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How to Professionally Fire a Client

How to Professionally Fire a ClientIn an ideal world, we would all become best friends with our clients and enjoy the work we do for them so much that we would wonder why we’re actually being paid. But in reality, some clients push us to the point of resolving that no amount of cash is enough to offset the stress and anxiety they add to our lives.

If you’re forced to make the tough decision of whether or not to cut ties with a client, it’s important to do so with professionalism and class. Even a strained client relationship has the potential to yield future leads and recommendations if you make the effort to leave with a mutual understanding.

Take a look at this list of common “problem clients” and how you can professionally approach each with a breakup line better than “Let’s see other people.”


The offense: Late (or nonexistent) payments

Everyone has a rare moment or two when a payment gets lost in the shuffle or maybe a particularly hectic month that causes you to make a late payment. But for this type of client, it happens all the time! It’s like they pay no attention nor do they care about your payment policy (i.e. net 30 days), yet they still want all their services delivered on time.

What you wish you could say: “I’m wasting way too much time pleading for your payments and acting like I actually believe your endless excuses.”

What you should say: “I enjoy working with you, but you are consistently late with making payments while I continue to meet your project deadlines. Out of respect for my time and for my other clients, I can no longer accommodate this relationship.”

Words of wisdom: After poking and prodding this type of client with reminders about making their payment, you might finally receive a check (sometimes with a nice “forgive me” note) and be tempted to continue the cycle with just “one more chance.” Just keep in mind that this relationship will continue to add stress to your day and steal time from your other clients. If you do feel compelled to stick with them, suggest that they move to quarterly payments (so that you’re only hunting down checks every 3 months) or invest in a system where you can automatically charge their account – businesses do it all the time!


The offense: Wants the moon and the stars on a shoestring budget

In my personal experience, these clients have been among my smallest accounts, yet ate up more of my time than clients paying 10x as much! They are great at micromanaging and wearing you down with negotiations on your pricing and requests for “just one more thing.” While you always want to under-promise and over-deliver for your clients, this business model is simply not sustainable.

What you wish you could say: “You are impossible to please and we’re losing money on you.”

What you should say: “I’ve carefully considered my workload and unfortunately I can no longer accommodate your needs at this time.”

Words of wisdom: The first red flag that you’re dealing with this type of client often occurs as early as contract negotiation. They may try to talk you down on price while refusing to take out any of the services you propose. Use your gut to decide whether to proceed with working with them, but keep in mind that the relationship cannot go on if you are constantly taking a loss each month on their billable hours versus the amount they are actually paying you. It’s not fair to you or to your other clients.


The offense: Verbally abusive

In personal relationships, we are far less likely to accept verbal abuse; yet so often we allow this to go on for far too long in business relationships. This type of client is one that is directly or indirectly demeaning and negative towards you or your staff. They may yell and swear at you, threaten you, or ever so subtly and indirectly put down your work. Whether the verbal abuse is obvious or subliminal, you cannot stay in this relationship.

What you wish you could say: “I dread interacting with you and no amount of money could offset the emotional damage you have caused.”

What you should say: “I strive to provide my clients with the best service possible and unfortunately I am no longer able to do that for you because of the difference in our work cultures and communication styles.”

Words of wisdom: The bottom line is no one ever deserves to be verbally abused and you must end a client relationship immediately if this occurs. I promise you, it never gets better. No amount of money is worth this stress.


The offense: Doesn’t respect time or boundaries

This type of client is toxic because they can really disrupt your work-life balance. They don’t respect your time by expecting you to meet tight deadlines, canceling meetings at the last minute, asking you to start a project and then changing directions or failing to get you the information you need to do your job. They also encroach on boundaries by expecting you to be available in the evenings and on the weekends and to be doing work for them during this time.

What you wish you could say: “You may pay me for my time, but you don’t control all of it. I need time to do other things that simply don’t involve you.”

