“If you are on a fundamental level so different from your client, that’s probably a red flag that you will never make them happy.” – Liz Wilcox.
Everyone must strive to be the best they can be in their fields of competence for the world to stay balanced. Everyone has a certain duty to fulfill for society to work properly.
A skilled comic can make everyone in the comedy club laugh till they are in tears. Singing competitions would erupt in applause for an international artist who performed on the world stage. A seasoned engineer might construct a building that is more secure than anything else. Because their responsibilities are predetermined by their vantage points, the system can maintain equilibrium.
It’s never the other way around. I mean, have you seen a comedian performing at a death ceremony? How about a singer performing at an establishment full of deaf people?
Those scenarios would be awkward, right? The process of attempting to fit in with any group of people may be risky if you don’t first get to know yourself. This is also true in the digital marketing field, where if you don’t analyze your core level first, you can end up with a customer horror tale.
Liz Wilcox, our guest for this episode, has had her own client horror tale because, even though she was aware of her own basic level, she failed to understand that the client’s fundamentals were vastly different from her fundamental level.
Just to put things into perspective, let’s just say Liz is passionate, entertaining, cheerful, and full of energy throughout her whole résumé. She was, on the other hand, doing work for a customer in the funeral business.
Before diving into her story, let’s take a glance at who Liz Wilcox is. Liz is an independent email marketing specialist from Miramar Beach, Florida. Liz’s brand is innovative, and her enthusiasm is contagious. According to her, having a remarkable brand is key to your business’s success. She says people will start to recognize your branding from your name or logo and how you present yourself.
Now, let’s dive into Liz’s client horror story, so make sure to grab your pen, take down some notes, and listen to her funny yet horrifying story. At the beginning of her story, Liz is introduced to her mutual friend, whom she has known for a long time.
To avoid confusion, let’s name Liz’s mutual friend, Phil. Phil sent Liz a message on Facebook about some kind of job offer. Phil knew that Liz loved working with emails, so he thought the job would fit Liz perfectly.
Phil added, “I’ve been working with this client for almost 10 years. We run Facebook ads for them, but I tell them, you know, there’s no point in running ads collecting their email address if they’re not emailing them consistently and if they don’t have an actual strategy behind it like a funnel, a welcome nurture sequence. I know that’s where your expertise is so would you be willing to hop on this project with me?”
Liz became interested in Phil’s offer and asked for more details. Phil then told Liz what the client needed, which was two-years worth of nurture sequences for their emails. Other kinds of stuff needed to be done as well, but the main priority was that two-year nurture sequence. Liz had no problem with the project since she already had experience. Liz immediately planned what she was going to do to determine how much she would ask from the client.
A two-year nurture sequence is a big project, and she obviously needs to do customer research first because she still had no idea what the client’s business was (which was the biggest mistake she made). After her initial estimate, she came up with a $25,000 rate for the 2-year-long project.
Liz’s price was reasonable because she still needed to do customer research, survey, and much more. Plus, a two-year nurture sequence is not an easy task, and it requires a larger budget. Liz thought that Phil would agree to her rate, but to her surprise, Phil came back and was shocked at how high Liz’s price was.
Phil told Liz that the client was very cheap and would not pay Liz if she requested $25,000. Phil then explained that their client owns a funeral business, which was why they were so cheap. Right after Phil told Liz that the client won’t accept $25,000 and that the client owns a funeral business, she then had a gut feeling. Now comes the first lesson of this story.
1. Gut feelings are important, and you must immediately consider them as a critical factor.
If you know in your gut that something isn’t right, listen to it and try to figure out what it means. There are times when our guts can sense danger because our bodies sense some fear that our minds can’t determine. There is a difference between fear because you lack confidence and real fear.
Afraid of presenting speeches to a huge crowd or afraid to share your problem with your parents is different because you just lack confidence. The real fear is when you know something bad might happen because you already experienced it before, but you still do it anyway, or you just forgot about that experience.
This is where your gut feeling comes in. A gut feeling is when your body is familiar with the situation and what could happen because you have already experienced it before. But people tend to disregard their gut feeling, especially when money is involved.
For Liz, the gut feeling that she had was a warning sign for her not to continue the project. After hearing that the client had a funeral business, her body immediately sent signals because her fundamental level wasn’t fit for the funeral business. She is enthusiastic and creative, whereas creative writing isn’t ideal for a funeral business.
I mean, if you are grieving, do you want to receive a fun and exciting email about a funeral business offering its services to you? I think not, so Liz isn’t fit for the project. But unfortunately, Liz didn’t listen to her gut and continued.
Going back to the story, Liz justified the $25,000 that she requested. According to her, the project would take a lot of customer research because how would you keep customers interested in the funeral business for two years. The content of the email must be able to answer their potential customer’s questions. Still, Phil told Liz that the client wouldn’t pay that much just for an email.
