Gini Dietrich

Managing Unruly Clients

By: Gini Dietrich | June 23, 2011 | 
129

What time is it? That’s right! It’s Facebook question of the week time (clap, clap, clap)!

Before I get to the question, though, I want to say that I am so glad I wrote the Mormons Make Better Leaders post yesterday. I learned so much about many of you, including how many LDS friends I have. I had no idea! For those of you who commented and shared your stories, thank you. Yesterday was a lot of fun, getting to know you a bit better.

If you haven’t commented and you have something to share about service, leadership, or your religion, don’t be shy! And don’t be intimidated by the number of comments. I read every one of them and would love to hear about your experiences.

With that, let’s get to it!

This week’s question comes from Katie Fassl, the director of marketing and social media at KBK Communications, a company that does marketing, communication, and social media for medical manufacturers and distributors. In my opinion, there is no better firm for that line of work. Period.

This week Katie asks,

How do you manage a client who seems unmanageable? That is, someone who doesn’t approve materials or get you things so you can do your job and deliver on time.

I said, “Other than fire them?”

Yes, she is looking for an answer other than “fire them.”

I provide a few ideas in the video (if you can’t see it in your Reader and you’re dying to watch me talk for two minutes, click here and it’ll magically appear) for Katie to consider as she does the account management and client service piece of her job.

After you watch the video, I leave it to you. How do you recommend Katie manage her unruly clients? What are some of the things that work really well for you with your internal or external clients?

 

Before you go, will you do me a HUGE favor? Go back to the top and like, tweet, +1, or add to LinkedIn. Plllllease??

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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129 responses to “Managing Unruly Clients”

  1. kamkansas says:

    You can ask the client to come up with their own timeline for their part of the work. Once the bosses responsible for approval and the employees responsible for other work agree to that timeline, then your firm can gently try to hold them to those internal deadlines or use their missed deadlines as the reason your firm couldn’t meet your own deadlines on the projects. You can also tell them upfront that missing deadlines could lead to higher project costs (your overtime, making a print order a “rush job,” etc.) for them. This has worked for me, and I hope it can help others! A strong sense of partnership goes a long way in a situation like this.

  2. Katie, here are 3 suggestions. First, tell the customer that you want to conduct an annual review. This creates a forum for discussion for feedback to go both ways. You will have an opportunity to let them know all the things you have been doing for them and your record in meeting your commitments to them. Do not take it for granted that they know because many times they do not know. Just like you they have lots of balls in the air and it is up to us to let our customers know what we are doing for them. You can solicit feedback from them on how you are doing. There may be some hidden issues that you are unaware of such as personality conflicts, etc., and this will help to get them out in the open. Next, I would express to them your concerns that they are not helping you deliver the best quality work on time due to not getting materials approved, timeliness of getting info to you, etc. Since this is an account review, you have already set the tone for a review of your relationship and this feedback will be less offensive than if you just hit them cold in a conversation.

    Second, I would set a timeline as kamkansas suggested.

    Third, if you have a longer project you could create a project plan with actions and deadlines. Then, have a phone call weekly to discuss progress, what was done the prior week and deliverables for the coming week for both sides. From my experience in doing web development projects, this process tends to keep everyone on track and if people fall behind one week then they catch up the next week so you can keep the project on time. Hope all of this helps. Best of success.

  3. samtaracollier says:

    Great video Gini! I love hearing your voice in the morning. My favorite part “Just Fire them!”. That’s my kind of answer! I

    This kind of client is hard to manage (as well as the ones that don’t pay!). If it were my client I would make sure I communicated the issue and hope the discussion went well. I’d give it a month or so and if that didn’t work I’d hit the road 🙂

  4. sydcon_mktg says:

    We do the same as you, Gini! Our upfront conversations strongly cover our expectations of the clients as well as theirs of us. One of the first questions we get is how fast can you get it done? Our reply is, that depends on you! In our contracts/quotes we outline specifically what the client needs to provide to even come close to a target date. We almost never commit to a solid “D-Day”, because well in development like other things you have to account for the unknown as well as things you can’t control.

    If we have clients not approving items, or not giving us required elements we immediately say, hey you are blowing your timeframe out of the water. That will in most cases shake them back into reality and hit the deadlines. If it doesn’t, we typically will issue an invoice for time spent and tell them it’s due upon receipt and when they are willing to commit to the project again we will be happy to play. That will usually work on real procrastinators, since they dont want to pay more than the deposit for things that are not complete or functioning.

    If that doesn’t work, we fire them!

  5. SoloBizCoach says:

    I love your videos Gini. They are always information, thought provoking, and just the right length.

    With respect to dealing with difficult clients, I have two strategies that I use.

    1. Suggest He Delegate – My best advice is to suggest that the client delegate his work to someone on his team. This way the subordinate will feel pressure to do what his boss asked him to do.

