I have a client who has been with me for quite some time now, and last week I got a really strange email. It merely said.
So you know what went down. I knew what was up. When I called him last week, he told me that maybe it’s time to end the relationship. But in a nice way. He told me that business has been way down and I knew that it had been, so it came as no surprise.
No amount of speaking to customers through various means of social media and optimizing websites was going to make their business pick up given the sorry state of the economy in portions of the rust belt. Though they are a national company, a good chunk of their business is in the Northeast. Plus they sell a frivolous type of product.
And yet, as soon as he told me that, the heart skipped a beat and the little sweat you get on your temples started to form and I immediately went into “save” mode. But there’s one problem with this.
He may be right, it might be time to cut the cord with one of my oldest clients.
I know it’s a sobering thought because no one wants to see their favorite client walk, but the reasons it might be time are many. For starters, what I set out to do for them has been 100% successful. I was brought on as an SEO and social media marketing consultant, and I’ve done everything and more for them. I’ve been their tech source for information and I really felt that I have indeed helped them. Here’s a short list of “some” of things I’ve done for them:
- Reworked/redesigned website for better customer engagement.
- Created a major SEO campaign that optimized complete site for hundreds of keywords all of which now rank organically on first 3 pages of Google.
- Created a Flickr campaign to optimize their thousands of images and to contribute to Universal search results.
- Created a blog that drives significant traffic and also ranks organically on first page of Google.
- Created Facebook Fan Page-nominal success but contributed to overall brand awareness.
- Created Twitter account that results in10% CTR and 2-3% sales on all links.
- Responsible for online sales growth and higher average sales ever year except one. 2009…
So though he’s telling me the gig might be up, and he’s probably right, I’m sitting over here wondering what more can I do? Are there things that I have not yet tried that might get me a double, or a triple even, instead of a weak ass bunt? Something big…Impactfull… I’m not so sure. Maybe…
The last thing I really want to do is take their money for not doing anything, but short of making the horse drink, I have led the horse to the proverbial ocean. Problem is, it’s an ocean, it’s salty and we’re gonna have to look around for an oasis and it might take some time, and might cost some money. Both of which are in short supply right now.
Will my client be better served by someone else with like minded skills? Selfishly I say no, but that might not be the case. I do know this though, they will not find someone with more value than me as it relates to what they deliver and what they charge.
So at the end of the day, as I peel through Peter Kim’s wiki, looking for that “thing” I haven’t done yet, thinking there might be some “other” things I could try, the reality is, as you know, that not every social media solution is the right solution for every client.
I don’t know what else I can do but maybe just shake their hand, maybe give them a hug, thank them for being such a great client, and end it.
Mark – thank you for your honesty; how refreshing to hear a marketing expert talk about the campaigns that do not work out instead of focusing exclusively on the success stories.
There is much to learn from this scenario you present:
1)social media marketing is not a panacea for healing the global economy.
2) Good business practices-the basics-must stay in place even while reaching out for “that great next thing”.
3) Even when you have done your best, it may not move that sales needle.
In contacting potential clients I am finding so many companys holding tight to their money trying to ride out this major downturn. Many small businesses (our target market) simply do not have the cash on hand to pay for our company’s HR services. It is now time to abandon cliches about weathering the storm and waiting for the turn around.
As you laid out, we will have to let some clients go and somehow do it with grace and retain our hope.
Here’s to a prosperous rest of the new year.
Wow, how transparent of you, Marc.
Given what you listed above, it sounds like you added repeat business value for this client. Who knows? Once the economic smoke clears, you might get another email that says, “Call me.” This time, it could mean that he wants to reinstate your services. 🙂
@Chris Thanks for your kind words. When making tough decisions on where to tighten the belt, often times marketing is the first to go. I get that..It was just a sad, somewhat disheartening and no less difficult for them to even suggest it end. Thanks again.
Thanks Court. It’s not that I did anything wrong, it’s just that no amount of my efforts, if I were to start today, are going to significantly move the needle for them. Digital marketing results can happen quick but there will always be the issue of sustenance. In other words can you maintain momentum, can you continue to drive traffic, and can you convert the traffic, and…can you keep them coming back for more…But I’m with you, once the smoke clears, maybe they will come back..
Let me get your name right… Marc!
I was walking around at a major department store last night and you could have shot a canon off in the place it was that empty. I had a parallel empty feeling come over me; we are in some austere times. Not impossible times, austere as in stripped down, burn away the floss times. With all the energy and buzz excitement around social media perhaps this story is a good reminder that these are also sober times, and our clients are experiencing sober times and we may experience a disheartening. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, because we know times will get better – thanks again.
Hey Marc, I definitely feel for you. I for one hate to see a big client leave just like anyone else does. Short of getting out and pushing, i.e. pitching then helping them build a new line of business, I don’t see what else you could possibly do (without knowing more than you’ve conveyed of course.) As a products guy, I’m more than just the UX, Marketing and service work — Would the client tolerate a brainstorming session with you to see what more could be done for their business if you stretched the definition of what you typically do? (Not that you don’t do this already, but I find that even with big clients that think they know what I’m capable of, there’s always something they don’t know or never thought to ask….) We’re creatives, strategists and solutions people. Perhaps there is something they’ve missed that you’d find eh?
@jonathan, I’m still going to see if I can salvage something, but if there is no money, there’s no money. BTW, they have started laying staff people off, so that doesn’t help things..Thankyou though for your ideas..
I’ve been on both sides of this fence and both are emotionally, professionally and financially difficult. As the owner of a manufacturing company I could not overcome production issues and legacy costs that were insurmountable despite a quintupling of sales. Your client may face similar organizational expenses that are crippling his operations and require a major restructuring despite anything you contribute.
On the other hand, I’ve worked with clients who simply haven’t imagined themselves serving a different client base or innovating products that could fuel growth. They perceive themselves as a specific type of company and need an energetic push to reimagine themselves as a different type of company that needs to do business in a fresh way with new clients. But if they lack the ability or the will to outimagine their competitors, it may simply be best to walk away with your professional relationship intact to work with them another day.
Been there and done that. Self doubts are tough to dodge. But if you know in your heart of hearts the problem lies with your client and not you… then make a gracious exit. Leave with your head held high. And you know what? This may not be the end of the story. It’s a real possibility they may experience ‘buyers remorse’ when they seek to replace you. Again it’s happened to me.
@David It wasn’t self doubt. It was exhausting all possible ways for this client to make money from an industry that is severely down right now. I would liken it to trying to promote construction companies in Florida..
Though its disheartening to part ways with patrons but at the end of the day its self- satisfaction that really matters. If you are complacent by the decision then its wonderful.
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