This article was based upon Episode #13: Anthony Higman’s client horror stories mash-up from his captivating interview conducted by Our Beloved Host, Morgan Friedman. Please watch the complete episode here!
“You will have to face more burned houses to become a really good firefighter. Embrace these challenges, and you will soon become immune to it.” -Morgan Friedman, Host
Hey there! Are you ready to hear more client-horror stories? If you’ve been continuously following our stories, you should already have a set of lessons that will help you become a more dependable and money-savvy businessperson. You are, nevertheless, invited to read more of my writings to acquire more lessons.
Today’s feature is a client-horror story special. Instead of one long dive into a story, we’ll gain lessons from three separate stories from a sharer with one major issue: the intricacy of Google ad campaigns.
Make sure you have your notepad ready because Anthony Highman will tell you three stories that are jam-packed with lessons.
First Story: For redemption
Anthony Highman, during his early days in his SMB team. Anthony has been working in a small company providing digital marketing services. His first client-horror story began when his company was working for a local law firm in Philadelphia.
Like any other starting company, Anthony and his agency were working really hard to get clients. Anthony didn’t notice it back then but being too thirsty for a client is actually already a red flag. We’ve already heard a lot of client-horror stories that begin with the thirst for clients or breakthroughs. Right off the bat, we have our first lesson.
1. Don’t be too thirsty for a client
Don’t get me wrong, taking every opportunity that comes your way is a good thing. But being too thirsty for clients is not a good thing because you tend to neglect red flags from your first meeting with your clients. For instance, when you first met with your client, they began showing their egoistic side. But because you are thirsty for clients, you neglect their attitude even if you know things will end up bad, especially when suggesting opinions and telling the client that they are wrong.
Nevertheless, business is all about gambling. Getting clients is a mixed bag of opportunities because you will never know if that client can be the turning point of your small company, or it could be the reason for your downfall. But this applies only to clients who are really clever in wearing their masks. We will get into that later on.
Going back to the story. During that time, Anthony and the CEO of his agency were desperate for clients. On a Saturday morning, Anthony and the CEO of his agency finally got a client. They worked really hard to get that client and did a couple of calls to gain the client’s trust. When they finally got noticed, Anthony and the CEO went into their potential client’s office to meet in person.
Anthony and the CEO prepared so much for this meeting. They got suited and booted, ready to go so that they could impress this client. But as they got into the office, they noticed that everyone was walking around and carrying stuff out from the office. The office was about to transfer into another office at that time, or they were cleaning things out. Then, Anthony and the CEO ended up helping the people in the office to carry their things.
They got suited and prepared for the meeting, but they ended up carrying heavy boxes and helping them move out. This is not a problem at all because it wasn’t like they were forced to help. Anthony also thought that the act of helping could impress their potential client.
After Anthony and the CEO helped carry the boxes, they were invited into the client’s office. When they got into the office, the potential client greeted them formally. To avoid confusion, let’s name the potential client, Jack.
So Jack gave Anthony and the CEO a formal greeting and introduced himself. Jack told Anthony that he is actually one of the main partners of this law firm in Philadelphia. Jack wanted Anthony’s agency to help him regarding Google ad campaigns because Jack’s company seems to be having some troubles with Google ads. Jack explained briefly the context of their work and all the technical stuff Anthony and the CEO need to know.
During their meeting, the other main partner came inside the office. Again to avoid confusion, let’s name this other partner, Ryan.
Ryan came inside the office, and Anthony felt a weird vibe coming from him because of Ryan’s odd introduction. The meeting continued to progress until they got into the “Google My Business” part. Remember when I told you being too thirsty for a client is a bad thing? Well, here is the continuation of that lesson.
2. Due diligence is important
Being too thirsty for a client is bad because sometimes, you tend to forget to do due diligence on your client. You want to have a client so bad that you failed to dig deeper into their career only to realize in the end that they were terrible clients.
For example, in Anthony’s situation, he failed to seek due diligence on Jack. It was already too late when he realized that Jack’s “Google My Business” got shut down for incentivizing employees to give fake Google My Business reviews. Jack schemed to let his employees make up good reviews to earn money from Google. Because of Anthony’s thirst to get some clients, he failed to identify that Jack, his potential client, was in a really tight spot.
But because Anthony and the CEO already accepted the job, they have no choice but to save Jack’s mess.
After their meeting, Anthony and the CEO said their goodbyes and started planning on what they’re going to do. Surprisingly, Anthony and the agency did a pretty good job with the task. They started big by bringing Jack and the Law firm a ton of leads. All of the leads became cases, and it was going great for Anthony and his team. Jack was also very responsive. He would have a weekly call to check in on how Anthony is doing, and Anthony will reply on their achievements.