    2. Develop a Personal Relationship – I run into difficult clients all the time as a lawyer. Everyone hates dealing with legal matters because they always involve difficult decisions and the possibility of a bad outcome. However, if I can meet a client face-to-face, and especially in a casual setting, the relationship evolves from a mere work relationship into a personal relationship. People are much more likely to cooperate with someone they have a personal relationship with.

  6. Doug_Davidoff says:

    We are a client of a company (Angel Vision) that I think does a GREAT job of dealing with this up front. They make very clear what they consider a “good client” to be. They lay it out in an agreement (things like, all people contributing will be on these calls, or you’ll turn things around within x period of time etc.) and then provide a “Good Client Discount.”

    Now, I know that their real fee is what they’re charging me after the “discount,” but I got to tell you a feel more commitment to get things done for them. After all, we all like to get rewarded for what we’re supposed to do any way, don’t we?

  7. Some of the most powerful words I’ve learned as a business owner are, “Sorry, but we’re not going to be a good fit, best of luck to you.”

    I used to take on jobs,and keep clients, simply because I thought I ‘had’ to have them. But experience has taught me that always blows up in my face, and so now I walk away.

    As an example, I sold at swimming pool that was about a 60k contract a few weeks ago. As we were going through the process of signing the contract, the client took it upon himself to change much of the contract’s wordage, essentially to completely protect himself (no matter what), all of which would have been at my company’s expense. Once we saw just how utterly anal, odd, and inflexible this guy was with his requests, we dropped him— literally walked away from the contract.

    What’s funny is that he then told me he would sue us. I laughed and told him that would be a first, but I’d love the experience. 🙂

    Sometimes we’ve just got to walk away, especially from the unreasonable nut cases. 🙂

    Good stuff Gini,

    Marcus

  8. jain.anjita says:

    Hey Gini, a very good video. And I also read the Mormon post.
    Katie,
    It is always best to work with the project owner or person responsible and accountable for the initiative. I have dealt with internal client who was not willing to make any decisions but everytime we would discuss any details, he would come back with ‘Out of the Box’ idea which was not always realistic or in scope or would drag our timeline. The solution, talk to the person ultimately responsible for the deliverable.

    Great Post!
    Anjita

  9. HowieSPM says:

    Ok I had to re-read this. I thought you typed LSD friends which did not make sense aside from they can make a lot of money….a LOT…as James Cameron and Steve Jobs have proven (and pretty sure Eric Schmidt, Sergy Brin and Larry Page as well from what I hear)

    This is a big deal for every business. Since most of my project management experience was with heavy industry I used to deal with clients who would be late with needed specifications to move forward on a project. But then try to keep the quoted delivery date. So we always had in our terms and conditions delivery is based on when everything has been approved. If this adds time and cost add that into any project agreement. Lots of things can be done of this nature.

    I have a friend who does web work in LA. But she uses a project team in India. If a client doesn’t give her what she needs she will bump them for a client who’s work is in the pipeline waiting to go.

    Companies that buy expensive machines like say Intel who easily could pay a few million for one machine in the computer chip manufacturing process and has a crew waiting to install it in a clean room often charge tens of thousands of dollars a day in late fees to the vendors who deliver late. I have had such companies threatening to sue my company when they forget to order a key part and then demand to know what it isn’t available on demand…or buy a seat on a commercial jet to get it same day.

  10. DonovanGroupInc says:

    Great points here Gini especially on the advice of having “up front” conversations designed to hopefully manage expectations on how the relationship will unfold over the life of the project.

  11. ginidietrich says:

    @kamkansas I like the missing deadlines as it equates to higher project costs. We just had that situation here. Lots of missed deadlines, not getting things on time, changing minds a ton of times and higher costs. It kind of sucks because if you aren’t VERY clear and consistent in your communication, you have to eat the extra costs.

  12. KensViews says:

    For me, it gets down to two things 1) Managing expectations; and 2) Being willing to have ongoing, direct discussions between client and agency. Too many agencies build unrealistic expectations on the part of their clients because they’re unwilling to have direct discussions from the get-go. To the point in your video, have the guts to outline “Here’s what you can expect from us,” as well as “Here’s what we need from you in order to do the best job for you.” Meet with clients at least quarterly, NOT on the subject of the communications campaign, but about the relationship and in particular, the client’s view of the agency’s performance, how you can better deliver Five-Star Client Service to them and, what you need from them to do so. @RepmanCody not only insists on regular agency “report card” meetings, but puts this into the contract. This guarantees that the agency always knows if f the agency is meeting/exceeding client expectations, and gives the agency a chance to share how the client can help the agency do a better job

  13. ginidietrich says:

    @billprettyman Look at you! Twice in one week!! Great feedback for Katie (and all of us). Thank you!

  14. ginidietrich says:

    @samtaracollier I know “fire them” isn’t a real goal most of the time, but I was in a snarky mood. 🙂 I think expectations is SO important. I really do think lots of business leaders hire consultants thinking they’re just going to take things off their plate, get results, and they don’t have to worry about it. Turns out, that’s not the case at all.