What you should say: “It’s one of my top priorities to provide adequate time and attention to all of my clients. Due to my current workload, I am unable to commit to the hours you need from me and I cannot continue our partnership.”

Words of wisdom: There will come a time when important projects require you to work late into the evenings or on the weekends. However, this should not be the case for most of this client’s projects. If they insist that all of their work is propriety, where does that leave your other clients on your list? While you may be doing work for your clients, you are still your own boss and must maintain a sense of control over your time by letting go of clients who don’t respect these necessary boundaries.


The offense: Bigger problems are brewing within the business

This client wants you to have the magic solution to fix all of the problems within their business even when this task goes far beyond your area of expertise. For example, the client is asking for a new website, but really this is merely a bandage on a gaping wound of mismanagement, a weak business model and an unhealthy company culture.

What you wish you could say: “You are a mix bag of problems and bad decisions. It would take an entire overhaul of your business to prevent you from inevitable bankruptcy.”

What you should say: “While I would be happy to provide you with services that fall within my area of expertise, it’s come to my attention that you need help in additional areas that would impact the success of my work. At this time, I cannot take on your project until you have first resolved these other important matters.”

Words of wisdom: No one has all the answers – or expects anyone else to. If your client looks to you to be their marketing director as well as their business partner, investor, therapist and cheerleader…don’t walk away, run! Unless they acknowledge a good understanding of these other problems and demonstrate their determination to fix them, this is a toxic relationship that will only bring you both down.

Have you ever had to make the tough decision to fire a client? What was the determining factor and how did you handle it? Share your experiences by commenting below! 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They Want

How to Give Customers What They Need, Not What They WantWhether you refer to them as clients, customers or accounts, your experience working with any of these groups has likely presented you with the tough decision to either give a business what they want or to give them what they really need.

If you are lucky, these two areas overlap and you look like a hero as you deliver favorable results to your smiling clients. All is right in the world!

But sooner or later, after enough years in the business and after working with enough people, you will find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place as you deal with clients who bring you ideas that you know are not going to help them achieve their goals.

Henry Ford alludes to this conflict in his quote, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Often, customers are too close to their own business to see the bigger picture of what it really needs to get to the next level. They will ask for a bandage to fix a gaping wound, when really the underlying problem – and its solution – is much deeper.

So how do you gracefully persuade customers to accept your recommendations for what they need when this differs from what they want? Let’s take a look at five steps that will get you headed in the right direction.

Be kind, but honest when sharing your opinion and expertise

There is never a need to be rude or condescending when informing clients that you do not believe their ideas will achieve the results they desire. Remember, they have sought out your expertise because they want your input. Strive to build a relationship based upon kindness and honesty so that you are able to openly share your opinion and they are well received by your clients. The more your clients trust you and the more your track record of advice has panned out in their favor, the more likely they are to listen to your recommendations in the future.

Offer real examples backing up why something may not be in their best interest

Some clients will want to see proof as to why their idea is not good for their business. Do your research and offer real examples or statistics of other businesses that have used a similar idea or strategy only to have it yield less than desirable results. Another method is to back up your own ideas with research and examples. Don’t just tell your clients, show them why you and many others have found your idea to be of greater benefit.

Give them (only good) options from which they may choose

Give your clients a sense of control and involvement by presenting them with options from which they may choose. The key is to give them only options that will help achieve the same overarching goal. By controlling the options presented, you can help steer your clients toward only good decisions, whether they know it or not.

Get them excited about these options!

Your clients may come to you with a “bad” idea because another business did it (likely in a different industry, with different goals and a different budget) and it looked cool so now they want to do it too. They’re excited about it and for that reason alone it’s attractive. Use this “shiny object syndrome” to your benefit by turning your “better” options into other, shinier objects that catch their eye. Your excitement for these options will get them excited as well. Best of all, they should love that these ideas are new and different from what another business has already done. They will get to be among the first!

