We've all had tough clients. Sometimes, it's a problem with the service match or other times, clients can just be downright unreasonable.
We asked some industry guru's how they deal with their tough clients.
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Daniel Smulevich, Verve Search
Over-demanding clients are actually quite common in the industry, especially when dealing with family businesses. For them you are not only an SEO, but a PPC, UX, CRO, branding expert, yet they are not ready to pay for all of that, and, even worse, often don't feel confident in disclosing some internal data.
I remember facing this situation with one of my first private clients, where I ended up spending several extra hours educating the client, so that they could perform the routine tasks by themselves and just be consulted on the strategy. It wasn't a very profitable client for me then, but it helped me in terms of reputation and future prospective clients. My advice is to always be upfront at the very beginning and crystal clear about what you will do for them and the processes involved BEFORE accepting the job.
And if they still over-demand, TEACH them how to do routine tasks (or help them source trusted internal stuff for that) and focus on maximising their revenue streams in the long term!
Follow him on Twitter or read his thoughts at verve search
Dan Shure, Evolving SEO
This is tough. I always try to start, of course, by setting the right expectations up front. But I think the way I have handled this (perhaps rather intuitively) is by emphasizing the value in my deliverables vs. just metrics like rankings. And trying to do something to make my work stand out and be unique in a way that would be hard to replicate. Thus, taking the emphasis away from JUST rankings, traffic, etc – of course you have to deliver on those too, but I find when you do exceptional work, clients are much less demanding about just rankings, and see the greater value of what you provide.
In the few cases where a client has expressed dissatisfaction, I honestly ask myself “am I responsible for that, and did I set the wrong expectation and not deliver?” I try to be really honest with myself and do something to make it up to the client right away. If it really is a client who “just doesn't get it” I'd find a way to not work with them anymore, although I can honestly say I've been lucky enough to not have that happen.
Follow him on Twitter or read his thoughts at Evolving SEO
Bill Sebald, Green Lane SEO
I’ve had my share of tough clients. On SEOmoz I wrote about how I work to avoid them whenever possible. But, when in deep with one, communication is my best method. Honest, quick, plentiful responses to issues and events. This is the opposite of what many want to do, which is frankly to avoid the client. I’ve found that the concern of sending many emails only to open up more work or tough situations for you, doesn’t usually come true. The opposite happens – they respect (and start to trust) that you’re on it, and ahead of things instead of reactionary. The truth is, if you get much more ahead of them so the “to do” items start backlogging with them, they can start to become apologetic. I can think of a couple times where I was recognized for turning a hard client into a pussycat, and all I did was open up
the communication lines (which held me more strictly to my deliverables).
Follow him on Twitter or read his thoughts at Green Lane SEO
Ross Hudgens, Siege Media
When dealing with clients with bad expectations, I do one of two things: a) I get a gauge for their actual needs up front and never work for them, or b) I fire them. There's a “feel” you can get for clients by having intro calls, emails etc before working – and as I've found so far, if you can't get a feel for their needs/personality, that's your fault, not theirs. In general, also, if I can pick clients who have the ability to get results and give me the ability to execute, there are rarely concerns/stresses between us.
Follow him on Twitter or read his thoughts at Siege Media
Aleyda Solis, Seer Interactive
To minimize difficulties and misunderstandings with “tough” clients (and also avoid investing your time and efforts with clients that are just not ready for an SEO process), it is key to validate well and set the right expectations from the start of the process, making sure that the client is aware about timings and resources that will need to be invested from their part. If this is well validated from the start, from my experience, the possibility of having a successful collaboration grows a lot.
Once this is set at the start, having a clear communication, documentation and validation process along the SEO lifecycle that allows you to touch base consistently, making sure your recommendations are correctly implemented and your activities are aligned with the clients operations are also a must to have a smooth SEO process, a great relationship with the client and of course, higher chances of success.
Follow her on Twitter or read his thoughts at Aleyda Solis
Brittan Bright, iAcuire
I prefer to take the brutal honesty approach. We do our absolute best to do right by the client and honor our contract but I have told clients directly that we are not the right partner for them when the situation called for it.
In these circumstances it is always best to ensure we are learning from the situation. Did we position ourselves or our services wrong in the beginning our our relationship with the client? How could we have set better expectations? Did we maintain our standards in the areas of customer service and quality of work?
Every client is different so it is tough to give a blanket answer as to how to respond but I personally think being honest and direct is the way to go, even if it means walking away from the business. There have been situations where I have been very honest and tried to walk away from a situation only to have it be reigned in once boundaries became better defined.
Follow her on Twitter or read his thoughts at iAcquire
In my opinion, there's no such thing as a bad client. There's just a client that's not a fit for your service or vice versa. When I get a client that's being unreasonable or in a situation where I understand that their expectations are not what's being offered, this is how I troubleshoot.
I tell the client nicely the quantum of work I can deliver. They can either work with me under those circumstances or find someone else. If the client doesn't agree and “forces” me to do something I obviously cannot, I charge them more money which would make it worth my while or look at an exit clause in the contract (if any)
In most cases, clients generally co-operate when you sit down and explain to them about your problems and the quantum of work you can perform.
Follow her on Twitter or read his thoughts at Guest Post Labs
Vinoth Shankaran is Guest Post Lab's resident evangelist. He is a major content and UX junkie who loves typography and is constantly in search of new beautiful typefaces.