  15. ginidietrich says:

    @sydcon_mktg We do the same thing, Jen. In our plans, we provide timelines and show who is responsible for what and when it’s due. Then we go over all of that in our weekly meetings. Sometimes, though, you have clients who push you off or skip meetings, but still expect you to do your job. Doesn’t work that way, does it?

  16. ginidietrich says:

    @SoloBizCoach Thanks! And thanks for the tweet, too. 🙂 I really love both of these examples, especially the second one with very specific thinking. You’re absolutely right – if the client sees you as a friend, they tend to not avoid you.

  17. ginidietrich says:

    @Doug_Davidoff LOVE THIS, Doug! Love! I’m going to implement some of these internally. Thank you!

  18. ginidietrich says:

    @Marcus_Sheridan Sue you because you walked away before a contract is signed? People amaze me. You have such a great attitude about that kind of stuff. We can all learn that from you.

  19. ginidietrich says:

    @jain.anjita Thanks Anjita…on both accounts!

  20. ginidietrich says:

    @HowieSPM You know, this is a good lesson for those of us who hire consultants and vendors, too. *WE* have to keep our commitments to them, just as much as them to us.

  21. ginidietrich says:

    @DonovanGroupInc Expectation setting is SO important and a lot of time that gets lost in the excitement of doing the work.

  22. ginidietrich says:

    @KensViews Between this @Doug_Davidoff and @SoloBizCoach responses, I have some work to do at Arment Dietrich! Thank you.

  23. sydcon_mktg says:

    @ginidietrich No, it doesn’t always work that way. In our experience, when it doesn’t work that way the client who isn’t upholding their end of the bargain balks at paying for work completed with the excuse “but you didn’t finish the project” or we get the “we will sue since you missed the deadline & we want our deposit money back”. We have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with both scenarios only to have a judge back us up. You can’t bail on a project and expect the project to get done.

    Sadly, many think that once they hire us to do a job, they wash their hands off it and push blame on us if they have no progress to report to their boss.

  24. KatieFassl says:

    Gini, Thanks so much for addressing this!

    As I’m sure you could tell from the CAPS, in the original question, I was quite frustrated with said “unruly client,” at the time. Things have cooled off, as I had a VERY upfront conversation with him. I like to look at everything as a learning experience, and boy have I learned with this one!

    I think the common theme is we, as marketing/communications/PR people HAVE to be upfront, and set guidelines and realistic expectations.

    Also, I just have to say– your readers are amazing. I am LOVING all of these comments! Thanks everybody!

  25. ginidietrich says:

    @KatieFassl I’m loving the comments, too. There are some really good ideas we’ll implement.

  26. ginidietrich says:

    @sydcon_mktg I know the very first website I had built for Arment Dietrich, I thought the design firm did everything. I was SHOCKED to learn, halfway through, I had to develop all of the content. I had no idea that wasn’t part of what they do. I thought it was the whole getting outside perspective thing. They didn’t tell me they needed content from us, well, until they needed it. So, of course we missed deadlines because those expectations weren’t spelled out upfront.

  27. ginidietrich says:

    This was a comment left on YouTube. I love the sales thinking in it.

    Possibly Katie can use an old sales tactic – tell them up front what you don’t know, so that when “that” comes up, the prospect knows “ah this was one of those things he didn’t know, no biggie.” Opposed to “jeez, he doesn’t know anything.” Similarly, communicate with your client before that “times will come up when we’re not getting what we need, how should we resolve that when it happens?”. Then, when it happens, you can say “this is that time now, and here’s what we agreed to.”

  28. sydcon_mktg says:

    @ginidietrich I am not surprised. Like you said the video you have to spell out what’s expected upfront, and this is a prime example of what happens when you dont!

    Our contracts list exact things we will do, then it says anything additional is at our hourly rate or can be requoted to include. THere is always the client that says, whats with this hourly rate stuff, or extras? Well, its because you didnt mention you need XYZ and now we have to include it!

  29. @ginidietrich @samtaracollier I think that is why we must have an upfront meeting that sets expectations for all parties. I would suggest documenting it and sharing it with the customer. Then you can use that document in the process of conducting an annual review in discussing how we are doing in providing the service and how well the customer is providing what they committed to do. Communication is the key for us that provide the services to the customer.

  30. @SoloBizCoach Great thought on developing a personal relationship. It is interesting how many times we have had a distant relationship that comes closer when we get them out of the office. As a result, many times the relationship changes for the better.

  31. KensViews says:

    @billprettyman @SoloBizCoach “Make It Personal” is one of the key attributes that brands/companies which are known for providing Five-Star Client/Customer Service, consistently deliver. More and more, clients/customers want to do business with partners with whom they have a personal relationship. I believe this is particularly true in the world of communications.

  32. ginidietrich says:

    I’m going to add comments I’ve received on LinkedIn because there is some value in them, as well:

    Dennis Bailen: When facing decision deadlines and getting no response or direction, I have emailed or phoned or both with message along the lines of…”unless you instruct me differently by X date, I will proceed to…..” No guarantee but I feel it best I can do in those circumstances.

