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December 06, 2007

Dealing With Difficult Clients Session at SES Chicago

By Li Evans

Jeffery Rhors (Moderator)
This panel discusses the types of difficult clients search marketing agencies will encounter and strategies for having to deal with them. 

Mike Murray (Fathom SEO)
Difficult clients might seem like they are angry, busy bodies, etc., but really what they want to know what's happening and what you are doing to fix it.

Try to avoid problems to begin with.  Frame expectations, convey consistent message

  •     Website
  •     Collateral
  •     proposals
  •     Conversations  - from Bus. Dev. Executive to Project Manag. Teams

Additional Measures

  •     24/y Reporting center
  •     Power Pints/videos
  •     Regular meetings/conference calls
  •     Keep notes on client

  Signed agreements with terms

  •     commitment
  •     control
  •     collaboration

  Establish friendly partnerships, cite shared responsibilities
  Immediate access to website analytics

Objections - handle them internally first by identifying the issues

  •     What is the problem?
  •     What caused the problem?
  •     What are the possible solutions?
  •     What is the best solution based on facts

Handling Concerns
Don't repspond to objectsion via emails because they are impersonal, prone to miscommunication, time consuming, not necessarily productive.  Better to know how you're going to repond and then call within one business day.

Early responsive is crucial.  In the event a client doesn't respong in a timely manner, have triggers in place to  alert differenct levels of management.

Simon Heseltine  (Red Boots Consulting/Serengeti)
Identified 6 types of difficult clients that companies have to deal with
1.  I want it yesterday clients
    They own you body and soul, they think when they snap you should jump.
2.  Denyer
    They just can't get it done, or project forced on them, they constantly have excuses
3.  The Invisible Man/Sneak Attacker
    They don't respond to your communication, then all of a sudden they turn into the "I want it yesterday client"
4.  The Scope Creeper
    They want information beyond what has been agreed to, "hey look at this other website for us"... etc.
5.  The Spy
    They want to see and know what you are doing.  In reality they are trying to train their inside staff while working with you.
6.  The Lack of Internal Process
    They have no control, too many fingers in the pot, things change without their knowledge or yours

So what do you do?
Be Proactive, set expectations up from (use a contract for scope issues), provide regular updates on a mutually agreed schedule, and identify issues ASAP and resolve them.  Emails can be taken out of context, so use the phone and get things sorted out.

If all else fails - FIRE THEM.  If someone is an absolute drag, it's time to evaluate the relationship.

Kendall Allen (Incognito Digital)
They are doing branding and conversions, so there are a lot of challenges with the client relationships.  They are focused on long term engagements.  They insinuate themselves into the budget process, and planning.

New clients are challenging, especially when they are new to search.  Educating them is a challenge as well. However when you establish the client relationship solidly even the most difficult clients can become your best clients if you handle them in a professional manner.


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