It’s a delicate balance. Your client wants results but they also want to tell you what to do. They want you accountable for the performance of their inbound marketing program but they don’t want to follow your advice. What do you do?
It’s certainly easier to just do what they want. But is that the right thing to do? After all, they've never done inbound marketing before, but they sure are adamant aren’t they?
They hired you for your expertise, but now they don’t seem to trust you. Are they going to remember this when their program doesn’t perform? Are you going to be able to remind them how they didn’t follow your advice? Nope, you’re not and even if you do, they won’t remember it like you do.
This is a big challenge for inbound marketing agencies. One that you have to get good at quickly. Even after you’ve only had a handful of engagements you have to get your clients to trust you, to follow your advice—or you have to get them out.
This might sound hard, it might sound extreme, it might even sound crazy to a few of you. I mean you just spent a lot of time getting the client and now I’m here telling you to kick them out. Let’s back up a bit.
What’s Our Goal?
You have a business so you can help clients, so you get them great results, so they’re happy, so they keep paying you and they actively refer you to everyone, so you get more new clients and the cycle goes on from there—the more happy clients, the bigger your agency and the more profit you make. At least that’s the plan.
Unhappy Clients Work Against You
So what do unhappy clients do? Unhappy clients unravel everything we just agreed is your plan. They don’t get results, they’re not happy, they don’t keep paying you and the don’t refer you, in fact they talk badly about you to 10 times the people the happy clients talk to. Now there’s a leak in the bottom of your bucket and you need many more new clients to keep filling up the bucket because so many of your clients are falling out the bottom. This hamster wheel is time consuming, tiring, and extremely frustrating, take it from me, I’ve done this and its not I want you to have to go through too.
They Don’t Know More Than You Do
So if the goal is to make clients happy and you know much more about getting them results than they do, then why would you ever listen to them? Why would you ignore your own intuition and follow theirs? Do they know how to get results from inbound? Have they run more inbound programs than you have? Have they built more websites, run more nurturing campaigns, done more social promotion, created more content that converts? No, no, no and again no—they have not.
Choose Your Clients Wisely
You have to be picky. The first rule of running a successful inbound agency is working with only the clients who pass your selection criteria. Here’s what you should be looking for to make sure you work with clients who will follow your advice.
- They view you as a strategic partner, not a vendor. Vendors take orders. Strategic partners give clients recommendations, advice and the clients follow that advice.
- They view your engagement as a strategic investment in their businesses. They’re not buying four blog articles a month. They’ve purchased a sustainable, repeatable, predictable Revenue Machine that you’re planning, building and then optimizing for them.
- They trust you, they respect you and they value your guidance in this area. This includes treating you and your team respectfully during all stages of the engagement and in every interaction.
- They’re open to learning about inbound and all the details that go into it. They don’t demand you produce work in unreasonable timeframes. Instead they ask to understand what goes into the work, so they understand why it takes longer than they expected. When you tell them how long delivery is going to take, they honor your timelines because that’s how long it takes to do it correctly.
I could probably go on to list a couple of other key things to be looking for when you start interviewing prospects, but these are the highlights. More bad news, almost all of the prospects are going to sound great during the sales process and then their bad behavior could emerge in the middle of the engagement. There’s not much you can do about that.
Fire Your Bad Clients
While you might not be able to screen as effectively as you’d like during the sales process, you can fire clients who are never going to be good references for you. While this seems extreme, it’s not and firing a client who isn’t listening to you is one of the best courses of action you can take. Sometimes the idea of firing them gets their attention enough for them to start listening to you. That’s good news.
But when firing actually means firing, that’s good news too. Now you’re putting your energy towards clients who do respect you, who do listen to you and who will get better results and refer you, as opposed to those other clients who are never going to be happy and never going help you grow your business. It might feel counterproductive, like you’re taking a step back—but you’re not. You are moving forward.
So if you have clients who are not listening to you, it’s time to cut them loose. Let them figure inbound out on their own and move on to working with people who respect your expertise. You’ll be happier, your team will be happier and your clients will all be happier too.
Start Today Tip – We all have them, those clients who are driving the engagement or who treat us disrespectfully. Fire them. Fire them today. As soon as you do, you’ll get another inbound lead, or a call from a prospect who wants to hire you. You’ll feel better, your team will respect you more, they’ll enjoy their work more and your agency will move forward. Try it, I promise you’ll like it.
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