Jack also gives them new suggestions to have constant communication, which is the ideal relationship you must have when you have a client. Anthony kept on giving them leads, but when the first month came, Jack became less responsive. Anthony wasn’t getting that weekly conversation anymore, and it made him worried.
Then all of a sudden, Ryan made contact with Anthony. Ryan was never included in Anthony’s work with Jack, and they never even made a conversation regarding what the task was all about. Out of the blue, Ryan called Anthony and told him to shut everything down.
Anthony was confused because why would Ryan tell him to shut down everything he is working on and not Jack, his actual client? Anthony replied that he would ask for confirmation from Jack because he is the actual client, and they both were the ones who made an agreement.
Anthony was right when he told Ryan that he should wait for a call from Jack. Anthony was doing pretty well, and he just gave 20 new cases to the law firm every two weeks, which is a massive difference in the ad spend compared to where they were before Anthony, and the agency helped them. Ryan neglected what Anthony told him and pushed through with what he said, “Shut everything down.”
Anthony was still waiting for a confirmation from Jack, and Anthony tried to contact him by looking him up online. To Anthony’s surprise, the law firm’s name suddenly changed. However, that’s not the only thing that changed. Jack’s name was also removed from the Law firm’s website.
Anthony was really confused until he knew the truth about Jack.
It turns out that Jack hiring them was his last-ditch effort to bring in the required number of cases that he was supposed to hit. Basically, Jack was on the end of the rope, and he was supposed to bring in a considerable amount of leads to the law firm, but for his own issues, he failed to achieve the quota.
After that, Anthony quit working for Jack, and his first client-horror story came to an end. As you may have observed, the teachings in this post are the same as those in my prior writings.
Even though they are all the same, the situations in each lesson are unique. You may believe you have done your due diligence since you followed the advice in my last post, but if you encounter a circumstance similar to Anthony’s, you may still wind up with a terrible client. So collect all of your due diligence teachings and apply them to every occasion you encounter.
Here is another lesson from the first story:
3. Understand your client’s objectives
Anthony thought that Jack’s objective was to provide many leads to the law firm, which Jack hired them to do. But because Anthony and the CEO were too desperate for clients, they didn’t realize that it was Jack’s final effort to redeem himself from his mistakes.
Anthony could have been an excellent asset to the law firm, and he could have worked in that law firm for long projects if only he knew that the law firm and Ryan were trying to get rid of Jack.
For Ryan and the CEO of the law firm, Anthony is a bad employee because he sided with the person who brought the law firm countless problems. If Anthony sided with Ryan and got to know the CEO of the law firm, rather than saving Jack’s career, Anthony and the CEO could have the turning point of their careers. Nevertheless, you can now see the importance of due diligence from Anthony’s point of view.
Now without further adieu, let’s proceed to the next client-horror story.
Second Story: Weekly Meetings with Professor Snape
This second story again is from Anthony’s early days in SMB. During those days, Anthony and his agency started opening up to clients who needed help in account management for home services, finances, healthcare, and many more.
In those moments, Anthony had a really intimidating client. He would have to go to this client once a month to do an in-person reporting session. Let’s name this intimidating client, Paul.
Paul had a slight grudge against Anthony’s agency because he had been through 2 account managers, and both of them failed to satisfy Paul.
So Paul has been a legacy client of Anthony’s agency, and he wanted help managing his account. Anthony’s agency gave him his first account manager, but Paul requested another one after a month. Maybe things didn’t work out for him, or he simply dislikes the methods of the first account manager.
Anthony’s agency again offered another account manager to Paul, and yet again, he wasn’t satisfied. On the third attempt, the agency offered Anthony as his account manager, hoping that Anthony could finally satisfy Paul’s needs.
This was a tough spot for Anthony because Paul was very intimidating, plus the pressure of the two previous managers is a heavyweight to carry. Anthony was anxious and would overthink the appropriate methods he needed to apply for Paul. Anthony was also very hesitant to suggest a new approach because he assumed that Paul must’ve been tired of changes.
Paul’s trust was already broken because he was given many methods, and none of them worked for him. Anthony tried to gain Paul’s trust and encourage him by saying, “We gotta do everything differently.” But unfortunately, the second account manager also said that to Paul.
However, even if Anthony wanted to explain that digital marketing changes very quickly and new methods need to be applied every time the algorithm of Google and digital marketing changes, he could not voice this out to Paul. For example, Paul’s first account manager tried the method of testing out automation. The second guy came in, and the algorithms changed, so he had to apply all automation with a broad match because it was the perfect method during that time.
