How To Deal With Problem Clients

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Problem clients come from one place, a poor sales process. If, as an organization, you’re focused only on closing the deal, you’re not going to end up with clients who are great fits. 

Your focus shouldn’t be on closing the deal, but rather on closing the right deal. As you qualify clients, you need to think about them. Can they afford you? Do they have a similar work style and communication style as you do? If you’re a very informal marketer, where you don’t have client meetings and everything is done via Slack, you’re not likely to be very successful with a client who is more formal and demands weekly marketing meetings. 

Make sure your work and communication styles match those of your prospect. This happens during the sales process. You ask questions that explore their work style. If that doesn’t match up with what you can deliver, they’re not a good fit. If you have a client who’s never satisfied with the results, it’s probably because you didn’t define, with your client, what the results set should or could be when you were creating the relationship. 

Don’t let expectations be misaligned. Many agencies have a case study where they’ve delivered 11,000% increase in ROAS. If that’s what you sell, that’s what your client is going to expect. Even if you do an amazing job, and get them a 500% increase in ROAS, that’s much lower than 11,000% increase. It’s not the results that are at issue, it’s the expectation. You need to constantly align expectations during the sales process, during the onboarding process, and during your client calls.

You might experience a client that’s micromanaging or has too many opinions. They don’t actually have too many opinions. It’s just that you haven’t set up appropriate boundaries to manage those opinions. You didn’t ask questions like, “Do you have a brand style guide?”What also happens is clients make last minute changes which drives agencies crazy.They don’t look at the campaign until 20 minutes before it’s supposed to go live and then say,“Oh, yeah, no, I don’t like that picture” or “I don’t like the way that model’s hand is in that picture, so let’s change it all.” This happens because you have given them permission to allow it to happen.

Boundaries are your friend. Tell your clients that you need a turnaround within three days because if you don’t get the comments, you can’t hit the launch date. If your client doesn’t give you feedback within the time period, message them saying you’re going to have to push this launch since you haven’t heard from them. If a client fires you because of that, they were planning on firing you anyway. You need to set boundaries, so that you and the client are working off the same set of expectations around results, communication styles, timeliness and control.

Difficult clients are managed by boundaries. If your client doesn’t respect your boundaries or if you’re concerned that they will fire you for setting boundaries, then they’re not a client you can work with. You need to be straightforward, and tell them that it isn’t working. Tell them that you either need to set boundaries or you’ll be happy to help find them another agency to work with. This is painful because you never want to give up revenue, but if you’re working for the client and not with the client, neither of you will be profitable or happy. Boundaries are hard to put in place, but they’re necessary. 

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