By Tony Delmercado – COO at Hawke Media & Founder of 1099.me.
One of the biggest misconceptions in business today is that there are no bad clients. Anyone willing to pay for the service is worth serving, even if he is challenging to work with — right?
Not exactly. A bad client relationship leaves both provider and customer unhappy, and a contentious split will only hurt both sides. One group feels it paid for more than it received, while the other gets an unfair reputation of being unable to meet its customers’ needs.
Bad clients can also damage morale. When a team bends over backward trying to satisfy a client who simply can’t be pleased, protocol goes out the window. Such a departure from standard operating procedure signals to staff members that the company might be desperate. Why else would it be taking on clients it knows aren’t the right fits?
Consequently, businesses that take on bad clients lose credibility both inside and outside the workplace.
Most bad clients reveal themselves through a few warning signs long before it’s time to sign a contract.
We worked with a client who wanted us to cover everything for marketing: logos, branding, campaigns, the works. We were excited about the freedom. But, after we had agreed to absolute threshold benchmarks and got paid significantly less than we should have, we realized this company had no methodology in place to measure success. Within a month, the partnership was over.
We tried to work with one client who had a great brand and attitude but didn’t even have the money to spend on email service providers. We took on the project with the right intentions but were unwilling to put up all the capital ourselves for something that was ultimately the client’s responsibility.
If things didn’t work out for them with any of those other agencies, then we quickly recognize that they probably won’t work out with us, either.
Companies that hire us for thought leadership or bandwidth have the right idea, whereas those who hire us because they can’t figure out marketing and want us to take care of all their problems on our own do not.
If we want to work with a client but can’t figure out exactly whom to talk to when we need something, that’s usually a sign of problems within the client’s organization that will prevent us from working well together.
The right clients make open communication a top priority and have clear, reasonable expectations. Finding those clients is a matter of learning what they look like and positioning your business to be ready when an opportunity comes along. The following three precepts help us to quickly identify the right clients when they approach us and ensure that those relationships will be mutually beneficial.
The more we take on good clients and succeed with them, the more other good clients will seek us out. It’s hard to do, but the key to jumping into this virtuous cycle is to get to the point where we value the money but don’t need it. It’s easiest to raise capital when the company’s on an upswing; that is precisely when people want to work with us the most.
We make it clear what kinds of relationships are desirable and which are unacceptable. Sales staff members should be personally knowledgeable about this topic so that they can keep these standards top of mind. Commissions are tempting, but setting expectations upfront, raising the minimum amount spent on a client, and waiting at least six months to see returns on monthly contracts will provide the incentive to seek out better partners.
Seeking ideal clients in secret and differentiating only after they get in the door does not work. We make our expectations and desires public. When asked what our typical client looks like, we always respond with the exact types of businesses we prefer so that we can focus on doing more work with better partners. From personal branding to website content to trade shows, everything we do is focused on building a reputation that encourages the right people to look for our business.
Instead of accepting everyone who wants a contract, we narrow the focus and work harder for the clients who are really worth it to build fulfilling, sustained success.
By Tony Delmercado – COO at Hawke Media & Founder of 1099.me
Tony Delmercado is the COO at Hawke Media, the founder of 1099.me, a passionately curious entrepreneur, and an all-around solid dude. He enjoys building businesses, playing golf, improving his Krav Maga and jiujitsu game, writing, studying business tax loopholes, and eating Mexican food. He spends his weekends at the T&A Bungalow in Chesterfield Square hanging with his lady, Anthea; his son, Onyx; and his dog, Naz.