Firing SEO Clients

27 Nov
yourefired

Try to say, “President Trump” without gagging.

I’ve blogged about canning clients before (because of payment and/or privacy problems,) but this recent blog post by Marvin Russell made me want to do it again!

I accept up to four clients every year. I don’t accept every potential client, and because I have the luxury of excellent word-of-mouth, I seldom respond to RFPs and the like.

I’m picky about who I work for.

Six qualities I look for in a potential SEO client:

  1. Quickly groks what I do, the pace, etc. Can I quickly shape their expectations?
  2. ROI-minded, with the data/analytics to back it up. Or empowers me to quickly set it up!
  3. Willing to sign boilerplate mutual NDA.
  4. Big enough to potentially benefit from my minimum monthly retainer, currently six hundred and fifty bucks. I don’t like wasting money.
  5. Eschews unneeded gloss and superfluous meetings/conference calls. Appreciates concise communication and reporting. Doesn’t want excess overhead.
  6. Provides communication conduit to fast decision-makers in the organization, so great plans don’t linger in development hell. Am I talking to somebody who can affect change?

Though they passed that top-six litmus test with flying colors, I encountered problems with two clients over the past couple of years. Both were related to other third-parties on the clients’ marketing teams.

Please, won’t you tell me about your wonderful web/branding team?

The first problem was an unresponsive, and then slow web team. After six months of hair-pullingly frustrating non-progress, I threatened to quit. Client finally whipped their web team into shape and it’s been (mostly) smooth sailing ever since. I look forward to their switch to a new developer and CMS in the near future.

The second, more recent problem, was when a client’s branding agency communicated poorly and repeatedly wasted my time.

The branding agency wasn’t willing to communicate via email and only scheduled phone calls in four daily time slots via a web calendar app. Good luck finding a conveniently timed opening in their tiny schedule! “Can you squeeze a five minute call in? Just call me any time, all day!” Nope. Only four a day.

The last straw: they missed a call I managed to schedule. When I called them out on it and asked for demanded other lines of communication, they finally started responding to email, by calling me “unprofessional” and defending their (lack of) communication, saying it was typical of agencies. (I work with several agencies. These jokers were the worst, by far.)

They got nastier. I told the client, “I’d rather have my dignity than the aggravation and money. I won’t work with them.” (The branding agency is in Dallas. That’s all you’ll get from me!)

Rough Ride to a Happy Ending

That client now insulates me from the branding agency’s bad mojo. When taking the branding agency’s advice lead to a >90% drop in organic sales, the client quickly reverted to the old site and told the branding agency to act on my recommendations. Rankings, traffic and sales recovered. I don’t think that agency will be in the picture much longer.

I’m glad it worked out.
I like all of my clients. That’s the idea.

Though I’ve come close, I haven’t fired a client since my first and only firing, the one mentioned at the beginning of this blog post. #gettingbetter

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Ethan McCarty

Digital strategy | Social business | People-centric biznology

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