Friday, 4 March 2011

When To Dump A Client

Everyone always says it's just as hard to be the dumper as it is the dumpee, but clearly those people have never had their heart broken into a billion pieces. No seriously...dumping anyone - be it partner, employee or client - is hard. And sometimes it's pure, unadulterated relief.

Have you ever had to dump a client? Have you wanted to but didn't have the balls? Would you love to pick up the phone RIGHT NOW to a client who is making you tear your hair out and say SEE YA before popping a cork to celebrate? Here are some stories from PRs who've done just that, and the various kinds of dumpings.
The Let's Be Friends Dump
Sometimes there's just nothing more you can do for a client, so a warm fuzzy dumping is in order. No drama or fireworks necessary, and you can even make it seem like you're doing them a favour as one PR attests: "We've advised clients at the end of our agreed period that we have done everything we can (usually because their expectations are too high). This is always amicable and positioned as a mutually beneficial dissolution of the relationship." See, that wasn't too hard was it? Now let's all hold hands and sing Kumbaya!

The I Knew I Would End Up Dumping You Dump

You know when the alarm bells go off at that very first meeting but dammit, you went ahead and took them on anyway? Maybe it was because you really needed a new client or you simply believed in them that made you ignore your razor-sharp gut instinct. Either way, Welcome To Dumpsville. Population: Them.

"I once took on a client who I just KNEW would be a punish from the first day we met. I took them on as things were a little tough financially so I figured I could cope with some grief. My instinct was spot on, but I had significantly underestimated the level of grief. It was a very stressful experience but what I learnt was to ALWAYS trust my gut. When I meet potential new clients who are the same I  am very polite, tell them we aren't able to take on any new clients at the moment and walk away smiling."

The You Need A Serious Reality Check Dump
Ahhh... the bane of every PR: The Ridiculously Unrealistic Client. The start-up label who expects to be on the cover of Vogue next week, the unknown 'talent' who wants their own column in a magazine, the *yawny* brand who wants a major story on Sunrise and thinks all it will take is one phone call. We've all had them.(I was discussing this blog with a PR friend and when I mentioned The Ridiculously Unrealistic Client type she tellingly said "But aren't they all?" hehe.)

"I dumped a food client once when the goal posts changed dramatically from the original brief. They had unrealistic ideas on what their business was and how they should be perceived by the media; refused to listen to journalist feedback; and the tools to work with never came to fruition. I was very frustrated when I was forced to dump then, but in the end was quite amused when they went to other PR companies who had exactly the same problems!"

"I recently had a fashion client who had seriously unrealistic expectations, demanding TV and becoming increasingly difficult. After three months of that, I prepared a hand over document, booked a catch-up and terminated the contract on the spot.  Diva behaviour is counter-productive for everyone. The hilarious thing is, they were actually shocked."

"Small businesses seem to be the worst as they don't understand how PR works, even when it's explained to them. My retainers are extremely low in the first instance - they all must get a shock when they go elsewhere!"

The You're Just A Douche Dump

Let's face it, who wants to deal with a douche on a daily basis?

"I once had a client where I enjoyed the work, but couldn't stand him. He big-noted himself constantly, and could best be described as a name-dropping wanker. I was embarassed to introduce him to media. I was embarassed to introduce him to anyone. It was a shame because I really loved the brand, but ultimately my sanity was worth more than the retainer."

The I Don't Even Have To Think About It Dump
The easiest decision you'll ever make re whether to dump a client? When they don't pay. Unfortunately this happens fairly regularly in this industry due to the fact that PR comes with no guarantees. You can work your butt off and not achieve impressive results, leading to the ire of clients who more often than not don't understand how PR works.

I've had many calls from Social Diary members over the years asking for advice when clients aren't paying, and I feel their pain. PRs who've been around the block know how to protect themselves: they have a water tight contract or at the very least everything in writing; get paid upfront when possible; cease all work if they are a week late in being paid; and don't let the debt pile up to an amount where their business would suffer. Yet even then, it can still happen and it sucks. One PR says "I've been caught out only a few times on a financial level, been strung along and not paid, and when it's a tad too late, realising it aint gonna come. Exit immediately. I've never been to court (it's invariably not worth it), but I have threatened to and then got what I was owed."

If someone doesn't pay, clearly the relationship is over. But also, if someone is consistently late in paying each month and it's affecting your cash flow, it's sayonara time. Don't put up with it.

The I Don't Want To Dump You But I Have To Dump

It's tough when you're offered a client who compromises the exclusivity of another, or when factors other than the obvious are at play and you're literally forced to terminate.

"Client A asked us to dump Client B because their business had changed and they believed Client B to be a competitor. Client B was my favourite client at the time, but we had a bigger retainer with Client A. I certainly wasn't happy about it. As luck would have it after we dropped our client, 2 months later we were put up to re-pitch on Client A and didn't win - so we lost both! I so should have stuck to my guns and kept the one I wanted to..."

"My client of almost a year turned to me and said that at the conclusion of our contracted term (one month away) they wanted to severely reduce my retainer because they had to "cut costs". I lined up a new client (a competitor) in the same category and then told them "thanks, but no thanks". They now see the difference my work has made to the new client's business and often joke about what a mistake it was suggesting I cut my fee..."

The last word.

The bottom line? When the writing's on the wall, make a decision and act on it swiftly. If you're already going through pain, why prolong the agony? Do it and move on.

"There are always warning signs so I try to act on these quickly - hence I tend to dump clients very early on before too much damage is done. Having a difficult client stresses you and your staff out. I've found it never gets any better even if you persist; it's smarter just to let them go as soon as possible (just like a bandaid - pull it off quick!)"

"If I've dropped a client there is always a sense of relief. It's always upsetting to lose one (especially when it's out of your hands and not for bad service) but when you've made the decision it can be quite empowering."

And if Charlie Sheen was your client? Well then let's all congratulate this guy for getting his dump on. Gimme a D...

Happy dumping :) xxx

No comments:

Post a Comment