In Paul’s point of view, both account managers changed their tactics, yet there was still no result. Understandably, Paul is frustrated right at that moment, and he just wants an excellent and effective method that would satisfy him. For Paul, Anthony’s agency doesn’t know what they are doing because the patterns and methods keep changing. He added that the agency doesn’t have a process of its own that everyone should follow.
Something noteworthy, clients hire employees for the process, not their character. For example, if you see your friend cooking a delicious steak and you want to buy his steak, you don’t hire him because he is your friend. You hired him because of his process on how he made his delicious steak.
Anthony tried to earn Paul’s trust by showing him how much he knows about account management. Paul was a bit interested, and he was finally open to some ideas and suggestions. Anthony tried to explain the mechanics of digital marketing. Still, even though Paul seemed interested, Anthony knew he couldn’t grasp the entire idea of the algorithm of Google and digital marketing.
Anthony started working with Paul, but unfortunately, the odds were not in Anthony’s favor.
During that time, the local services ads changed the market and caused a huge disruption. Anthony had a successful process on how to get a website on top of the google search results page, but because local services ads made a change, the landscape was different. Now, if you cannot adapt to that change and fail to be on top of the Google search results, the results for your client will drop. This is what Anthony was afraid of, Paul’s searches would plunge again, and he would end up unsatisfied.
Anthony wanted to reason out to Paul and tell him that the results dropped because of this or so, but it would seem like Anthony is just looking for someone to blame. Also, Anthony remembered the lack of trust that Paul has with their agency. If Anthony plays the blame game, Paul might completely end the contract. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Anthony was really in a tight spot when he entered that transition. Even though Anthony had nothing to do with the client’s account failing, he will still be the one to get blamed because he was the account manager.
Because of what happened, Anthony is now discouraged from meeting up with Paul because he knows Paul’s intimidating aura will rise even more. Anthony added, “I ended up really not wanting to go to these meetings because again like it was I’m fighting against the current here. I’m trying to keep up the results but I’m not getting them to the level that they want.”
Anthony was still going to the meetings, but he kept on getting negative comments from Paul every time he showed up. Anthony didn’t also bother to reason out because he would feel like he is deferring blame.
4. Earn your client’s trust
In Anthony’s case, the most crucial factor that he has to have with Paul is trust, especially when Anthony’s task is doing digital marketing. Google is constantly changing, and you cannot immediately have the perfect strategy for that change.
You must at least spend 2-3 weeks studying the new algorithm that Google changes so that you can identify what methods and strategies are best suited to use.
If only Anthony earned Paul’s trust, spending one month determining the best method to use for that change would not be an issue. Anthony can just say to Paul, “Hey, the algorithms of Google changed again. It would take me a couple of weeks to determine this change and decide what is the best method to use to bring you more ROI.” If the client trusts you, he wouldn’t mind that two weeks of passiveness, for as long as you already figured out the algorithm, and you will bring your client lots of sales.
Unfortunately, Paul doesn’t find Anthony trustworthy. Paul got frustrated again, and Anthony failed to satisfy Paul’s needs. That was the end of Anthony’s second client-horror story.
If in the first one we understood the importance of due diligence, in this second story, we realized how crucial trust is to your client.
If your client trusts you, your actions are not limited, and you can do whatever you want for as long as your client receives more in return. But if the client doesn’t trust you, your movements are limited only to what your client wants you to do. If you try to improvise and do something outside the process, your client will immediately doubt you or, worse, terminate your contract.
In Anthony’s second client-horror story, circumstances were his natural enemy. He did not do anything wrong at that time, he was a good employee, and he tried his best to be the best account manager for Paul. The problem was that the circumstances were not in his favor.
First of all, Paul was already having issues with trust because of the two previous account managers. Secondly, Paul was no longer interested in something new and didn’t want to try new methods because he was traumatized by the prior account managers. Even before Paul accepted Anthony, there were already a lot of issues to deal with.
When Anthony started working, everything went well until Google’s algorithm changed. With that, he had to spend a couple of weeks figuring out how the changes work. But what happened onwards was because of Anthony’s feelings. If only Anthony pushed through with explaining and letting Paul understand why it all happened and didn’t let his emotions get into him, Paul might have understood the situation and would’ve given Anthony time to fix it. It was when Anthony felt discouraged where his emotions got into him.
That story got plenty of lessons, right? Well, I hope your notes aren’t full yet because we have another story coming.
Let’s dive into the 3rd story of Anthony’s client-horror stories.
