment and let their emotions cool down. 

Even if you are not able to rescue that particular client, these lessons are invaluable for improving your agency’s overall client retention. 

2. Offer Actionable Solutions That Address Their Issues

You’re not going to want to let them off the hook so easily. Once you understand your client's concerns, offer solutions that address their issues. Be proactive in coming up with a plan to improve their experience and the results you're delivering.

Ask yourself (and them): 

  • Are their expectations realistic? If so, how can you meet their needs? 

  • Was the right team on their account to handle this client? Can you adjust the team that’s in charge to improve the services? 

  • Is it money trouble? Are you willing to offer a discount, or reduce their services until they can ramp up their marketing efforts again? 

  • Is this temporary? If the client is experiencing a temporary slowdown or cash flow issue, they may come back to you in the future. 

We have tiers that allow us to flex clients if they hit economic tough times because we like to be that partner that has their back. We’ll say, ‘Let’s bump you down to this and that way, you don’t lose any of the results, but we can continue to work together and figure this out. 

– Trevor Shirk, CEO & Founder of Terrayn Dispensary Marketing

3. Reassess Your Agency’s Approach

Of course, as with any roadblock, this is a learning opportunity for your agency. Take a step back and look at your team's approach. Is there something you could be doing differently or better? Consider bringing in outside perspectives or conducting a thorough review of your strategy to see if there are any areas that need improvement.

Assess the situation, and meet with the client to advise and realign expectations. Monitor the situation, and work with the team to identify if the issue is resolved or whether further assessment is required. 

–Calum Maxwell, Managing Director at Optimise Online 

4. Let Them Go With Dignity

Sometimes, there’s not much you can do, and if a mutual understanding can’t be met, or your non-negotiables are being threatened, it’s in everyone’s best interest to terminate the agency-client relationship.

Especially in the case of a toxic client. 

Do not keep them. It causes undue stress and anxiety within the team, ultimately hurts the business, and destroys happiness. An unhappy team is unproductive.

–Calum Maxwell, Managing Director at Optimise Online 

But… What Do You Do When Your *Best* Client Fires You?

Losing a client hurts, but losing your best client is a bigger burn. Partly because of the history of this carefully-cultivated client relationship–and also because your agency’s cash flow will likely take a hit. For that, you’ll need to make sure your agency doesn’t keep most of its eggs in one basket and maintains a rainy day fund in case this happens.

In our early days, it hurt us a lot when a significant client of ours was acquired by a new owner and the first thing they did was fire all of the vendors. It was out of our control, but it happens. So if you’re an agency owner going for mass numbers, you need to have a diverse client base so that you can lose one or two clients and not really feel it. 

– Trevor Shirk, CEO & Founder of Terrayn Dispensary Marketing 

If you have a big-ticket client canceling on you, you’ll need to double up on your efforts to win them back and be prepared to negotiate. Whether it’s a different plan, discount on fees, or more perks, if you really want to keep them, you should be prepared to be flexible and combat their issues–and have ready solutions. 

Lay All Your Cards On the Table  

You won’t want to let your best client go so easily, so see where you’re willing to bend. This is where your sales pitch deck can come in handy again. After all, you used it to land them, so it’s time to revisit their newest sales objections and combat them like there’s no tomorrow.

Do what you can do to save the deal–within reason. Don't give in to bullying or intimidation. And when it's over, forget about them. Don't dwell on it.

– Mick Carney, Digital Marketing Lead at HeartBeat Digital

After all, you can’t fold and give them everything they want. You’ll need to be reasonable and see what you can improve or give without underselling the worth of your agency’s services

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Transitioning: What To Do When a Client Leaves

Let’s say both parties weren’t able to come to a common understanding, or you decide it’s best to let them go. Remember that losing a client is not the end of the world. It's an opportunity to learn and improve your services and cultivate positive relationships with clients who may be a better fit for your agency in the future.