Offer praise and encouragement (even if it was your idea)

Finally, step off your soapbox, get down from your high horse and take a back seat to receiving the glory when your ideas deliver the results you’ve promised to your clients. All the credit you could want will make its way to you in the form of a nice paycheck. Until then, be a cheerleader for your client and offer praise and encouragement for their smart decisions that have helped them to achieve their goal.

How have you had to delicately steer your customers toward what they need, and not just what they want? Share your personal experience by commenting below!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on August 10, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu

Taking a Cue from Mother NatureSo often in life, nature is something we first try to change and then try equally as hard to replicate. I might be among the worst offenders of this. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient with my time, cut-out the waste and cram in just one more hour’s worth of work somewhere, somehow. But time and time again, this haste has led me to mistakes, accidents and set-backs that in the end required more of my time than if I had just tried to do things right in the first place. Just a few days ago I was inspired by the Lao Tzu quote, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Ancient philosophers have quite a knack for making the most obvious statements while lining them with an intensely deep meaning that changes your world in a matter of seconds. And with this quote, I began to reexamine the perceived benefit of rushing through life’s tasks.

I can recall countless instances where rushing has cost me valuable time and caused unnecessary frustration. In the morning, I always feel like I’m saving time by multi tasking while brushing my teeth, but when toothpaste ends up on clothes and carpets, I spend more time cleaning up a mess that would otherwise have not been created. One specific morning, I was reaching for a canister of oatmeal with one hand and opening a drawer to grab a spoon with the other, when the entire canister came crashing to the floor. I lost about 20 minutes that day sweeping up oatmeal all for the possibility of saving a few extra seconds. Aside from a few messes here and there, rushing while driving to a meeting, proof-reading an important document or balancing my finances could lead to consequences far more severe. I suppose the underlying point is – how much time could I really be gaining by overloading myself with unnecessary multi-tasking?

In looking to nature for examples, I realized far more important tasks are accomplished every day, moving at the exact same pace they have been for all time. There’s something to be said for steady and consistent progress. Flowers bloom, animals migrate and weather changes just as it should to keep everything else moving in harmony. Could you imagine if just one piece of this puzzle were to rush its role? Everything else would be thrown off to create repercussions almost unimaginable. Most interesting of all is that we might be the only species inclined to rush. Where does this pressure come from? Why do we feel like what we accomplish in the time we’re given is never enough? I’m sure we can each answer this based upon different reflections, but what’s important is that we stop rushing long enough to at least ask.

In my own life, I can easily pick out the almost comical examples of how I try to change nature, just to replicate it. Our natural state is what we first try to improve upon, but ultimately use as our model for perfection. Just last week I spent a day rushing through my to-do list, feeling overwhelmed by everything I needed to get done. My reason for the rush? I wanted to have time to do yoga that afternoon so I could “unwind and de-stress.”  My new goal is to take a cue from Mother Nature and find a pace at which I’m making steady and consistent progress. For a serial multi-tasker this will be hard habit to break, but if it allows me to find more moments of clarity and contentment to appreciate the natural perfection of the world around me, it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

One of my favorite photos of Scott and me in front of Penn State’s Old Main Building. Every year, these flowers bloom in perfect harmony with spring and summer on campus.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Life, Wisdom

 

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How to Love Your Career on the Days You Don’t (Guest Blog by Sarah Pike)

The following post comes to us from returning guest blogger, Sarah Pike. Sarah is a freelancer and teacher with a passion for sharing innovative ideas about entrepreneurship, productivity and company culture. Be sure to visit her author’s bio below to learn more and connect!

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How to Love Your Career on the Days You Don’t

How to Love Your Career on the Days You Don’tYou went into public relations because you loved it – the challenge, the juggling of projects, the deadlines, and the satisfaction of pulling off a mind-blowing coup in the nick of time. But the reasons you love it might overlap with the reasons PR was named one of the top 10 most stressful jobs for two years running.

