It's a lesson that I learned far too late in the game, but nevertheless, I have learnt it and am reaping the rewards.

When clients are rolling in the door, most entrepreneurs are counting the dollars and working out ways in which to service them.

In the past, I have said 'yes' to far too many dodgy characters - people who I knew would never pay their bills, liars and people who just don't fit in with our brand and culture. Every single time, it ended in disaster.

Firstly, if someone questions the $ value on your contract, say 'no'. It means they will be questioning the value of your work over and over again and in the end you will over service them, and it will take you away from new clients that you really need to be focused on.

Secondly, if your gut instinct says 'no' then it is 'no'. No question! Trusting your intuition is imperative to achieving control over your business and outcomes. Every single time I have not trusted my gut instinct, I have failed. The last time I didn't trust my gut instinct on a potential client was last year, when I said to the prospect at the meeting that I didn't feel that their company was a good fit with ours and given his background was sales coaching and teaching people how to sell, he basically talked his way into us working with their company. Alarm bells rang when his girlfriend and sidekick in the office questioned how long it takes to write a marketing strategy. Apparently, to them, 11 hours is too long. They expected a 'couple of hours'. Well, if they want some hack who does no research and does not put any thought into their marketing strategy, they still wouldn't have it done in a couple of hours. Seriously, what planet are some people on!!!! Yes, I do have a bee in my bonnet on this one - with good reason. Another marketing blog in the pipeline on this one!

I transgress. This client continued to be a nightmare, even though through a direct marketing campaign that we challenged them on every step of the way, they confirmed it was highly successful (we mostly got our way!). They were also nigglers who wanted to know if a phone call was counted or not in their timesheet (perhaps to no longer have monthly meetings and replace them with phone calls). We are not lawyers, so it is discretionary and depends on how much time is spent on this medium. But the odd call here and there, we don't monitor. We also gave them an intern to help them with their DM for a day and they made the poor guy work until 8pm - at no charge, then asked if they could have him back. Gosh - were these guys serious???? Some people want something for nothing - always. That is just the way they are. So steer clear of these people and if your gut says that the person sitting in front of you is one of them - run for the hills!

Thirdly, if someone is obviously telling you porky pies, then ethically, they should never be a good fit for your business. People who cannot sit straight, are not going to do your business any favours and it is definately not going to be a win-win situation. The last person I took on as a favour for a friend, ended up on A Current Affair for fraud. Not once, but three times and for also punching the journalist. Needless to say, I don't do favours for that friend anymore and if I don't trust the person sitting in front of me, I don't send a proposal.

Last but not least - people that think they are experts at what you do. Marketing is always something that many people seem to be experts in - but if they were, wouldn't they be more successful and why are they talking to us in the first place? I am sure that mechanics have people who come into their workshops and say that they were a mechanic in a past life and it should only take an hour to fix a motor. It happens to everyone, but it's definately something that you clearly have to say 'no' to when this type of person knocks on your door.

It's bloody hard being a small business owner. I sometimes just want to pull my hair out! But the rewards a high and the personal satisfaction cannot be replaced. Getting to a point in your business like I have earlier this year where I 'sacked' 10 clients in a couple of months directly effecting our business by almost $500k, is a hard one, but a smart one. Now, all our clients pay their bills. Yeh!!!! And we deliver outstanding marketing services to clients who appreciate the work we do. Our work has never been better and our team has never been more professional and talented. It's a great position to be in, but to get there, we had to make some cold hard decisions and saying 'no' was the first.

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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert with more than 20 years experience. Having founded and built two successful marketing companies internationally, she is well recognized as a industry thought leader and innovator. Mellissah started her career working with technology and professional services firms, primarily in marketing, public relations and investor relations, positioning a number of successful companies to list on the various Stock Exchanges around the world. She is a writer, technology developer and entrepreneur who shares her thoughts and experiences through blogs and written articles published in various media outlets. Brag sheet: #2 marketer to follow on Twitter (2003), Top 150 Marketers to Follow (2015), Top 10 innovative marketers (2014), 60K+ followers on Twitter with 97% authentic.

1 comment

  • Vib

    I think it's important for a business to be willing to take risks to be successful. Businesses usually accept clients at a financial loss sometimes in the hope of securing more profitable business in the future.

    I don't know what kind of contracts you have with your clients but if a proper contract is signed with payment instructions, job details, duration of contract etc... you would be protecting yourself from dodgy clients not paying up or requesting marketing strategies to be prepared in minutes !!!!

    Marketing is all about identifying existing and future customer needs & wants and satisfying them in a profitable way. Marketing takes into consideration that every individual is different and has different wants. In the same way every client is different, its about meeting their requirements and ofcourse protecting ourselves with professional contracts.

    So don't say NO to clients because of a few bad experiences

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