Well I did it. I fired a monthly paying marketing client.
Now I know what you're thinking. Man, I could never do that in my agency. Maybe you are just getting started and need the revenue they generate. I can't lose them!
You might be thinking David, "I'm trying to get clients... not fire them. I fought tooth and nail to get started, now you want me to fire them... are you crazy?"
Stay with me here though. The reality is you should fire clients at some point. It's truly liberating.
Allow me to explain...
In your agency, you've probably had some nightmare clients. You know the ones that do a lot of things like:
- The ones that question your experience and consultation.
- That no matter what you do, they doubt what you advise.
- That never give you credit. It was their team, that got results, not you.
- That get angry when your software doesn't do one feature this other software they bought once does.
- That get your personal number and call you late at night.
- The ones that tell you they can hire out your work on Fivver for cheaper and get the same thing. LOL.
- That are a pain.
- That try to go around you all the time.
- That need more attention than anyone else.
- That take up your time and not pay you for it.
- That try to use you for your knowledge, then cheapen it out elsewhere.
- Some that are just well... a jerk and not fun to work with.
I had one of those. We will call him Ray.
It took awhile to get there, but eventually I finally had enough of the nonsense he was causing and got to the point I wanted to go Beth Dutton on him.
I decided it was time to move on and let them go.
It was great! I swear it was like a weight was lifted off me. I had this moment of relief that came over me when I sent him with his walking papers.
Now usually, I pick up on this behavior pretty early on and try to fix it before it becomes a big problem.
With these problem clients, I will put them through a process to build expertise, set boundaries and get them on track when it happens. However, this was a bigger custom deal that he came in the end, so I had to just deal with Ol' Ray.
Due to my experience with Ray, I now truly understand why to work with the legendary marketer Dan Kennedy he makes folks fax him. He's training them to work with him on his terms and respect his time, energy, boundaries etc.
Problem clients don't do that. They think because they pay you... they own you. It's up to you to set them straight.
Or put up with it... until you explode.
Here's the short story:
Ray somehow became a new vice president of this company I worked with. He came in after working successfully with my client for over 3 years on various projects.
The problem came when he was put in charge of marketing by my client. Suddenly, I had a new guy taking over to work directly with. Ray was over demanding for our deal. He was a jerk. He would question and criticize everything. He was the type of "know it all" guy (that had no idea what he's doing).
He was the type that would fight about marketing campaigns when he's never ran any himself. He was a "I wouldn't click on that ad." type. (Even though it was already working).
It put me in a position to where I found myself justifying my expertise and had to have one too many "you've got to trust me, dude" talks.
I was spending a ton of time having to make changes for things that didn't matter. My campaigns were getting gutted, because he watched a super bowl type commercial and wanted to do stuff like that... when they are a small startup with a limited budget and focused on direct response.
He was very, "I think this headline needs to have an extra space here and be a different color" kind of nonsense. Every. Single. Day. I'm fine with suggestions or changes, but there's certainly a limit... and when they come from an uneducated place or boundaries I've put in place repeatedly get crossed... it gets annoying.
He actually advocated to replace my awesome headline that was converting already with a generic slogan he came up with (a poor one at that) and navigation menu... on a landing page.
He also advocated to remove my calls to action because he said they could find the contact us page in the footer if they "just looked." It was like he was trying to set us up for failure.
To be clear, I'm not hard to work with. If you have spent anytime with me on a zoom call, you already know, I'm usually very easy going and try to be extremely helpful. But... this guy was a royal pain. I try to go the extra mile, work with them... but there comes a point where it's just too much.
I will challenge bad ideas when they happen to try to keep my results positive if need be or I'm dealing with jerks.
We agencies are judged on results... so I will often tell clients when they suggest bad ideas: "Ultimately, I can do whatever you want there, but it may hurt conversion." I will give them the "follow the process" speech and have to educate about how if you take the cheese off the cheeseburger, it's no longer a cheeseburger. It's something else... and that they will have to take full responsibility on results and not hold me accountable. Then once it doesn't work their way, they will have to give mine a chance the way it was.
Usually that fixes it and brings them around.
Sometimes it doesn't, for the Rays out there.
You see in your agency, you are going to have some nightmares of your own. You will have Rays too.
I can tell you, just fire them. Move on to better clients. They really are out there. Find your core base that you love working with and ditch the Rays.
They aren't worth the stress. It's usually not worth the money.
In the amount of time you spend justifying, fighting and hoping to bring them around... you could have found 4 others that will just listen to your process and be a dream client. Most people aren't like the Rays out there.
If you have to fight to justify your expertise, it's probably not worth the trouble in all the extra you will do to keep it.
All that nonsense takes you away from creating and growing. It actually holds you back and kills your creativity. It knocks down your energy and you'll find yourself talking more about them than doing things to get new clients or making your service better.
When you spend time dealing with Rays, you'll discover they take up far more time and energy than other clients paying you the same amount of money.
Time is something you or your team can't get back. You just have to get out there and find quality clients that will follow your process and mesh well with you.
You'll also notice that the Rays aren't loyal... so why fight so hard to keep someone thats already trying to replace you.
At first it may hurt getting rid of Rays. You might worry about the money you'll lose, especially when you are just started out with only a few deals. Trust me though... have the self respect for yourself to not allow others to mistreat or disrespect your expertise. Or you as a person.
If you find clients treating you like a Pee-on... it's time to move on.
When you can operate from a perspective of the power of not needing them... your confidence skyrockets and it shows in your pitches, sales calls, etc. It's kinda funny how that works.
You'll sell more in the process and they will come in line with your boundaries or they will go off and find someone else to be narcissistic towards.
So fire the Rays.
Let someone else deal with their crap and move on. You'll thank yourself later for this.
What do you think? How do you guys deal with this? Share your nightmare client stories below or in the group!