New Prospect, Bad Client? 7 Red Flags for Marketing Agencies
Every advertising and marketing agency is in a constant search for new business.
But as a marketing agency president, I’ve learned the hard way that not all prospects should become clients.
Even if you’re a marketing agency looking to grow, sometimes it’s smarter to walk away from prospective new business than enter into a bad relationship.
How do you know when to stay or go?
Here are 7 warning signs that a new prospect could become a bad client for your marketing agency:
- Extremely short timeframe: Successful marketing campaigns are rarely done overnight. Avoid prospects with a timeframe that makes it nearly impossible to complete a marketing project effectively.
- Limited understanding of the value of marketing: If a prospect seems skeptical about marketing or wants you to convince them why marketing is a good idea, you can expect the client to challenge or doubt everything you recommend.
- Internal dissent: If a company’s executives disagree about the role of marketing or the need for marketing, that dissent is sure to continue throughout your assignment. Be especially leery if sales and marketing disagree, which can be a recipe for disaster.
- Unrealistic expectations about results: When a prospect expects a marketing campaign to produce an unrealistic number of leads or sales, ask if they’ve gotten results like this in the past. If not, help them understand what they can expect and that marketing is an investment with a long-term payoff. Otherwise, any campaign you create is sure to fall short in their eyes.
- Can’t describe an ideal customer: A client should be able to tell a marketing agency exactly whom they are targeting with their marketing campaigns. If the client can’t describe an ideal customer, they probably don’t have a good understanding of their current customers. That makes it very hard for a marketing agency to recommend the right media or develop creative marketing messages that resonate with prospects.
- Committee approval of creative concepts: Be cautious about clients that have a complex creative review process. If a big committee has to approve creative concepts, creative is likely to go through many rounds of revisions and ideas may get watered down to the point of ineffectiveness.
- Negotiating price in the first meeting: Money is the trickiest part of any discussion between a prospective client and a marketing agency. Clients usually have a budget in mind and smart clients ask for a ballpark idea of the cost to develop a marketing plan or campaign. But if they start trying to negotiate price before you’ve written the first word of your proposal, you can expect disagreements about rates, fees, and invoices throughout the project.
When It’s Worth Staying in the Game
Creating a smart marketing strategy requires a real partnership between a marketing agency and a client.
While most companies have good intentions when they seek guidance from an external marketing expert, some have such a limited or misinformed understanding of marketing or the role of an outside marketing resource that they are unable to gain real value from engaging a marketing consultant.
Yet in my experience, such prospects have the potential to become good and even great clients if they:
- Show a sincere willingness to understand how to use marketing effectively;
- Are open to new ideas and excited about trying new marketing approaches;
- Have a cohesive team, a great product or service, and excellent customer relationships;
- Are willing to invest the resources needed for skilled external marketing expertise;
- View their marketing agency as a valuable partner.