Many years ago, back when I was a young buck (er … doe?) just starting out with her Web design and online marketing company, I’d eagerly offer to help any new client who walked in the door with more than a $20 bill in his/her pocket.
Fast forward 12 years. My team and I now turn down far more projects each month than we take on. We have the luxury of being very picky. Going through over a decade of (often painful) project experiences has allowed us to become an agency that’s able to quickly pinpoint, with rather good accuracy, which prospective clients would likely become problem clients.
Yes, there are prospective clients who are obviously rude or abusive, and prospective clients who have extremely unrealistic expectations (“I want to build a site that competes directly against Google, and I have $450.”).
However, I’m talking about our problem-radar that tells us when to walk away from prospective clients who appear to be great businesses with great projects combined with appropriate budgets and realistic timeline expectations — but who we know will cause headaches and problems after their project starts.
Read on to learn how to keep your business from being one of these problem prospects.
This breed of problem client is the type who disappears mid-project. The type who suddenly stops communicating. The type who doesn’t meet deadlines, fails to show up to meetings or phone calls, causes timelines to be extended by practically unimaginable amounts (two years, anyone?), and who essentially throws hurdle after hurdle in front of themselves and prevents a successful website or online marketing campaign from moving forward.
This breed of problem client never sets out to do these things, but they allow them to happen.
So what’s the one thing we look for that sets off sirens for us, telling us a prospect will likely turn into one of these clients?
They don’t have a truly compelling reason to create a new or rework their existing website or online marketing strategy.
These are the businesses that approach us saying they’re just “exploring” the possibility of redoing a website. Or they say they’re looking into redoing their site “because the competition is doing it, so we should probably do it, too.” Or they say, “Well, our site looks pretty outdated, so we think it’s probably time to think about redoing it.” And these are rarely truly compelling reasons to invest the time, energy or budget that will be required of them to experience a successful website or online marketing project.
There are always things that come up that will be more important than working on their website project: a vacation, work getting busy, simply not wanting to do the (often not thrilling) work required on their end, taxes, employee problems, etc.
Without a driving motivation to keep moving forward, these clients become the ones who disappear when there are speedbumps or challenges, when it comes time for them to deliver on their responsibilities, or when things don’t go according to the original plan.
When clients don’t hold up their end of the deal and stop respecting the fact that a successful project requires collaboration from both parties, we aren’t able to deliver the results we’ve promised. My team gets cranky. I get very cranky. Final products aren’t as effective as they should be. It’s a no-win situation.
And so when the day arrives and the topics of redoing the website or improving online marketing are broached within your company, I challenge you to think long and hard about the actual reasons your business is considering investing in such efforts. Have these topics been broached because of “well, we just should” reasons or perhaps because there’s a loud voice in the organization, or perhaps because your website’s design has begun to irk you a bit?
Or do you have a truly compelling reason that will keep your motivation high when things don’t go according to plan, when your responsibilities suddenly don’t feel fun anymore, or when there needs to be tough discussions about increasing the budget or lengthening the timeline?
Compelling reasons to invest in website or online marketing projects include reasons such as “Our online leads are half of what they were two years ago,” or “Our competition is eating into our customer base and our revenue is down 30 percent,” or “We’re getting complaints every single week that our site is frustrating customers and now our support team is overwhelmed.”
For the sake of your project, and to prevent wasting your time and money (and a Web company’s time and money), make sure you’re considering a new website or online marketing project for a compelling reason. There are plenty of Web companies that will eagerly take on your project even if you’re motivated by the wrong reasons. But moving forward when this is the case is almost guaranteed to result in serious frustration for both parties .
Trust me, I’ve seen this over and over again in my business and in the businesses of my industry colleagues for more than a decade. Ignore my warning at your business’s own risk.
And now that my dire warning is done, I can go back to being my normal cheery self again, and let you know you should feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.
Erin Pheil is the owner of TimeForCake Creative Media. Visit her company’s website at www.timeforcake.com or email Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org.