He then asked Liz how he could cut that price down just enough to finish that two-year nurture sequence. Liz then reduced her price to $20,000 because she also wanted to help the client with their email problems. However, Liz and Phil were already talking about the payment even though Liz had not met with the client yet. In other words, Liz was still talking to the middleman, which is another red flag.
2. Always be wary whenever there is a middleman in your relationship with the real client.
When there is a middleman, always make sure that you double-check the mode of payment or your invoice because those factors are often the ones that are affected when it comes to having a middleman. But this will only happen if the middleman is the one who will give you your payment from the real client.
But if you receive your payment directly from the actual client and your middleman just updates you on some important things, you don’t have to worry about that. And if you are ever put in a situation where the middleman is affecting your performance with the actual client, then don’t hesitate to inform the client and exclude that middleman immediately.
There are a lot of benefits when you work directly with a client. You can communicate well with the client, and your name or your company would be the one to get the credit if the client likes your work instead of the useless middleman. But it’s even worse in Liz’s case because the middleman is her mutual friend. If anything horrible occurs, not only will their work relationship end, but so will their personal one.
Going back to the story, Liz and Phil agreed to the payment even though Liz had not met the client yet. After their meeting, Liz then created a project calendar that she would give to the client. After weeks of preparation, Liz was finally ready to meet with the client. Liz and the client got their very first call, and Liz started explaining what she would do to create that two-year nurture sequence.
But to Liz’s surprise, the client didn’t know a single thing about email. Liz found out that the client trusted Phil so much that whoever Phil brought in would immediately help them with their email problem even if they didn’t know their skills. They even signed the contract and paid $20,000 to Liz directly even though they had not met Liz yet either. That’s how strong their trust was in Phil.
Liz explained the entire process, and the supposed 40-minute call ended after almost two hours. It was that long because the client had too many questions about the process and about how a two-year nurture sequence is possible. But Liz thought that the client was asking about the process out of curiosity, but the truth was they were just asking why the payment would be so high. Liz was puzzled because even though they had already signed the contract and paid $20,000 to Liz, they still kept asking and questioning the $20,000.
After Liz got off that two-hour call and started working, everything was going well for her, but still, the clients were confused. Liz made sample emails, but the client kept disagreeing on how she constructs her sentences. Liz followed her calendar, and she was always on time; what delayed her was the client that kept changing their decision about the sample emails.
Liz kept asking the client if they liked this or not, and the client kept on changing their answers. The client’s reasons were always the same, and that was, “People are grieving because it’s a funeral and death is a sensitive matter.” They keep on telling Liz, “You can’t state this. You can’t say that, it’s too insensitive.”
They want it to be formal, like putting “Dear Mrs. Wilcox,” and Liz knew very well about creating these kinds of emails because she has been working with email marketing for years. She knows that if you put “dear” in your email, it would immediately be put into spam because no one talks like that in emails.
Liz knows this because she is a professional, but her client was thinking otherwise. Liz was trying to explain to them that if the very first word in the email is dear, it won’t reach their inbox. She also added to trust her because that was what they had hired her for.
Still, they weren’t convinced and said that death is sensitive and must be formal. This is their way of saying they were not satisfied with the sample emails, so Liz again did more customer research. This time, she actually talked to their previous customer.
Liz got approval on the email that she wrote from the client’s previous customer who told her that they were satisfied with it. It took Liz three weeks to get that approval, and she was really delayed, but it was all worth it because it was a signal that she could proceed to the next step.
3. If clients don’t value your opinions, then they don’t respect you as a professional.
There is a difference between a professional and a regular worker. Clients should know how to respect your opinions because they hired you as a professional. They hired you because they needed help and not because they saw you as a regular employee who would take orders.
If clients don’t value your opinion, that means that they don’t respect you, and they expect you to just obey what they say. If a client ever treats you like this, leave immediately because that means they could abuse you and disrespect your professionalism, hurting your reputation in the long run.
But as soon as things started to improve for Liz, there was another problem. After receiving that feedback from the previous customer, Liz could then proceed to the next step and reformat her client’s email service provider so that she could edit it to the sample email that she had.
But when Liz took a look at their email system, it was a complete mess. Liz described it as a game of connecting the dots but with the numbers missing at the top. How can you connect the right dots if there is no number above it? Yes, for Liz, the system was impossible to fix. That’s not even the worst part because when Liz tried to fix the system, she accidentally sent an unedited email to everyone on their email list.
That email shouldn’t have been sent to everyone, but Liz accidentally did, and Liz couldn’t see what that email was. The client called Liz and told her that the email went to everyone in their contacts blah blah. Liz didn’t know what the context of that email was.