Third Story: Hero Wanna-be
Again, during Anthony’s early days, the agency receives clients through referrals from colleagues and a reliable salesperson they personally know. This salesperson was great and was constantly giving Anthony and the agency their clients. The only problem with this salesperson is that he’s not great at describing the realities of digital marketing.
He tells potential clients that Anthony’s agency could fix this problem, do this stuff, make you a millionaire in a month, and other exaggerated stuff.
When Anthony and the agency received a client coming from this salesperson, the client already had an absurd and impossible game plan and strategy on how they could achieve their goal.
5. Don’t take clients from a salesperson who doesn’t know your line of work
This lesson applies to those who have a salesperson who looks for clients. Beware of fake advertising because some salesperson tends to exaggerate your work or achievements to gain leads. Some unethical salesperson doesn’t care if you can do the job or not, for as long as they can get a client and earn sales, your problem is your problem, even if they were the ones who made the problem worse.
It was already too late for Anthony to back out because they already made contact with this client. As Anthony came into the office, he was shocked when he saw the crazy strategy that this client placed on the board.
Their geo-targeting and other plans were on point and reasonable, but it wasn’t how Google ads work. Anthony looked at the strategy closely and said to himself that the strategy has zero chance of success. But he did not tell the client because it was still their first meeting, and he didn’t want to say to the client on the first day that their plan was crazy.
Anthony wanted to do everything indicated on the strategy and let the client realize on his own that their plan has zero chance of success. And then, Anthony will come to the rescue and suggest a more suitable and perfect strategy.
What Anthony did was a gamble because the client will only realize their strategy is not working if they constantly check on Anthony about the task. But if Anthony’s client doesn’t do constant check-ups, Anthony will be the one to get blamed if he failed the task. If the client doesn’t see the process, he wouldn’t know that his strategy failed.
In the business industry, there are several types of clients. One of them would be those who check up on your work every week or so to see if things are going well. Some would just give you a task and contact you again once you are done with it. They don’t care about the process and how you did it. Just complete the job, and he’ll be on his way.
Before the client hired Anthony, he already wasted six months following his strategy, yet he still keeps on failing.
Now, Anthony came in and told the client that he would try to fix the account. But the client wanted Anthony to follow his strategy. Anthony had no other choice but to follow the ridiculous strategy.
After four months of applying that strategy, Anthony was still not making any progress at all. Anthony already had enough and did things differently. He wanted to show this client that his strategy wasn’t successful. Anthony wasted no time and started fixing the pieces in the background, and it slowly started to work.
Anthony began pulling levers and clicking the parts to make all of them work. After two months of working, the client got very interested because he could already see the changes on his account because of Anthony’s own strategy and methods. The client’s interest grew, and he started asking how Anthony did it. But to Anthony’s surprise, instead of being praised because he finally made the account work, the client, in a high tone, asked Anthony, “Why was it not working for the previous six months that you were working?”
Anthony’s client belongs to that category wherein they don’t check on the process and only care about the result. Anthony failed to notice this, and as a result, his client didn’t know that they wasted four months because of that crazy plan that the client wanted Anthony to follow. Anthony tried to explain the actual process that he did to the client and why his strategy didn’t work, but the client seems to be uninterested.
6. When explaining complex information, try to explain it in a manner that they can relate
If only all of Anthony’s clients understood the concept of Google ad campaigns and digital marketing, Anthony wouldn’t have client-horror stories to share today. All of those clients that Anthony mentioned don’t understand Google ad campaigns, and it is both the client and the employee’s fault.
If you want to explain a complex topic to someone, try to look for a relatable scenario that would make it easier for them to understand. For instance, you want to explain digital marketing to your client who loves fishing. To make them understand the basic concept of digital marketing, you can use fishing as part of your explanation. You can say that you are fishing for these particular ads, your bait for the fish are video advertisements, you are also fishing for keywords, these websites are the lakes, and we will go to each one to catch some fish. Something like that.
And that’s the end of this client-horror story special.
Digital marketing is a novel and complicated process. Unfortunately, not all business owners understand the hardships and struggles of analyzing and solving these problems, especially for systems like Google that constantly change their algorithms. However, overcoming these frustrating and agonizing failures will bring greater returns moving forward.
The most important lesson from all of these client-horror stories is that sometimes, you can’t just make every client happy. You’re going to lose some battles, and there are good learning experiences behind those defeats. “You will have to face more burned houses to become a really good firefighter. Embrace these challenges, and you will soon become immune to it”.
I hope you have learned many things as well from those three unique stories and apply them to your business life.
This article was based upon episode #13, please watch the complete episode here.