And where there’s stress, there’s bound to be days when thefeeling of dissatisfaction rears its ugly head and has you wondering if you made a huge mistake. But just because you’re having an off day – or week – doesn’t mean it’s time to switch careers. Here are eight strategies to help you love your job again, even on days when that feels impossible.

1. Walk Down Memory Lane

Remember why you chose this career in the first place. Picture your first big win and remember how that felt. Think about the last time you felt really excited at work, and identify what the difference between that day and today is. By re-engaging with positive feelings about your work and looking for what might have changed, you can turn your day around for the better.

2. Look at the Bigger Picture

There’s a reason you work, and a big part of that reason has nothing at all to do with the office. You work so you can have everything else in your life. Reminding yourself that your career is why you are able to take fabulous vacations or live in a neighborhood you love can help take the sting out of career disillusionment. Virtually no job will give you 100% satisfaction each and every day. Take the good with the bad and remember that work is sometimes (more like often) “work” but it helps support other things in life you love.

3. Take up a Hobby

Sometimes you’re just overloaded and burned out. If there’s no immediate way to change your current workload or the project you’re working on, look outside the office for a sense of fulfillment. If you’ve always wanted to take a cooking class or learn a language, get started. Give yourself something else to look forward to and, once you start feeling accomplished after work, the nine-to-five will likely become more bearable.

4. Dress to Impress

It may seem too simple, but putting on that power suit or your favorite pair of strappy heels can totally turn your day around. You’ll instantly hold your head a little higher, walk with a little more purpose, and all those compliments you’re bound to get won’t hurt either.

5. Tell Someone

It may seem counter-intuitive to your career ambitions to let your boss know that you’re less than thrilled about your current position or tasks, but he or she might actually be the best person to help. Chances are your boss has felt exactly the same way, been able to fight through it, and not only stay in the field – but progress. And your boss may even be able to help mix up your current assignments to help you get over the hump and back to a place where you look forward to coming in every day. Connecting with a personal career coach is another way to help you identify actionable (and proactive!) strategies to turn your career around.

6. Connect with Colleagues

Even if you don’t feel connected to your current list of to-dos, you can still enjoy the workday by fostering supportive, fun relationships at work. Having a friend to look forward to seeing at the office is the next best thing to loving that pile of work on your desk.

7. Give Yourself a Break

Sometimes we need to unchain ourselves from our desk, computer, or tablet. Build regular breaks into your day where you can stand up, stretch, and take a breath of fresh air. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, keep heavy meetings for the middle of the day so you don’t start or end your day on a stressful note.

8. Reignite Your Passion

Look at people in your industry who are on fire. Study them, and if you have someone in your company or city that exudes love for their job, ask if they’d be willing to mentor you. Enthusiasm is contagious, and just being around someone full of passion for PR can get your career fires burning again.

No matter why you’ve hit a slump, there’s nothing worse than feeling miserable eight (or ten) hours a day. There’s a reason you jumped into the PR world with both feet, and you can reconnect with that initial excitement. All it takes is a little perspective and a healthy dose of compassion for yourself – we all go through tough times. Just don’t let one bad day ruin the rest of a rewarding, promising career!

What do you do to get through a tough day (or week) at work? Share your tips by commenting below!

FullSizeRender

About the Author: Sarah Pike is a freelancer and teacher, with a slight productivity app obsession. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s probably reading about career-pathing and wellness. She also enjoys following far too many celebrities than she should on Instagram. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.

 

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True Test of Entrepreneurship: Are You Interested or Committed?

True Test of Entrepreneurship Are You Interested or CommittedThis month will mark the four year anniversary of the day I decided to make a hard right turn on a promising career to pursue the vast and unknown journey of an entrepreneur. I took the leap and landed on my feet – not out of luck, but out of a fiery commitment to do everything within my power to make this work.

That’s not to say I haven’t had to jump into survival mode when life threw curve balls, but I’m sitting here, typing this reflection today to tell you that there is a stark contrast between being interested in entrepreneurship and being fully committed to it.

