You've seen it happen in movies, soaps and to your friends, but you never thought it would happen to you. Your best customer just sent you the news. They want to see other people. Instead of boozing the night away or wallowing in self-pity (or a pint of Ben & Jerry's), do these things instead.
Stay Positive - Chances are you're pissed and hope your soon-to-be-former customer walks their dog during rush hour on the highway this evening. Either that or at least you hope they choose to watch Home Alone 3 instead of the original this weekend. No matter which way you slice it breaking up is hard to do. There's that inevitable moving-out period where you've got to be in contact with your replacements (which I can assure you isn't easy on them....since they've also been in your shoes before) and of course there is the lost money. Those emotions are fine, but do yourself a favor and stay positive. You're upset and that means you had a good run and the work meant a lot to you. Tons of businesses and people never get the opportunity to work with great customers (like you just did) or on work they actually like doing.
Evaluate - Nobody wants to be criticized and we don't criticize anyone because of that. When you lose a customer you need to be objective and figure out why and what to do next time. Sometimes it's not you, it's them. But sometimes it's not them...and it's you. Either way you need to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself so you can improve. You owe that much to the customers still with you and the ones you'll get in the future. That self-assessment is going to help you a lot more than belting the hook to I Will Always Love You at the steering wheel on the way home.
Keep Perspective - Sure, losing customers is a big hit. Particularly if you are a small business owner where 90 percent of your revenue comes from 5 percent of your customers. But be realistic. Are you going to eat tonight? Sleep in your own bed? Are you able to walk? Is everyone in your family reasonably ok? If you answered yes to those 4 questions then your life is still better than 90 percent of the world's population.
Consider this, the higher the stakes your business goes the more customers you are likely to win, but also lose. How many customers do you think AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile lose to each other? Sure, they win customers every day, but they lose tons too. If you're into sports then you know Roger Federer has won more tennis grand slams than anyone in history. You don't even realize the fact that he's lost more finals than just about anyone. Or the fact that millions of people dedicate their lives to making a grand slam final and don't come close to that goal. Snap out of it. You're one of the lucky few businesses that has great customers to lose. There aren't many of us.
Rise Up - These days it's not uncommon for people to define themselves by what they do for a living. That's a little dangerous. Suppose losing this customer means you lose your job or are out of business. Does that mean your life is over? Obviously not. You have millions of options ranging from flipping burgers to working with your former competition. Don't put anything above you or beneath you as you try to put the pieces back together. Obviously, your stay at the top was temporary, and if you continue to put in the time and effort so will your stay at the bottom.
You can't control a customer leaving you, but you can control what you do next. After all, what you do next is entirely up to you. You can take your ball and go home. Or, for the first time since you can remember, you can stay after work and work on building a real sales and marketing process to get new customers. That means taking a step back and figuring out what kind of customers you want and figuring out how to get them. Was this customer a good fit? Maybe there are other customers that love what you do and you love helping. There's a lot to consider when coming up with your marketing strategy. Do you use inbound or content marketing tactics? Have you tried Social Selling? Maybe you get customers by showing up to their office with donuts. However you get them you need to make a process out of it. Something that you can wash, rinse and repeat every day. That lead generating machine won't be finished today. But if you devote a bit of time each day to mapping out that process then this one hit will be the start of something bigger for you (here"s an ebook on how to hire a marketing agency). Who knows? In a year or so you may be writing your former customer a thank you card.
Or, they may write you an email asking for your help again.
About the Author
Sajeel Qureshi is the Vice President of Operations at Computan, a digital-marketing and software company. Computan serves as the back-end digital department for hundreds of short-handed marketing departments, businesses and marketing agencies. Ranging from start-ups to multinationals. He has a degree in business administration from St. Bonaventure University, and an MBA from Eastern Illinois University.