Marketing agencies and freelancers have to be masters of communication — but in more ways than you might think.
Being able to produce an emotional video that moves a client’s audience, or whip up an article that compels them to act is only half the battle.
Behind all those compelling blog posts and viral videos the public gets to see, there are relationships between clients and agencies (or freelancers) that if not nurtured correctly, can result in the completely botched execution of a project.
It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Well in the world of marketing, it takes the same to deliver well-executed content.
Sometimes those villagers are warm and welcoming, but other times they’re torch-carrying, pitchfork-wielding savages out for your marketing director’s scalp.
If you don’t know how to handle them, you could end up not only losing their business but future business as well. Keep an eye out for these unique clients you’re likely to encounter out in the world of marketing and advertising, and learn some of the best techniques to manage them.
You know the unwritten rule that says you should respond to a business email within 24 hours? These clients completely disregard that. You’ll submit a project on its due date and then hear back from them days, sometimes even weeks later.
This type of client tends to be a little more laid back than others. You won’t need flashy presentations to win them over, just a knowledge of what you’re doing and the proof that you can deliver.
These clients are usually a little more easygoing than others. To them, there’s no rush to get things done, so they may not publish your work until weeks after you submit it. Don’t take this as a sign they don’t like what you’ve created. They just aren’t on the timeline they led you to believe when they set that due date.
If you’re hurting for work, stay on top of them and continually ask if there’s more you can do. If you’re currently swamped, wait on them to respond to your last email or phone call, and get other projects done in the meantime.
This type of client is among the most frustrating to deal with. They constantly overreach, not only demanding that you deliver a polished product, but that you do it using the software they want you to, and through the processes that their internal team does — even if those things weren’t agreed upon in your contract.
Unlike the flakes, these clients are tougher to impress. During the vetting process, expect to get grilled by multiple interviewers, and to bend over backward to prove you know your stuff.
When dealing with a client like this, you have to remember that you’re likely not the reason they’re making so many demands. It’s probably because they’ve been burned before. Communication expert Preston Ni recommends you see things from their perspective before you react to their demands:
“One effective way to de-personalize is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, even for just a moment. For example, consider the offender you’re dealing with and complete the sentence: ‘It must not be easy…’”
Empathizing with a controlling client can completely disarm them, and may even make them more understanding of your perspective.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t be on the hook for previous agencies’ mistakes. Even though the customer is always right, overstepping this way is unwarranted. At best, constraints like these can impede your team’s creative process, and at worst, they can even stifle your agency’s growth.
If this particular client is a significant source of business, hold onto them for the time being, and revisit the issue of their overstepping when you’ve collected alternate sources of revenue. If they’re still unwilling to give you more creative control of the finished product, it might be time to part ways.
These clients thank you for everything you do. They’re grateful for every finished product that you produce, and it seems like you can do no wrong.
A little more trustworthy than most, these clients tend to have an overall positive view of agencies in general. They’re upbeat and open to working with you in whatever capacity as long as you deliver a product they’re satisfied with.
There aren’t very many clients like these out there, so if you land one, hold onto them! Continue to show enthusiasm, compromise, and deliver quality work and your relationship will prosper.
You’ve known them since you were young — the dentist from down the street, the hardware store owner who lives next door. They’re friends of the family, and they heard that you now run an agency, so they’ve reached out to see if you can help with this whole “internet marketing thing.”
More often than not, these clients will seek you out hoping they can get a family friend discount, so there won’t be a whole lot required on your part to land them.
But if the tables are turned, and you have a family friend who works for a business that you want as a client, reach out to them and ask if they’re happy with their current representation (if they have any at all).
This might sound like a shallow way to start a conversation, but it’s far better than reaching out under the guise of catching up, then closing your correspondence with a question like “Oh, also...I meant to ask, are you happy with your current marketing representation?” That’ll just make you look fake, and your friend feels used.
Getting into business with a friend is rarely a good idea. If things don’t go well, down the line it could completely sour your relationship. If you’re going to do it, however, do your best to keep things professional. That means no discounts and no special privileges.
If they’re a real friend, they’ll respect your boundaries without trying to take advantage of your pre-existing relationship.
You can’t do anything right. No matter how much time or effort you spend working with this client to get things done, they’ll consistently downplay your finished product.
Like the controlling crowd, this type of client is tough to win over. All your efforts to impress will seem to go unnoticed. Even if they choose to do business with your agency, it’ll seem like a reluctant decision.
If this client appears to be consistently unappreciative of your work, and you see a decline in workload despite your best efforts to make them happy, it might be time to part ways.
However, if your workload is consistently increasing and this client is proud to publish and share your products with their social networks, but won’t recognize you for a job well-done, it’s an entirely different situation altogether.
In that case, it’s likely they don’t want you to think you’re doing too great of a job because you might get the idea you’re worth more than what you’re charging. If they keep you thinking you’re delivering a mediocre product then you won’t be able to justify raising your rates at any point, and they’ll continue to get your work at a bargain price.
These clients are only worth keeping around if they’re a significant source of business. Hold onto them until you develop other forms of revenue, then have a frank discussion about why they’re so difficult to please. If they’re still unwilling to give you what you feel you deserve, it’s best to go your separate ways.