    Elizabeth Kelley: Welcome to the world of PR-and business actually. Here are a few ideas: Streamline the process to make it as easy as possible. When you first set up the account, get the buy in of the person who has to give final approval-if s/he says, “absolutely I’ll do this in 48 hours,” gently remind him/her. Get the protocol down to a science here, before starting. Find out how this person likes to be approached and when. Set up weekly or bi-monthly meetings to get everything done at once. Be ‘best friends’ with the key person’s asst-the asst. has clout and can usually get the material in front of the CEO/DOSM, etc., to sign it. Is there another person who has authority to sign off? Who is the ‘real power’ at the client company and can get the CEO’s attention? Maybe it’s the CFO or director of marketing…. Get that person to help you get the task done. If this all fails, have a reality check meeting-does the client really want to have pr at this time? Maybe it’s better to check back in 6 months.

  33. Gini what I love about your Q&A fo of the week is that it goes for any consultant not just PR firms.

    When you are external to a firm and asked to give a service within a deadline, few clients realize that you need their commitment also to make it work.

    Interestingly some of the larger clients feel they can push you around if you are a smaller firm. I use to have an airline as a client in Dubai. They were doing internal coaching for all their crew who were going to work on the A380. They built a special center for the coaching to take place.

    There were delays in the building of the center. It was mot entirely in their hands but still they kept pushing back dates and cancelling at the last minute. The start day was never going to happen. We kept redrafting contracts each time and this time added a penalty clause which meant that they had to pay the entire training fee if they cancelled at the last minute.

    The cancelled, paid the whole fee, and then set another date, for which they had to pay again. They never cancelled again and became one of our best clients. We both became very happy with the workflow and the deadlines.

    Over the years we created some rules and they protect us from flaky clients. Most of the time when money is involved and not meeting deadlines means penalties, clients will take the consultant a lot more seriously.

  34. TheJackB says:

    Gini, you are making me crazy with these Vlogs that show books in the background. I don’t know about anyone else, but I like seeing what people are reading and this video is like a tease. I can almost see what is on your shelves but not quite.

    That is almost as frustrating as the client who promises me to get me materials today but then turns it in next week and cries because I can’t turn their work around in time.

  35. TheJackB says:

    @Marcus_Sheridan Marcus when I worked in construction I used to make a point of pulling out a calendar to review projected completion dates. If the client gave me too much of a fuss I would do the same thing you did and tell them that it might be better to work with someone else.

    That is a very powerful tool when you use it correctly. It helps to manage expectations and sometimes it made it possible to do business with the person I was politely saying no to.

  36. AlinaKelly says:

    This is sooooo funny – I was just trying to figure out which “for dummies” book was on the shelf! future vlog: tour of Gini’s book shelf. @TheJackB

  37. ginidietrich says:

    @jeffespo LOL! It’s not THAT bad!

  38. jeffespo says:

    @ginidietrich hahahaha

  39. KenMueller says:

    @AlinaKelly @TheJackB I see a bunch of pop-up books, scratch ‘n’ sniff books, and even a Where’s Waldo!

  40. KenMueller says:

    I don’t think there is an easy answer. I have a client (actually a conglomeration of clients under one roof) like this where I told them up front “You will only get out of this what you put into it” And here we are about 7 months into the project, not much further than we started. Because emails go unanswered, they feed me the same info all the time, nothing new, and don’t follow through with the things I’ve asked for. The project will be done after a year, and I know they’ll look at me and my partners and say “well, what did you do for us?” and they will not want to re-up. Aside from the money, I’m fine with that. They drive me nuts!

  41. ginidietrich says:

    @johnfalchetto Great point about adding penalties with missed deadlines. Honestly, I think men are better at this than women. We can learn a thing or two from you.

  42. ginidietrich says:

    @AlinaKelly @TheJackB It’s Puppies for Dummies! LOL!

  43. ginidietrich says:

    @TheJackB OK. I’ll tell you what. I’ll do a video that shows my bookshelves, so you can read the titles, for you.

  44. ginidietrich says:

    @KenMueller ARGH! That is so frustrating. Expectations, people! Commitments! Fulfill them!

  45. Lisa Gerber says:

    @ginidietrich @johnfalchetto don’t go overboard. maybe two, not more.

    But I do agree wholeheartedly, it’s not easy to charge penalties – we want to be nice and liked, and that makes us seem hard-nosed. Which we have to be.

  46. ginidietrich says:

    @Lisa Gerber @johnfalchetto We DO have to be. Otherwise we’ll never get paid our worth or have full terms fulfilled.

  47. Lisa Gerber says:

    @Marcus_Sheridan which, in the end, validated your decision to walk away from that contract! wow.

  48. Lisa Gerber says:

    I’ve worked with a lot of associations, and “committees”, like @KenMueller a conglomeration of clients. I’ve learned to include a section in my proposal and then my contract, that states what we need from them; Our expectations.

