Say “NO” to the Wrong Clients
Confessions of a Marketing Agency CEO
Should a business accept every customer who walks through the door? After all, aren’t businesses supposed to cater to their customers and make them raving fans? While this post might be a hair controversial, I firmly believe most businesses shouldn’t try to please everyone. In fact, most businesses should have a good idea of WHO they don’t want as a customer. In today’s post, I’ll share with you why I say “no” often, and why businesses of all types should do so as well. For us, this is our RED FLAG warning system of the types of clients we avoid at all costs.
Lessons Learned the Hard Way
When I started my marketing company in 2008, I was hungry to learn and get clients. Very hungry! As I started speaking to business owners, I found out that there were two types of clients, good ones and bad ones. While it was exciting to have my first projects, I quickly learned that saying “yes” to a bad client could make my life miserable. While many of my early clients were great, there were those that I hated doing business with. They were pushy, negative, demanding, and carried expectations that could never be met. Here’s a look at my RED FLAGS when taking on new clients.
1. The Employer Client
In my early days at LMS, some of my newest clients had an employer superiority complex. They were used to being CEO and thus perceived me to be a W2 employee for their company. Yes, obviously our goal is to help businesses win, but these business owners were often rude and demanded more and more. For example, an “employer” client would start off with a monthly marketing bill of $1000.00 per month. After two months, they’d quickly ask me if I could do a few small services for them. At first, I did the extra work because I didn’t want to lose them, but it was a mistake.
There demands would continue to grow making my life miserable. Finally, after much frustration, I would ask about an increase in their monthly bill. That is when things went terribly wrong. The employer client would then talk down to me and talk about how he could find someone else to replace me. Working for these clients felt like having a job, not a business. Rule number 1, if a client thinks he’s your boss, tell him you quit before he hires you!
2. The Unrealistic Client
Often times, clients have certain expectations in mind when I first meet with them. These expectations could relate to timelines, pricing, technology, and even what services they want from us. When I started LMS back in 2008, one of my principles was that I wanted long lasting relationships with clients. I wanted to deliver good on any promise I made and really help their company. In order to do this, I had to make sure they REALISTICALLY understood our marketing process. I had to document exactly what we would deliver for them, how long it might take, and exactly how much it would cost. I soon realized that most marketing companies over promise and under deliver. Because we over documented what we would do, our pricing, our hours, and the services to be received, we did lose some deals to agencies who promised the world.
Looking back, I now realize how fortunate we were to lose those deals. You see, many of these missed projects demanded a ton of marketing work if they were to be done correctly. The problem was, their budget was tight! What? No money and you want all this? Oddly enough, these demanding clients also expected the project to be completed overnight. Matt, I need your cell phone in case I can’t reach you at the office. Matt, you took two days to reply to my email. Unfortunately, in 2009, I had a client act like this and I quickly put them in the place. I think it shocked them that I was happy to show them the door if they didn’t calm down. In my business, I don’t give my cell phone to clients. Secondly, if your issue is urgent, open up a support ticket. Even though we had a system for getting things done, there is always that guy who thinks he will try to bypass it. Rule number 2, set clear and realistic expectations for cost, time, and how you operate. Unrealistic clients will never be happy with your service and are a BIG RED FLAG!
3. The Disconnected Client
Simply put, these are clients who are disconnected from us. They pay every month, but seldom if ever reply to an email. They never call, never want meetings, and never give feedback on the campaign. While we want low maintenance clients, those who are very disconnected are still a problem. They often receive several calls and emails from us and never reply. After two months of reaching out, for the sake of progress, we do what we think best and keep moving forward on the campaign. Often times this means we make a judgement call on something we’ve created for the client.
Next, out of the blue, they request a meeting, at which time they want a full update. At the meeting, they start to give excuses of why they are out of touch and how they want to be more involved. Needless to say, they then want changes on most of what we’ve implemented. There is nothing worse in business than feeling like you’ve just wasted your time. For me, unresponsive and disconnected clients are a big red flag for me. When I meet with a client for the first time, I make sure they know that we want open communication to keep their project moving. Rule 3 – If a client never communicates you will never please them!
The Disrespectful Client
Last but not least, are the disrespectful clients. They don’t understand the value of mutual respect! You see, when a client schedules a call with me, I show up on time and take the call. If I have a meeting somewhere, I show up on time. If I’m going to be late for a meeting, I will call ahead or email them. My word is also important to me. If I say I’ll do something, then I’ll do it. I make it my goal to respect others, their time, and their requests. These are my principles that I live by for my life and company. I want to treat people well and in return expect to be treated well.
The disrespectful client only cares about himself. They expect that if I show up at their office for a scheduled meeting, I should sit in the waiting room for an hour if they are busy. They believed since they were paying me, I should drop whatever I’m doing to take their calls. They believed if they missed a scheduled appointment with me, it didn’t matter because what they were doing was more important. Disrespectful customers are the worst! If your customers don’t respect and value you, then they will never listen to your advice and allow you to help them.
The Right Clients
Obviously, the right client is easy to see. They are the opposite of the RED FLAGS I’ve listed! While this post might seem negative, we’ve had some amazing clients through the years. I realized what a good client is only after having bad ones. After five years in business, it is now a principle that I only take on good clients. They are respectful, helpful, friendly, and appreciative of your time. They show up on schedule, smile, engage with their marketing package, and work with you in a joint effort. They are a partner with the same goal, to grow their business.
Here is what is most interesting about these types of clients. Their companies grow! I’ve seen some businesses grow by as much as 300% in a very short period of time! So why do good clients’ businesses grow? I think it is because these business owners are committed to the process of growth. They are personally growing and secure in themselves. They are open to ideas and passionate about their company. It is for clients like these that we work passionately and why I love being a marketing consultant!