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Social Media Expert & Founder of Snack Toronto.
Anyone who works in marketing knows that certain clients aren’t worth the time that they take up. After working as a director for social media agencies for the last five years, I’ve learned to spot the subtle red flags. I typically pursue a fifth of the leads that come my agency’s way. Not all business is good business. Here are the warning signs I look for.
1. They are a startup.
This may be a controversial opinion, but if a business has just launched, working with an agency likely isn’t the best route for them. The amount of energy and time they may need is likely better suited to a contractor or an employee.
The other element is if a business hasn’t been running for at least five years, it may not have its revenue streams set in stone yet. And if it’s an entrepreneur’s first business, they may not know that starting social media or marketing is not an on switch that will start generating revenue. Social media and branding are a slow game, one that is a piece of your larger marketing strategy. They are not necessarily the first things a new business should invest in, and certainly not over distribution or a website. This leads me to my next point.
2. They don’t have a website yet, but ‘it will be done next week.’
This is an immediate red flag, and something that I’ve heard countless times before. A normal completion time frame for a website is anywhere between three months and a year, depending on the complexity. It doesn’t matter if you think you have an excellent web designer/developer. It’s very unlikely that your website is going to be complete in 10 days. So if a client is looking to start running ads and their website isn’t done, don’t even have a discovery call. Thank them for reaching out, and let them know you’ll be happy to talk once the website is up and running.
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3. They are reluctant to adhere to normal policies.
I recently spoke to a lead who had a problem with the contract length and payment terms (net 14 in their case, not payment upfront, which tends to be the industry standard) and would ignore my requested time frames for our proposal. It doesn’t matter how sweet the deal is, or how much you like the brand, or how well you can do your job—if your contact doesn’t respect your policies, they won’t respect you. Plain and simple. Policies are an impersonal way to implement boundaries and ensure that your agency runs smoothly. Make sure they are always front and center in your decision-making process.
4. They are outside of your desired niche or industry.
We serve the food and beverage industry, but we often get leads that approach us from other industries. Don’t water down your own brand just because you are asked to. Just because you can do something well doesn’t mean you should do it. Every client you take on is a representation of your skill set. If you’re too busy working on clients outside of your niche (that you can’t use in your portfolio) or that are otherwise too needy, you’ll never be able to scale your business.
Scaling your business is about client quality as well as quantity. One fantastic account manager can handle 15 to 20 well-running accounts. Throw one client into the mix that isn’t the right fit, and you may find that they take too much time and energy away from your quiet, well-running accounts. What’s more valuable—one difficult client, or 19 good clients?
Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
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Author: Kelly Samuel, Forbes Councils Member
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