    I always say we need one responsive point person, etc. I will outline deliverables, and estimated time needed from them for us to be able to do our jobs.

    It’s worked very well, and educates them up front that just because they hired PR, does not mean that they will be able to cross it off THEIR to-do list.

  49. @ginidietrich Yep, before it was signed. Like I said, a total nut– living in a nice house with nice stuff…but a wack-job….but I can manage a good attitude for two reasons:

    1. As you know, I market pretty well, which means I don’t take every sale so seriously. One strikes out, two more step up to the plate.

    2. Everything I’ve gone thru ends up being a great blog article, so by this point I smile when content opportunities shine their pretty face.

  50. Lisa Gerber says:

    @HowieSPM now you’re going to be influential for LSD. congratulations.

  51. @TheJackB Well put Jack, and I’m sure there were times when the other party immediately asked for forgiveness , and because in that moment you’d established the proper ‘tone’, they didn’t give you a hard time from that point forward.

  52. I love this post and I’m going to tell it the whole world !!

  53. 3HatsComm says:

    @KensViews@repmancody The “here’s what YOU have to do” is so important to managing expectations. Like Gini’s website content story, you have to spell out what is expected of the client and when, that there is work to be done on their side that directly impacts yours; and vice versa. Must agree.

  54. 3HatsComm says:

    @KatieFassl Cooling off periods help; step away, take a break.. then reread the emails and try not to overreact. I also go for the funny.. so maybe read @oatmeal or @ClientsFH for a nice cooling off chuckle before you get back into the fray.

  55. 3HatsComm says:

    Some good advice here. Another thing that could be an option, if per @SoloBizCoach and other comments, the relationship is solid enough: change the point of contact person. I’ve learned the hard way that if my contact person with the company is going to miss deadlines, not reply.. it’s all going to reflect on me at the end of the day. In the beginning of a project that chain of command needs to be specified: who’s calling the shots on which part of the project; per @Lisa Gerber comment, who has which responsibilities; and per the YouTube comment you shared, you implement the agreed-upon plan so that if the point person isn’t fulfilling their obligations, you can reach out to someone else and keep things moving. FWIW.

  56. KensViews says:

    @3HatsComm@repmancody Maybe it’s implicit, but I think it’s absolutely critical to emphasize “…so that we can do the best possible job FOR YOU” Or better yet, to say “So that we can do the best possible job FOR YOU, here’s what we need.” Another variation is to say “In our experience, we do the best possible jobs for our clients when they______.”. Everyone’s motivated by self-interest, and clients are no exception. Their motivation to doing this, unless they’re VERY special people, won’t be to improve the lives of the agency staffers, but to get the best work from them. And since they’re paying the bills, there’s nothing wrong in that.

  57. KatieFassl says:

    @3HatsComm Oooo, I like funny! I’ll have to check out @oatmeal and @clientsFH (Love that handle, by the way). I also bring my dog, a Pug who is FULL of personality, to the office. She always makes me laugh :).

  58. Leon says:

    G’Day Gini,

    You don’t need me to tell you. So I will. That’s excellent advice. It all happens upfront. And if the client doesn’t commit upfront, walk away. As my father would have said, “It’ll all end in tears.”

    And before anyone says “That’s easy for you to say, smartass Curmudgeon from Down Unda,”

    let me remind you’all that I’ve been a sole trader for 40 odd-sometimes very odd indeed-years.

    One little technique that may help…..

    Before client consummation-you can have that if you’d like it-gain absolute clarity and agreement about two things: what you’re trying to achieve and how the achievement will be measured. And make sure that what you’re trying to achieve is as precise and as measurable as possible.

    That becomes the basis of who’ll do what and when from then on. It also shows the client that you’re serious about producing a result. If the client prefers a lot of waffle about “appreciation” and “understanding” and “insightful experiences,” keep out of the bed!

    Now Gini, how about a post about unruly bloggers and blog commenters…..before Marcus S. changes his name to Seth II?

    Like the lady said,”I don’t do fame anymore, I do “Glee.”

    Regards

    Leon

  59. ginidietrich says:

    @Yael Rozencwajg LOL! I love you.

  60. ginidietrich says:

    @Lisa Gerber That’s the issue, I think…they think they’re crossing it off their to-do list and leaving it in our hands.

  61. ginidietrich says:

    @3HatsComm A lot of times our point of contact is the CEO so my team wills say, “Can you call him/her?” And then I get to play the heavy…CEO to CEO.

  62. ginidietrich says:

    @Leon I heard we received an email from you about a guest post! It sounds like you’ve been approved. 🙂

    It’s so important to do what you say while everyone is happy and excited about the new relationship and then holding everyone accountable. I always joke that my job these days is solely to hold our clients accountable. Gone are the days of doing my craft!

  63. @ginidietrich I love you too @ginidietrich and @Lisa Gerber too !!

  64. EricaAllison says:

    @ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber @johnfalchetto I like to add an A$$ hole fee to my difficult clients….works quite well. 🙂

  65. 3HatsComm says:

    @KatieFassl Oh, what a face! That is so cute.