Throughout the many lessons I’ve learned about entrepreneurship over these past four years, one of the most reoccurring was the difference between interest and commitment. I believe the quote by Kenneth Blanchard says it best, “…When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it is convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.”

If you happen to find yourself at a crossroads of whether you’re interested in or committed to becoming an entrepreneur, consider the words that best describe your motivation and what category they fall into below:

When you are merely interested in something, you do it because it is…

Fun – Of course something that is fun will capture your interest and ignite a spark of excitement. When the task brings you joy, it’s natural to want to spend as much time as possible doing it. Unfortunately, many aspects of entrepreneurship are not fun, and are actually quite stressful.

New – The thrill of something new is always an intoxicating feeling. The unchartered territory and unlimited opportunities of entrepreneurship are some of the most common reasons why people are drawn to this lifestyle. But like anything that was once new, it will lose its shine and as a result, lose the attention of someone who was only “interested” in the venture for its newness.

Easy – One of the biggest determinants between whether you are interested in something or committed to something is whether you will still pursue the task once it is no longer easy. When we are interested in something, like entrepreneurship, it’s attractive when it’s obvious, easy and straightforward. As soon as the road begins to bend and a few tree trunks fall across your path, those who are merely “interested” will usually find a clear path to get the heck out of there!

Popular – Peer pressure is a very real force even long after we’ve left high school. In society, the career choices that seem “cool,” glamorous, interesting and trendy are attractive paths to follow. But what happens when that once popular idea loses the limelight – or worse yet, becomes criticized? Commitment means continuing to do what you said you were going to do, long after the popularity has worn off. A person who is merely interested in becoming an entrepreneur will move on to the next shiny object time and time again.

When you are fully committed to something, you ALSO do it because it is…

Fulfilling – Commitment is often accompanied by long hours and tough decisions. Some people may not understand or like what you are doing and boldly make this opinion known. But when you are committed to becoming an entrepreneur, it’s for reasons much deeper than those listed in the “interested” section above. One of these reasons is that the work is fulfilling to you. It’s a labor of love. You aren’t dependent upon popularity and publicity to keep you motivated; rather, the motivation comes from personal fulfillment.

Meaningful – In addition to pursuing a passion or filling void in your life, commitment is often connected to doing something that has a deep, personal meaning to you. In the case of entrepreneurship, we can find everyday examples of people who have started a business or non-profit to solve a problem that has impacted them personally. Helping other people, who have experienced your same problem, live better lives adds meaning to our own.

Worth the effort – We’ve all heard the notion, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” When you are committed to an entrepreneurial career, you don’t look for the shortcuts or easy ways out. You don’t want a “get rich quick” plan and you know that the words rich and quick rarely work together. It takes a lot of effort, but your commitment comes from believing it is worth it. You are prepared to invest a lot of hours into this venture – and you’re not looking for a quick return.

Your calling – Finally, and likely the best way to determine whether you are merely interested in entrepreneurship or whether you are fully committed to pursuing this unique career is deciding whether it is your calling in life. The most successful entrepreneurs didn’t just stumble upon this path, they were drawn to it, usually from as early as they can remember. While every journey has twists and turns, committed entrepreneurs will agree that all signs pointed them toward this type of career. Even amidst setbacks, you will not feel like a failure if you are going after what you are called to do.

Have you ever had to decipher between whether you were merely interested in something or fully committed to it? Share your personal experience by commenting below.

 

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How to Use Keywords to Drive Traffic to Your Website (Guest Blog by Ryan Stewart)

The following guest post comes to us from Ryan Stewart, a digital marketing expert and the owner of Webris, a Boston based digital marketing agency. Be sure to visit his author’s bio below to learn more and connect.

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How to Use Keywords to Drive Traffic to Your Website

As much as I hate marketing buzzwords, one rings true: “content is king.”

When crafting content for marketing purposes, you need to first begin with keyword research – otherwise, you’re creating content for the sake of creating content.