You have years of experience, and you know what you’re doing, but your client knows better. At times, you might wonder why they even bothered hiring you if they were going to tell you exactly how to complete projects step-by-step. They might as well just do it themselves.
Clients like these are easy to spot. They’re the ones constantly challenging your every move. During the vetting process, expect to hear things like “This is the way we do things here,” or “That strategy doesn’t sound like it’s going to be effective for us.” Be ready to have stats, figures, and case studies to prove that you know what you’re talking about.
These clients are exhausting. You’ll find they’ll challenge you often, but their reasoning for doing so will be based on outdated information if any at all. They’re like the parents of teenagers who when asked why a particular rule is in place, will say “Because I said so.”
If they didn’t believe that you know what you’re doing, then they wouldn’t have hired you in the first place. Having to not only complete their work but justify every step it took you to finish it is a waste of your valuable time.
As long as you’re not being inundated with questions of “why” to the point that it’s getting in the way of other client work, continue to comply with their requests. After all, it’s acceptable in any other profession to ask why something’s being done. The same goes for marketing.
The nitpicker will always find something wrong with your work. Maybe the hue of that logo variation isn’t quite orange enough, or you used a dash in an article where they felt an ellipsis would have been more appropriate. The reason for their behavior varies.
Sometimes it’s because they’re perfectionists who are genuinely dissatisfied by what they view as a slight mistake on your part. Sometimes they’re penny pinchers trying to squeeze every last ounce of value out of you. Then other times nitpickers are members of an in-house team who feel that to justify their position; they need to find something wrong with your work.
After all, why would your client need an in-house team if you kept delivering great work all the time?
As you get to know each other, expect to hear small gripes from this type of client. Like the parent type, these complaints will rarely be based in fact, but more on company policy and personal preference. As long as you have stats to support your position, you’ll be able to continue doing things your way.
These are the clients who are going to ask you to make tons of revisions. If you’re fine with making that logo a little more orange, or replacing that dash with an ellipsis (which normally you should be), then continue to make revisions until the client is happy with the finished product.
However, if the client gets so high maintenance that you’re writing third and fourth drafts of articles, and it’s cutting into your time with other customers, try to agree upon a number of edits you’re willing to make, and stick to it.
If they’re still demanding more from you, maybe it’s time to write into your contract that additional revisions will cost extra.
The experts are similar to parents in that they think they know better than you. The only difference is, instead of asking why you’ve done something, they’ll go ahead and change it themselves.
Expect to get grilled every step of the vetting process, by multiple people. These clients won’t take you on without cold hard proof that you know your stuff. And even if you do land their business, expect they’ll look for you to continually prove your expertise.
This situation is tough. Your work is a product, and once you hand it over to your client, it’s theirs to do with what they please. Still, one of the ways you earn new business is by showing off work you’ve done for others. If it’s been changed by someone who thinks they know better, but doesn’t, the result could be a logo or a blog post that is so embarrassing to you that it becomes completely unshowable.
This is when it becomes your turn to ask the question, “Why?”
“Why did you change that color scheme?”
“Why did you alter that opening paragraph? What was wrong with it?”
Don’t become aggressive, though. Frame the question in a constructive way, like this: “Why did you end up altering ______? I just want to know so I don’t make the same mistake again, and hopefully, save you some work in the future.”
The hours 9-5 mean nothing to the “Always on” client. They’ll routinely email you with “urgent” business late at night or on weekends and expect a response within the hour.
This type of client is likely to be high maintenance, so if you want to impress, you’re going to have to pull out all the stops. Give them the attention they crave. Always answer promptly when they email or call, but be prepared to do the same after they sign on the dotted line.
If you want to avoid taking on a client like this, look for signs during the “getting to know you” stage of your relationship. If they send a lot of emails before and after hours, you can bet that’ll continue once they’ve become your client.
If you currently retain a client like this, it’s important to establish boundaries. Make it clear that you run your business just like any other: between 9 AM and 5 PM. That rule is also worth writing into future contracts.
These clients have big visions for their business, and they’ve hired you to bring them to fruition. They know what they want, so when it comes to ideation, they expect you to take a back seat and only speak when spoken to.
Be honest about your abilities. If a client says “We want to rank number one on Google for the search term “pants” and you know that’s not possible, be frank with them. False promises will only lead to unrealistic expectations and disappointment once they become your client.
Only having to do what you’re told isn’t always a bad thing. It requires a lot less brainstorming than with most clients, which will save you tons of time.
However, that’ll all change when your client pins you with the blame after his idea doesn’t go as planned. “Newsflash,” you want to say. “Your idea was a bad one to begin with.”
Don’t be afraid to say that. After all, you’re the expert, not them. If you know an idea won’t work when you hear it, say so. It’ll save you both time and disappointment in the long run.
The choice to stay with a client or to drop them should ultimately come down to a simple cost-benefit analysis. Is the cost of dealing with them higher than what they give you in return? If so, try to use the techniques above to come to a compromise; or if you need to, just drop them.
How do you deal with different client personalities? What are some of the types of clients we missed? Let us know in the comments, then begin building highly targeted landing pages for your clients using Instapage’s fully customizable software.