  66. EricaAllison says:

    Katie, I just recently had to determine if I wanted to fire the client or salvage our relationship. I went with calling a few friends, ahem lauraclick and soulati , and came up with the plan of letting them fire themselves. I know you’re trying to avoid firing the client – as was I – but in some scenarios, if you’ve tried everything that GIni mentions and the awesome comments below, it’s necessary to gracefully get out of it.

    Clear expectations are a MUST, as are deadlines and updates. I find that each client is different. So now, before we begin the meat of the work, I give them a client profile and determine how often they want updates and meetings with me, what their expectations are, their willingness to be on camera, availability, etc., their ‘point person” if they are not available, and in turn set the tone for what they have to do and what I have to do. So far, it’s working quite well. That’s great advice for a new client; not your current one.

    A pow-wow is always good and it sounds like you’ve had that. Good luck! It’s never easy!!

  67. sydcon_mktg says:

    @EricaAllison @ginidietrich Now thats a great additional fee!!! We could have retired years ago on that collecting that alone! :p

  68. Lisa Gerber says:

    @Yael Rozencwajg @ginidietrich awwww, GROUP HUG!!! IN PARIS!!

  69. Lisa Gerber says:

    @EricaAllison While we are passing love around, I’d like to proclaim my love for you, and this fee.

  70. @Lisa Gerber @ginidietrich YEEEEAHH !!!

  71. girlygrizzly says:

    @3HatsComm My Dad wont let me beat them with a stick, either…I guess I better go see what @ginidietrich says my other options are!

  72. @ginidietrich Gini I don’t think it’s a gender thing. I learned the hard way, especially with large clients who have layers of decisions making.

  73. @EricaAllison That’s the name we gave it also 🙂 @ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber

  74. @ginidietrich One government agency almost brought us to bankruptcy so the fee was added after that experience. Most of the time you never have to use it. I only had to charge a client once. Just the fact that it’s there keeps everyone on schedule. @Lisa Gerber

  75. TheJackB says:

    @ginidietrich Darn, I was sort of hoping someone could go back there and run the entire video based upon books. It could be really big, a viral sensation. 😉

  76. TheJackB says:

    @Marcus_Sheridan Absolutely. I think that they appreciate knowing that you take the job seriously and that you will work hard to exceed their expectations.

    Although I can remember a few who promised to be easier than they sounded and turned into nightmares. I worked for a GC back then and have “fond” memories of the lady who harassed me about gunnite and coping tile prices.

    We earned our money with that one.

  77. ginidietrich says:

    @nateriggs LOL! That’s my favorite response, too!

  78. adamtoporek says:

    @ginidietrich @TheJackB @AlinaKelly I am most intrigued by what looks like a stack of the same book on the top shelf. What are those???

  79. adamtoporek says:

    @KensViews The like button wasn’t enough. This was awesome Ken!

  80. adamtoporek says:

    Now Gini, I know you were a little put off last time someone critiqued your video, but seriously, would it have killed you to throw some sheep in? I’m just saying… 🙂

    On a more substantive note: I agree with the many great comments about setting expectations and regular communication. I think one good technique is to get clients reinvested in their own goals and deadlines. One reason this is effective is you will find out if those goals and deadlines have changed. Assuming they have not, you can then (diplomatically) show how the lack of follow through is preventing you from achieving those things on their behalf. “We just want to clarify what you are hoping to achieve… Great, we can do that for you but here’s what we need from you..” and so on.

  81. girlygrizzly says:

    @ginidietrich @johnfalchetto THAT is the only thing I have ever heard you say Gini, that i didn’t agree with (or just shut up and listened cause I didn’t know enough to comment anyways) – I do not believe men are better at it. Hear me out. Maybe I misunderstood your response…(hope not). As a woman, in the profession I chose, I am the “odd man out”. Fact of life. This (my life) is still (still.) a primarily male field. I still have clients that turn the hairy-eyeball in my direction when they find out their guide is a chick. That’s just they way it is. It doesn’t mean any of the guys are better at the job (hmphft.), what it does mean is that as most of our clients are men (95+%-at least) and THEY are more at ease with men. I don’t think it’s a “better” or more skilled, attribute, I think it’s the comfort zone of the caveman grunting his orders at the other cavemen. Similar to the locker room. EEK! ~did I go the wrong direction? It’s just something I could relate to and I got sucked into your side conversation! I’m a little bummed though. The only thing I really miss about being really young, is the fact I can no longer smack them in the head with a stick….and stay out of jail! My kiddos would be so disappointed in me if I had my butt thrown in jail!

  82. I’m still in the early stages (6 mos) of my marketing freelance biz, so I have to be completely flexible with timelines. But in my most recent corporate position, I was part of an internal creative services agency. Our internal clients often missed deadlines, forcing us to scramble. I started giving clients timeframes instead of exact dates: “Once I get your feedback I will get a new draft to you in 5 business days,” or “If you sign off on the graphics, production and shipping will take 10 days.” This made it clear that we had a shared responsibility to hit the deadline. This technique wasn’t 100% effective, but it definitely made a difference with the tightest deadlines.

