Friday, July 8, 2011

When is it time to kiss that client good-bye?

I know you’re saying, “In this economy, I’d never get rid of a client”, but the truth is sometimes you should. A client/agency more than a relationship, its a marriage. When a relationship is not healthy, its not good. But when a marriage is rocky, you need to take stock and reevaluate who you want to be, to each other.

When I was a kid my Mom gave me some advice that has been the barometer of my personal and professional life.

Show me the company you keep
and I'll show you,
the company you are.

Keeping clients who are dysfunctional, disconnected, or lack integrity will ultimately inhibit you from doing your best work and reflect poorly on you, your health, and your company's bottom line.

Here are some instances when you should consider ending the relationship:

When the client’s words don’t match their actions
Creating a great brand needs passion, focus and vision. When you are faced with a client who’s written mission and vision do not align with their actions, you are headed into rough, troubled waters. Ask yourself this question: Do you really want to work with someone who speaks the speak but doesn't walk the walk?

When there is internal discourse
When you are hired without all of the stakeholder’s knowledge or buy-in, you will be fighting an uphill battle. We have been successful when this happens only when we reported directly to the CEO, CMO, CTO and/or CFO. If this is not an option, consider the consequences carefully before moving forward. You can’t charge for hours spent maneuvering the minefields that may be thrown in your path by unhappy and/or disgruntled staffers, who are ultimately not the decision makers. Ask yourself this question: What is my bottom line with this project? How do I make up for loss of productivity?

When you are asked to show your credentials
When you are asked by non-stakeholders (employees that are not decision makers or responsible for the project) to show your credentials, it means they have no confidence in their senior management to make the right decisions for the company. While this seems incidental, this kind of behavior is a sure-fire sign of cultural problems at the core of the company that will ultimately compromise your ability to be effective. Ask yourself these questions: You have been in business how many years? You have an incredible track record. Why does this make a difference? Does the person who asks have a different agenda? Did they recommend someone else? And don't be afraid to ask them where this question comes from. Remember, you are in a relationship. Trust is important. And understanding what is happening is important too. Its easy to misunderstand. Maybe this question comes from another place. Better to ask then wonder!

When you don’t get straight answers to your questions
Our success as marketers and branding experts is dependent on accurate information from our clients. With the internet at our finger tips exploding with information, it is easy to work for public companies. But for privately held corporations, information is limited. Our strategy, campaigns, plans and more depend on the information provided by the client. When there are internal forces beyond your control that impede your ability to collect timely accurate data -- or you are not getting quick feedback on your work -- it is time to stop and ask yourself why, and do I really need this client? As with any relationship parting ways is hard. Even people who are married 40-50 years get divorced. If you sit down and talk with them, they will say "I keep on thinking of all the time I wasted and positive experiences I could have had. I don't know why I waited this long." Same is true with your business,  you and your team should be focused on positive experiences with clients that will help your company flourish and grow —allowing you to do your best work.

When collaboration becomes combative
We love, love, love, healthy exchanges and critique. Partnerships are exciting because everyone brings a different perspective to the table generating great concepts and energy. It's a necessary part of the creative process and it propels productivity. However, when these sessions become combative or abusive, it is no longer collaborative and ultimately will jeopardize your ability to help the client. If this was a friend or family member you would be the first person to tell them to end a relationship if they were being physically or emotionally "beaten up" by their partner. Transfer this same philosophy of "Don't take it anymore -- get out!" to your workplace. You will find another client — and if you pay attention to your "lessons learned" — the next one will surely be a better fit.

Remember this adage: When one door closes another opens. As long as you continue to learn from your experiences, behave with integrity and stay true to your own mission, vision and values good things will happen!

Our agency is so much better because of this philosophy. Think about it. Don't be afraid to take the plunge when/if needed!

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