So if a client ultimately decides to terminate their contract with your agency, there are several steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition and maintain a positive relationship with the client:

1. Review the Contract

First, review the contract you have with the client to understand the terms and conditions of termination. You should also identify any outstanding deliverables or obligations you have to the client.

The terms of the agreement contract state the terms of cancellation. We typically have to complete the work for that billing cycle before discontinuing the working relationship with the client.

– Olu Ajanwachuku, CEO at GVATE

2. Schedule an Exit Meeting

Reach out to the client to schedule an exit meeting to discuss the terms of the termination and the reasons behind it. This is an opportunity to learn from any mistakes and gather feedback that can be used to improve your agency's services and plan their transition. 

3. Plan a Transition

Let the client know that your agency is available to help with any transition-related tasks, such as transferring data or providing access to files. This shows that you care about their success even after they leave your agency.

Work with them to plan a smooth transition, including the transfer of any assets, data, or information that the client may need. Ensure that the client has everything they need to continue their business without interruption.

Whether the client terminates the relationship or your agency has to fire a client, keep a positive relationship and offer to help. 

We escalate to retention specialists who try to reset the account. Failing that we offer to migrate the client to providers of his choice at no cost.

– Dan Alper, VP at RankWorks

4. Maintain Professionalism

Throughout the process, it's important to maintain a professional and respectful tone, even if the termination was unexpected or difficult. This will help to preserve your agency's reputation and may even open the door for future opportunities with the client.

5. Follow Up & Ask for a Review

After the termination is complete, follow up with the client to ensure that they are satisfied with the transition and to address any outstanding issues or concerns. 

If their transition was successful, ask them for feedback and be proactive about it. If they reveal gaps in your agency’s processes, that can help your team close those gaps in the future. If they rave about your services and are parting ways for other reasons, go ahead and ask for a review or referral. They may have been happy with you as a service provider and are willing to refer a friend to your agency. 

How To Ask for Feedback

Ask the client if they could provide feedback on their experience with your agency. Losing clients doesn’t have to be all negative, it can help you understand any areas where you can improve and provide better service to future clients.


  • “We hope you had a positive experience with our agency and would greatly appreciate your feedback. Your opinion is important to us and will help us improve our services for future clients.”

  • “Your satisfaction is our top priority, and we would be grateful if you could take a few minutes to share your thoughts about your experience with our agency. Your feedback will help us enhance our services and provide an even better experience to our clients.”

  • “We value your input and would like to hear about your experience with our agency. If you could spare a moment to provide feedback, it would help us understand what we are doing well and where we could improve to better serve our clients.”

Speaking of Professionalism… What Do You Say to a Client Who Is Leaving?

You’re probably wondering: what is the most dignified and professional way to respond to your clients when they fire you? Here are some things your retention specialists and account managers can say to a departing client:

Thank Them for Their Business

Start by expressing your gratitude for the client's business and the opportunity to work with them. Let them know that you've appreciated their trust in your agency and that you've enjoyed the collaboration.


  • “Thank you for choosing our agency. We truly appreciate your business and look forward to serving you in the future.”

  • “We would like to express our sincere gratitude for the trust and confidence you have placed in our agency.”

  • “It was a pleasure doing business with you, and we are grateful for the opportunity to have served you.”

Wish Them Success

Even if the client is leaving, it's important to maintain a positive relationship. Wish them success in their future endeavors and let them know that they're always welcome to come back if they need your agency's services in the future.


  • “We would like to wish you all the best in your future endeavors. It was a pleasure serving you, and we hope that our agency’s services have contributed to your success.”

  • “We appreciate your business and would like to express our gratitude for choosing our agency. As you move forward, please know that we are always here to support you and provide assistance whenever you need us.”

  • “We want to thank you for trusting our agency to meet your needs. We wish you success in all your future endeavors and want you to know that you are always welcome to come back to us for any assistance you may need in the future.”

What NOT To Say to a Client That’s Leaving 

Here are some words and phrases that you should avoid using when a client fires you. You don’t want to mess it up in the heat of the moment! 