  83. ginidietrich says:

    @marianne.worley You’ll find pretty quickly that you need to do that same thing with your clients. The problem is that everyone gets busy and the squeaky wheel always gets the oil. Katie’s frustration definitely stems from the client pushing her to the bottom of the pile every day and not getting to her. I like what your internal experience taught you!

  84. ginidietrich says:

    @adamtoporek If that video had been up yesterday when I recorded my video, I FOR SURE would have included sheep!

    One of my favorites is, “We’d love to help you with that! Can you clarify where that fits with these other priorities?” But that usually comes after they’ve abandoned the original plan and are following the shiny new penny.

  85. ginidietrich says:

    @EricaAllison I’ve always believed the Jack Welch philosophy…10% of our clients SHOULD be fired every year. Maybe this client is in that 10%.

  86. girlygrizzly says:

    Gini!

    It’s funny, because I’m the one that gets called to deal with “unruly” clients AND employees! Me?! Funny because everyone knows I’d rather smack them with a stick. (hey I can find some pretty whippy sticks out here!) But the real points are communication. The fall back, Marcus (of course), reminded us, is “no thanks”. ~Amber-Lee

  87. ginidietrich says:

    @adamtoporek @TheJackB @AlinaKelly That one is “managing the media,” which five years ago was a GREAT client gift. Now it’s obsolete.

  88. ginidietrich says:

    @girlygrizzly LOL! We agree, actually. I just meant that women tend to be more willing to be flexible, in terms of letting deadlines change, with terms of payment, and not charging what we’re worth. I absolutely think we’re capable and, like you, I work in a male-dominated field. I just think men are better at saying, “Sorry…these are the terms.” Or “Pay this or don’t, but don’t waste my time.”

  89. ginidietrich says:

    @adamtoporek @KensViews Perhaps Ken should write a blog post about that??

  90. ginidietrich says:

    @girlygrizzly Jeez…you really are going to end up in jail. What will I tell your kids?

  91. ginidietrich says:

    @RTRViews I personally like “fire them” the most

  92. ginidietrich says:

    @MarianneWorley Great comment from you

  93. KensViews says:

    @ginidietrich @adamtoporek Who am I to say No to the two of you. Great idea!. Thanks.

  94. KensViews says:

    @adamtoporek Thanks, Adam! i do find that if we can determine the client’s self-interest in nearly any situation, and “lead with THEIR” need, it often changes the words we were planning to use. And if we do so, we come to resolution much more quickly, and/or they give us what we need.

  95. RTRViews says:

    @ginidietrich Me too. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Fire them before they burn out your team!

  96. SpinSucks says:

    @ginidietrich are you serious? it seems to be ok for me?

  97. mickeygomez says:

    FYI, @ginidietrich, keeping my avatar just for you, even though it’s summertime.

  98. ginidietrich says:

    @mickeygomez I love, love, LOVE the snowman!

  99. ginidietrich says:

    @RTRViews GREAT point about burning out your team. Sometimes enough is enough

  100. RTRViews says:

    @ginidietrich I seriously believe that your team is more important than your client. The team gets the job done for the client. Team first.

  101. mickeygomez says:

    @ginidietrich 😀 #yay #angrysnowmenrule

  102. girlygrizzly says:

    No! No, no, no!! I haven’t wapped anyone in the head since…(no, that doesn’t count….well, that was just a little one, well…since, Oh! no, no, well, no, sheesh!) …for awhile! I’ll hide!

  103. MarianneWorley says:

    @ginidietrich Thanks Gini! Loved your post. Guess we’ve all had the same experiences.

  104. jennwhinnem says:

    @ginidietrich @johnfalchetto I disagree! I have no problem penalizing people!

  105. nateriggs says:

    @ginidietrich Easy said, less easy done. 🙁

  106. EricaAllison says:

    @ginidietrich 10% +1!

  107. bdorman264 says:

    We face the same thing in our industry because a lot of times we are meeting w/ the CEO; but when it comes time to obtain all the information it gets pushed down to the CFO and beyond and then we are at their mercy and the clock is ticking……..

    You made a good point in the video; we try to make sure the expectations are clear from both parties. We paint a picture of what it will look like going forward and make sure both parties can complete what needs to be done within the necessary time constraints.

    Having said all that, sometimes we still don’t get the priority attention we need. If it gets too late in the process, we are still trying to pull information together and going forward is only going to make us look bad, we have to have ‘walk away power’ regardless of how big the deal is.