Understanding what makes strong and effective keywords and knowing what resources you have at your disposal to craft such keywords can make this process much simpler than you ever thought possible. It starts with having a basic understanding of what a good keyword actually is.

Too often we presume tons of traffic indicates solid keywords in their marketing approach – and too often do marketers find themselves confused when faced with tons of traffic but low conversion rates.

That’s why it’s important to dig out the intent behind the keyword as opposed to just pure search volume.

Brainstorming Keywords

Numerous tools are available that can help you come up with potential keywords for your content.

However, often the best starting point for keyword brainstorming is your own knowledge of your business and industry, as well as the metrics you already have at your disposal. Identifying the search terms that are already driving users to your content is a great starting point for optimization.

Use your own actions as a resource – if you were searching for this piece of content, what keywords would you use?

Some of the simplest and most effective ways of brainstorming keywords is by utilizing the autocorrect features on sites such as Google and YouTube to see what people are actually searching for.

using autocorrect to identify keywords

While this shouldn’t be the end all and be all of any marketer’s keyword brainstorming efforts, this can be a good way of coming up with ideas to get started.

Once you’ve got a basic idea, use Google Keyword Tool to find search volume. Combining your own intuition with Google’s data is a great way to build out your initial list of keywords.

google adwords keyword planner

Crafting Relevant Keywords

As you brainstorm and research, it may be tempting to fill your content with high-traffic keywords. Stop! Now consider – are those keywords really relevant to the content that you’re producing?

And above all else, are these keywords going to draw in the type of traffic that you want?

As you brainstorm potential keywords for your content, remember that those keywords must be relevant to what is actually on the page once visitors click those links.

Getting people to visit your content is only the first step in your keyword strategy – keeping them on your page and enticing them to view the rest of your content or to respond to your call to action are equally important goals.

Utilizing Long Tail Keywords

One of the simplest ways for marketers to boost the relevancy of their keywords is to incorporate more long tail keywords into their content. When people conduct searches, they are typically looking for specific information.

longtail keyword seo

A search for “cosmetic dentists” will drive in better quality traffic than a simple search for “dentists” – not only because the content will be more specific to what the user is searching, but also because these types of keywords typically catch site visitors later on in the buying cycle.

Local Search Practices

Businesses with physical locations or who do a large amount of business in specific areas are quickly discovering the importance of incorporating local search into their keyword strategy. Businesses that offer services locally should emphasize the importance of including local search terms into their keyword strategy.

This is a simple and effective way to drive in relevant traffic. Driving in users from Des Moines, Cheyenne, and Los Angeles is hardly going to do a business any good if their services are only offered in Atlanta.

A good starting point for many businesses that do offer local goods and services is to identify the local terms that are already driving in traffic and to expand upon them.

Calculating the Value of Keywords

Once you develop a good list of potential keywords, you can begin to perform the necessary research with resources such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool, Google Trends, Microsoft Bing Ads Intelligence and Wordtracker’s Free Basic Keyword Demand to determine the value of those keywords and their potential to drive in traffic.

Wordtracker's Free Basic Keyword Demand

One thing that is important to remember is that keyword optimization is something that should continue to evolve over time. Search engine algorithms – as well as the attitudes of online traffic – are always in flux.

Paying attention to metrics such as traffic and conversion rates allows marketers to continue to optimize their keywords and change their keywords as needed to ensure that they never miss out on new opportunities as they arise.

Additionally, focusing on the quality of traffic first and the quantity second, you can overcome some of the biggest hurdles and pitfalls associated with crafting relevant keywords for your content.

What other tips do you have for successfully researching and incorporating effective keywords into your content marketing strategy? Share your ideas by commenting below!

ryan stewartAbout the Author: Ryan Stewart is a digital marketing expert with over 10 years of experience working with clients like Best Buy, Accenture and the Department of Defense. Ryan holds a number of web certifications as well as a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). Ryan currently owns Webris, a Boston based digital marketing agency. Follow Ryan on social media: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

 
 

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