  • "I can't believe you're firing us, after all the hard work we've done for you."

  • "This is completely unfair, we did everything according to the contract."

  • "You're making a huge mistake, you'll never find another agency that can deliver what we can."

  • "I knew this was going to happen, you were never satisfied with anything we did."

  • "Fine, we didn't need your business anyway."

  • "You're going to regret this decision, mark my words."

  • "I can't believe you're doing this to us, we've been so loyal to you."

  • "You obviously don't understand the value of our agency’s services."

  • "You're going to have a hard time finding anyone else who will work with you."

  • "I don't even know why we bothered working with you in the first place."

Nobody likes a Bitter Betty, so taking this approach could end up damaging your reputation in the marketplace. After all, people talk and share their experiences. You want to end the relationship on as positive a note as possible. 

Lessons Learned: Turning This Into an Opportunity

Ultimately, the best way to keep a client is to consistently deliver quality work and build a strong relationship built on trust, communication, and shared goals. If you've done everything you can and your client still decides to leave, it's important to respect their decision and learn from the experience to improve your approach moving forward.

1. Build Strong Agency-Client Relationships With Regular Communication

Communication is key in any client relationship. Make sure you're regularly communicating with your client, providing updates on progress, and answering any questions they may have. This can help build trust and ensure they feel heard and valued.

2. Exceed Expectations 

Sometimes, the best way to keep a client is to simply go above and beyond their expectations. This can mean delivering exceptional results, providing extra support or resources, or simply taking the time to understand their business on a deeper level.

We point out that the arrangement has to be mutually beneficial and increase our prices to include the cash-chasing time, time answering low-trust queries, etc. Also, while we always try to under-promise and over-deliver, we take this to extremes once we pick up a client who is a 'toxic' type. 

– Daniel Noakes, Founder at UClimb 

3. Get More Clients

Lead generation for agencies is essential for growth, but finding new clients is often a top struggle that hinders agency growth. Take a hard look at your agency management and identify areas for improvement. Losing a client means there’s room for more–so use this as an opportunity to implement scalable structures in place to get more clients–and ones that suit your agency culture, to reduce churn. 

For example, it may be time to dust off that proposal template to make sure that it includes all of the elements needed to create an effective SEO proposal that wins more clients.

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4. Showcase Your Agency’s Value

The clearest way to prove the value your agency is bringing to the table is through client reporting

Monthly reports tell our clients that what they’re paying us to do is actually worth the money. 

– Michael Gasser, Co-Owner & Partner of Squeeze Marketing

As we mentioned above, prioritizing transparency and open communication is key to retaining your clients and improving their loyalty. And the easier it is to understand your client reports, the happier your clients will be. 

With AgencyAnalytics’ robust client reporting platform:

  • Give 24/7 access to client-facing dashboards so they can access their data without going through you first

  • Check when clients open their reports to identify any early signs of churn

  • Reduce back-and-forth emails with built-in chat in your client reporting platform

  • Schedule automated reports to send on a regular basis and never miss a deadline 

  • Use features like goals tracking bars and annotations to put the results in plain words

  • Identify trends and growth over time by easily switching between date ranges

An overview of the AgencyAnalytics platform in 2022.

Showcase your agency’s value with easy-to-understand dashboards and reports, built in minutes. Try AgencyAnalytisc free for 14 days! 

AgencyAnalytics has that client account feature where you can add a client and give them visibility of just their own dashboard, not your entire professional dashboard. And for those clients that are into the data and like to check on stuff every week or every day, it saves us a ton of time. 

– Michael Gasser, Co-Owner & Partner of Squeeze Marketing

Melody Sinclair-Brooks

Written by

Melody Sinclair-Brooks

Melody Sinclair-Brooks brings nearly a decade of experience in marketing in the tech industry. Specializing in B2B messaging for startups and SaaS, she crafts campaigns that cut through the noise, leveraging customer insights and multichannel strategies for tangible growth.

Read more posts by Melody Sinclair-Brooks ›

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