    At the end of the day you want to do business with people who want to do business with you; people who appreciate the value you bring. If you don’t have that relationship you are no more than a vendor so there is merit to cleaning out 10% of your book every year.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

  108. AlinaKelly says:

    Hi Gini – Sadly, I’ve had to fire a few clients over the years. I’ve tried many of the things people have said below – set expectations at the start, work-back schedules, heart-to-heart talks, squeaky wheel – all of which is extremely time-consuming and not particularly energizing. For me, the deciding factor has been whether the client’s action or inaction would reflect badly on my company and brand. As @KenMueller pointed out, after all the grief, they may not even appreciate your work in the end. And it could well be that, through no fault of your own, there is little value to show for all your effort. So if one client is eating up a lot of bandwidth that results in a mediocre product not truly reflective of your company’s true capabilities: fire them. I agree with @bdorman264 – if they don’t appreciate you, walk away.

  109. markwschaefer says:

    @ginidietrich My tweet button has been broken for 3-4 days. I’m tweet deprived.

  110. KristenDaukas says:

    @markwschaefer @ginidietrich just wanted to tweet to 2 of my faves in one breath… #thatisall 🙂

  111. HowieSPM says:

    @bdorman264 When they say talk to the CFO say ‘What am I chopped liver? Your cost just went up one basis point. So again will you sign on the line right now. If you call me a PBJ that’s 2 basis points’

  112. HowieSPM says:

    @girlygrizzly @ginidietrich why is there two choices for gini with 2 different avatars. Anyway jail food ain’t so bad. Tattoos are cheap and usually you get at least one slice of bread and an apple at lunch which you can trade for cigarettes or someone’s jello pudding at dinner. Not that I would know these things. It was @bdorman264 who told me about his experience in Tijuana back 89 I swear.

  113. HowieSPM says:

    @ginidietrich @EricaAllison I am still unsure if Jack was brilliant or lucky. That 6 Sigma torched many customer relationships during implementation. I need an answer now on delivery of that product…sorry that team is in 6 Sigma training can they call you next week.

  114. HowieSPM says:

    @ginidietrich @Yael Rozencwajg If you use a vuvuzela everyone will definitely hear about the post. Just ask @jennwhinnem how that works.

  115. HowieSPM says:

    @ginidietrich @Lisa Gerber Lisa when is your post on unruly managers coming out?

  116. bdorman264 says:

    @HowieSPM Hopefully the CFO is sitting in this meeting w/ you. If not, you don’t always get the buy-in and it’s never a good thing doing an end-around and telling the CEO the CFO is not doing their job……Sign now, the offer is only good until 2 pm and you can call me anything you want……but I still won’t shave my legs………….just sayin’…………

  117. KatieFassl says:

    @EricaAllison , I love the idea of a client profile, because it’s true– every client is different.

  118. KatieFassl says:

    @3HatsComm Yeesh, @livefyre does not like when I post from my ipad. Both of my responses got all sorts of messed up :-P. I apologize for the confusing replies!

  119. […] Why? Well, something kinda cool happened yesterday:  A question I asked on the Arment Dietrich’s Facebook Page was featured as the Facebook Question of the week.  If you aren’t familiar with AD’s blog, Spin Sucks, I suggest you add it to your daily reading.  And if you missed my F.B.Q.O.T.W., you can view it here. […]

  120. bdorman264 says:

    @HowieSPM @girlygrizzly @ginidietrich And they pee on the floor…………..I mean, really……………………….c’mon man…………….

  121. HowieSPM says:

    @bdorman264 I was teasing. My degree is in Finance. I tell the Ad people the CFO decides what get’s allocated to the marketing budget and not the CMO who often can’t prove ROI like all the other functions can. But seriously if you tell them you won’t shave your legs I guarantee the contract will be signed.

  122. CristerDelaCruz says:

    @EricaAllison I LOVE your practice of filling out a client profile!

  123. ginidietrich says:

    @AlinaKelly So funny, Alina! That’s why my immediate response was, “Fire them!” After years of doing this, you figure out what works and what doesn’t work. And sometimes, no matter how much you want the client to succeed, you just can’t make it work.

  124. ginidietrich says:

    @bdorman264 You’re in a hard business, too. One that I try to avoid. For stuff I don’t want to deal with, as a business leader, but have to, chemistry is SO IMPORTANT for me finding the right partner. If they’re good at their jobs, but I don’t really want to go have a beer with them, I’ll avoid their calls and emails. Like you said – you want to do business with people who want to do business with you.

  125. lauraclick says:

    @EricaAllison soulati Thanks for the shout out, Erica. I think consulting others and getting outside perspective is always a good idea (and not just because you called me!). Sometimes they see things that you don’t.

    And yes, setting expectations is important from the get-go. Your idea of a client profile is an awesome one! I might have to steal that! 😉

    P.S. I’m still eager to hear how things turned out with YOUR client! You’ll have to let me know!

  126. […] do you do?  Well, most will say FIRE the client but if that is not an option you could go with Gini Dietrich’s suggestion which is to outline your expectations of your client with them so they know what to expect and […]

  127. […] we work with difficult clients and it doesn’t always work-out, we feel […]

  128. […] the age of the long tail, we talk a lot about focus. We fire clients who aren’t profitable, and are a drag on our time and resources. We narrow our target markets so we can be experts in one […]

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