Why it hurts so much to lose a client

I’ve repeated it so many times over the past few years that I repeat it out without even the slightest thought. A curious party will ask, “what does Woden do?” and I’ll respond:

Woden helps brands craft compelling narratives that are integrated into every facet of their business. We support brands by ensuring that every interaction with their customers tells the same story, and converts them into evangelists.

It’s clearly implied: you are our business. Anyone who has interacted with us knows that we see clients as the hero of every great brand story, including our own. Just as no story can exist without a protagonist; your company cannot exist without customers. Brands ought to exist to empower their customers; when they do, it causes them to develop trust and affinity, and evangelize for the brand.

Woden signed our first client just under two years ago. Our brand story found its first hero that day, and we haven’t looked back: that first protagonist has been joined by fifty more. Each one of them defines us, propels us forward, and ultimately lead our brand journey through their feedback and suggestions.

So, what happens when a story loses its hero?

Last month, for only the second time ever, Woden had a client relationship end badly. Our team had the important, tactical conversation immediately: what could we have done differently? There are always was to improve, and we believe we've identified those. Yet, even with the immediate problems addressed, losing a client still feels personal, and painful.

By empowering our clients as our brand's heroes, we place ourselves as their mentor. It leads to an investment and collaboration with our clients that I believe makes working with Woden unique. We structure our relationships that way precisely because it's what we encourage our clients to do. The root of a great brand is authenticity: you need to be true to who they are, and embrace that as part of their character.

When I return to the short version of our brand story that began this blog, there’s an emotional core that lies below the structure of the message: we can help your brand be great. Should a relationship sour, it means more than just the tactical failure led to the severance. It means we fundamentally failed to deliver on why we exist in the first place.

Thoughtfully developed brand narratives course through every element of a business. It provides the passion that makes good companies great, and drives them to do better. It possesses the authenticity that endears people. And it treats clients in a way that makes them your growth engine.

If you were able to shrug off the last client you lost, you probably had a better week than I did. But I would bet you may also be missing the emotional core at the center of your business — the reason why you exist — that drives affinity.

The emotional depth required to craft means it hurts all the more when a client rejects it – yet it provides a bearing that ensures any rejection becomes a point from which to elevate your brand to new heights, not slip below the surface.