All she knew was that the email was a re-engagement type of email where people are asked to hit reply. When Liz saw the context of the email, she didn’t panic at all because, to her surprise, it was exactly how she wanted the email to be.
The context of the email was, “What do you want to be remembered by? Hit reply!” It was creative, formal, and had an impact at the same time. Liz’s client was freaking out, but Liz was calm because she already knew that there would be a lot of feedback coming from their previous and potential clients.
So a week later, Liz received a call from her client saying that the accidentally sent email was the best email they ever sent in their entire funeral business. They got so many replies and got so many leads because of that email. The client didn’t even apologize that she was wrong. That means that the client only wants success and not to build a professional relationship with Liz.
Nevertheless, Liz was still happy because the client finally understood what she was trying to say. You don’t have to put a “dear” on every email just to be formal and creative writing could also be used even if you are in the funeral business. So fast forward to the end of the project, Liz was almost done writing the two-year nurture sequence.
Liz’s customer research was a success, and she was able to give her client what they wanted. More customers, more leads, and the two-year nurture sequence. When Liz was about to finish, her client hired a brand new marketing manager, which was wonderful news for Liz. Finally, there would be someone who can understand her ways and completely understand what modern marketing looks like.
Liz told the marketing manager about her progress, and he agreed 100%. Liz wrote the entire sequence and handed it over to the manager. But the manager told Liz that they needed three more weeks to look over those emails.
The manager also asked why it took so long and why there was a delay. The manager had a lot of catching up to do, so she kept asking Liz for a call, and at that point, Liz didn’t have boundaries anymore because of her client. So Liz kept on answering the calls even if it was past her working hours. After a series of calls, Liz told the client and the marketing manager that she was going on a vacation.
The project was supposed to be wrapped up at that point, so taking a vacation wouldn’t be negative at all. Liz told the marketing manager that she would give them two weeks to catch up and get things under wraps. Liz was already on vacation by that time.
In the middle of her vacation, while she was going for a run in the woods, she got a text from the client saying that she wanted to talk to Liz. Liz answered the call while she was jogging. There were no longer boundaries between Liz and her client, which was toxic and not an excellent example of a good working relationship.
When Liz answered the call, the client seemed to be very happy because they had already figured out how messy their email system was, and she told Liz that they had already upgraded their email system. Liz could never figure their email system out because their system wasn’t compatible with modern marketing tools.
Their messy email system wasn’t capable of doing everything that Liz created. What her client did was that she upgraded to another extension of that same software. It still couldn’t do everything the client wanted, but they would rather sacrifice that than change to another software because they had that software for years, and the client was not planning to change it.
Liz told the client that they did great and that if they still have any questions, feel free to reach out. But sadly, after that call, Liz never heard from them again, which was basically the end of their working relationship. Liz sent a follow-up email to Phil saying that she had already done everything, she even sent videos and told the client to ask her if there were any more questions, but even Phil didn’t reply.
It was such a nightmare for Liz, but she couldn’t do anything but drop it.
4. Always secure your invoice.
Liz did one good thing in her client-horror story because she had this rule to receive payment first before doing the work. Before Liz started working, the client had already paid her $20,000, which was a good decision.
But this might only apply to those who already have a name in the business industry, so if you are still starting, having a clear and strong contract with lawyers backing it up is important to receive that payment.
That was about the end of Liz’s client-horror story. The story ended well despite the ghosting. Liz was paid and was freed from that toxic working relationship. Although Liz lost a friend in the end, it was still a good learning experience for Liz.
When Liz was asked what could be the most crucial reason for her client’s horror story, she replied, “If you are on a fundamental level so different from your client, that’s probably a red flag that you will never make them happy.”
5. Evaluate your fundamental level first.
If Liz had evaluated her fundamental level from the beginning, she would have escaped that whole terrifying experience. Liz knew that her brand personality was jolly, fun, enthusiastic, and creative. Working for a funeral business is not ideal and not practical at all.
This was the reason why Liz could never satisfy her client. No matter how hard she tried creating sample emails, she could never help her client because she was used to making creative, fun, and enthusiastic emails not suited to a funeral business.
Let’s put it this way. If you are an introvert and know that you work best alone, you should accept work that is suitable for your working preference. If you get a client that pushes you to work in the office with a lot of people, of course, you cannot perform well because you work best when you are alone.
I’m not saying not to accept any client outside your comfort zone because you won’t be able to grow that way. Instead, consider it as a factor. Evaluate if you can do it or not, think of the possible consequences, then decide. Evaluate yourself and make sure to consider it as a factor before accepting any client.
I hope you learned a lot from Liz’s story and make sure to remember every lesson to avoid becoming our next guest for the next episode of client-horror stories.
This article was based on Episode # 28: Liz Wilcox‘s Story, please watch the complete episode here!