Client ranking matrix by Karl Sakas for marketing agency leaders

Ready to see which clients to keep vs. fire? Click to view the live Google Spreadsheet template.

Tired of toxic clients that keep you from spending time on the clients you love? Help is on the way!

I love helping digital marketing agency owners find more great clients… and identify which clients they should “fire.” Here’s a window into the agency consulting process I use to help my clients identify their best (and worst) clients.

The first step is to analyze which current clients are good, bad, or in between. In this article, I’ll share a free copy of the matrix template (above) I use with my clients to get started.

Quantitative Review: Current Value vs. Future Potential (with a free template)

The fastest way to get a quantitative picture is to rate clients on two factors: their current value and their future potential. This combination gives you a quick snapshot of which clients should get more of your energy going forward. For instance:

  • A client might be highly profitable today but your sponsor at the client just left. Odds are you’re going to lose the client, so they have low future potential unless you create a new relationship there.
  • A client might be low or medium value today but you know they got a new round of funding and they’re planning to expand. That’s probably high potential for the future.

Free template for you: Deciding which clients to keep vs. drop

I’ve created a Google Spreadsheet template for clients to speed up this process. As a free bonus to you, here’s a copy of that template:

Free Template for Digital Marketing Agencies — Agency Client Rating Matrix: Which Clients to Keep, Which to Drop

The template includes some fake clients and my recommendations for how to handle them.

When you’re ready to use it yourself, you can download the template to Excel or create an editable copy in your own Google Spreadsheets account.

Qualitative Review: Following your gut

After you add the Current vs. Future info, enhance your list with some qualitative factors. Which clients do you like the most? Which clients do you like the least?

Here are some qualitative factors to consider:

  1. Does the client refer other good clients to you, or do they refuse to let you name them as a client?
  2. Does the client pay on time (if not early), or do you have to chase after them?
  3. Does the client stay under the radar, or are they the punchline for jokes in the office?
  4. Does the client generally agree to change orders for out-of-scope work they request, or do they claim even new work should be in-scope?
  5. Does the client seem to appreciate what you do, or do they keep saying they’d do it all themselves if they had the time?

You should get a pretty good sense about which clients you like the most and the least—although revenues and potential revenues are important, this isn’t a 100% numbers-driven process. If a client’s perfect on paper but you hate dealing with them, I don’t recommend expanding the relationship.

Applying this at your agency: How to find more great clients

Once you’ve done the quantitative and qualitative reviews, you should have a pretty good idea of where things stand. This is the basis to move forward—to find more great clients and to get rid of the toxic clients.

What do you find when you apply this model to your agency? Any surprises?

If you get stuck—or if you fill out the spreadsheet and wonder “Now what?”—let’s talk.