Not every client that walks into the door of your agency will be a perfect fit. On a few occasions, however, the agency needs to terminate the relationship early because of miscommunication or misunderstanding of roles.
It would be far easier to spot these problems before they become an issue and avoid getting into the business relationship to begin with. Spotting the red flags can help a business understand whether a potential client is worth the time and effort.
Here, 10 professionals from Forbes Agency Council share some of the red flags they’ve noticed that clearly indicate whether a client is a good fit for their company or not.
1. Misalignment Of Core Values
While passion and partnership are cornerstones to successful relationships, and while logistical factors like staffing & budget play a role, we find the truest indicators of client fit lay in the alignment of core values. When a client shares the same enthusiasm for transparent comms, risk-taking, and appreciation for the impact we can have together, those are the most fruitful relationships. – Brad Zeifman, SHADOW
2. Different Worldviews
You need to see the world through a similar lens. If your key assumptions about the way the world works, the way buyers buy, the way growth is established, are inconsistent, you will spend most of your time fighting uphill to create alignment. And, while you don’t need to be best friends with your clients, you need to have similar ideals. For me, for example, authenticity is critical. – Kim Kapustka, 280blue Inc.
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3. Lack Of Common Courtesy
I’m going to keep this super simple: common courtesy. If the potential client doesn’t reply to messages in a reasonably timely manner (or at all), if one client contact ghosts and then another appears without explanation, if the client suddenly drops an unforeseen project in your lap and demands immediate turnaround, then these are red flags, and the potential client will not be a good fit. – Beth Noymer Levine, SmartMouth Communications
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4. Misalignment Of Expectations
All business relationships should start out by setting clear expectations. In my experience, the only clients who turned out to not be a good fit for our agency were the ones who were not on the same page regarding what they should expect in using our services. The more time we spend at the very beginning defining the relationship, the longer that client has retained our services. – Scott Keever, Scott Keever SEO
5. Not Participating In Discovery
We’re an inquisitive bunch. We ask a lot of questions right from the start, and we do this because we know that, in the end, the strategies we shape will be that much more successful for our clients. If a prospective client does not want to participate in this discovery effort, if they don’t see a value in exploration, we’re probably not the right fit for them. – Sarah Mannone, Trekk
6. No Respect And No Traction
Three major red flags may signal a client is a bad fit: 1) Disrespectful behavior, poor or abusive communications with you or your team; 2) Rounds and rounds of edits, lack of ability to approve materials; 3) Not serious about marketing. This will be quickly evidenced in how the organization engages with you or not. No respect, no traction leads to no results. – Toby Eckhardt, Focused Image
7. Friction Over Standard Policies
If standard policies create friction, then personal scenarios will be even worse. Let the structure and policy of your agency be the test by itself — if a client wants to jump ahead of your normal procedure, it likely won’t be a one-time occurrence. – Kelly Samuel, Snack Toronto
8. Huge Expectations Without Metrics
One potential red flag is if the client has huge expectations that are rooted in business goals but not marketing metrics and performance. This can create an impossible situation early on. Another problem is if there is no communication and alignment between the marketing team and the company leadership. We work to get high-level decision-makers involved early to build rapport and to make sure there is alignment around expectations and goals. – Michael Mothner, Wpromote
9. Poor Ethics And Integrity
Ethics and integrity are hallmarks of our work. For those asking for communications assistance in “spinning” an issue, our firm isn’t a good fit. We base our work on facts and will go the extra mile to make a difficult case when we know the facts support the effort. We love working with clients who are honest in sharing their challenges and looking for a firm to exceed their expectations. – Robin Derryberry, Derryberry PR
10. No Funding, Unreasonable Goals
As Maya Angelou wrote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” How the prospective client behaves in the first meeting is exactly how they will act for the rest of the engagement. Our rule of thumb is if we see three red flags in the first meeting, we politely decline the engagement. Red flags examples: lack of funding, inability to delegate and unreasonable goals. – Wendy O’Donovan Phillips, Big Buzz
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Author: Expert Panel®, Forbes Councils Member