Being in business for over 10 years has exposed my company to a wide variety of characters. I’ve meet amazing people. I’ve meet not-so-amazing people. I’ve meet people who would give you the shirt off of their back, I’ve met people who live to rip other people off. I’ve met people who tell the truth, I’ve met people who don’t have an honest bone in their body. Over the years I’ve learned MANY lessons. Lessons of humility, lessons of practicality and PLENTY of lessons about humanity.
I do consider myself a good judge of character but sometimes, I completely miss the call. I’ll see a prospect that I think we should pursue, their story checks out, their budget seems legit, they talk the right talk, they agree and shake their head when I try my darndest to manage expectations, I take on their project and within a month, I regret every second of it and EVERY dollar of it.
We recently took on a digital marketing job that was packaged just right. It looked right, the product looked right, the foundation was in place, but when I met the folks in our conference room, I could tell that something wasn’t quite right. I should have trusted that feeling. 2 months went by, after we went overboard explaining what to expect out of an SEO campaign and then they wanted to meet. No big deal, it will be an opportunity to show them the amazing results that our team has produced. Analytics were all way up over the last 3 months, search results were WAY up way quicker than expected, leads were up by 60% over the previous quarter, things were looking way up.
24 hours after that productive meeting, they fired us. The ex-client exclaimed how SEO just takes way too long. They noted that they received 0 leads, (totally incorrect.) They noted that their search results were not as expected (despite several number one rankings in 2 months). They noted that their son-in-law could do the job and will do it for free from here. This is always frustrating for my team. They truly put their hearts and souls into each client campaign. They all go the extra mile, they all take a loss personally. I feel partially responsible for that. I should have said no to their business from the beginning. I should have realized that they would bail as soon as they actually started to get rankings. This would probably explain why they had been through 4 SEO / Digital Marketing companies in a one year period. Lesson learned.
A wise man once told me, you can’t expect your business to grow if you never say no. In fact, I read an article just this week that illustrated how some of the world’s most successful CEO’s say no 78% of the time. Saying no means saying no to new business that just doesn’t feel right. Saying no means not letting customers work around your boundaries. Saying no means not dropping your pants on pricing just to get the business. Saying no can sometimes SUCK. But, it HAS to be said. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. It’s NEVER popular, but at the end of the day, it’s your organization. It’s your products and services that people need. It’s your business process, employees, your bottom line, your life. I should have listened to that wise man AND my gut with this particular client.
The bottom line, if you ever feel that the person / company you’re about to do business with is not above board, you owe it to yourself, to the integrity of your business, to the sanity of your employees and to the bottom line of your company to walk away. Practice saying no. Practice it often. You can still provide excellent customer service by creating boundaries. Could you lose clients? Sure. Will some clients expect a YES all of the time? Yes. The truth is, great clients will understand that you need boundaries, that you have a process, a system and a method to your operations. Those, my friends, are golden clients.