A nutty headline right? or does this actually happen… well in the advertising industry the expectation amongst prospective clients is that the advertising agency will provide a full spec, that is the advertising agency will provide and deliver a presentation and a project outline of what their prospective customer should do with their advertising for a specific product or service.
In fact several agencies, will pitch their ideas, with full graphics, video and more to their prospective client, with only the possibility of potentially getting work!! In fact, even if the prospective client were to choose your agency, they would then typically negotiate a price decrease of 20% or more for a ‘prospective’ second or third year contract.
Now does this seem in any way problematic to you? Imagine, the blood, sweat and tears that goes into a full spec proposal for these advertising agencies and then the client gets to choose who they will work with out of a pool of agencies! You must read this adweek article on this very same topic, the video in the article clearly demonstrates how ludicrous this entire charade is! Click here to read the adweek article: Adweek Article with great video.
This article got me thinking about my own business and as a marketing and business consultant, I often get asked for ‘advice’ from a variety of people who are either in business or wish to start up their own business. This in itself is fine, however it does raise the question about where do you draw the line? I mean my business is all about giving good solid business and marketing advice that will help business owners and entrepreneurs to make money in their own businesses. Clearly, I charge my clients, so how do I decide when ‘advice’ falls into the ‘FREE’ category and when it requires payment?
In all honesty, I have found that the majority of prospective clients want to meet for a chat or skype for typically no longer than an hour prior to working with me. These clients, mostly already know they want to work with me, they have researched me already, have been recommended my services perhaps, these clients are typically very savvy, they know they need specific help in their business and literally want to figure out what is involved in terms of their time and overall investment.
I enjoy these sessions, as they help foster trust with my future clients and allow me a chance to ask key questions about their business that will be pertinent to the entire consulting relationship.
Unfortunately there are also a minority of supposed potential clients, who are simply looking for ‘free’ business and marketing advice. Oft times their particular businesses are flailing and they are looking for someone to stem the ever increasing leaks in their business!
In my experience, these people have typically had a good idea or have to all intents and purposes a hobby that has done well either for a short time or in a local context. However, lack of key business skills and marketing knowledge has seriously impeded their growth and they don’t even know why! The big question here is whether this client has the awareness to recognize they are going no where fast and more importantly are they prepared to do the work to turn around their business and achieve business growth and success. My experience with this type of apparent potential client is one of, someone just pumping you for ‘free’ advice. In their heads they will gain as much knowledge as possible and apply it themselves. In many ways, this is why their businesses may not be operating at a successful level.
The majority of customers are open and willing to turn their businesses around, however in my opinion, some and indeed only a few business owners, mainly like being featured on local and national media and enjoy this attention, far more than they are willing to do the background work that is required for consistent and long term business growth!
Somehow, in these cases a brief exposure to some media attention, breeds arrogance towards genuine business advice, which will require real ‘behind the scenes’ work, their focus on media attention becomes their goal rather than looking at effective marketing strategies that achieve ‘real business growth’. Do not get me wrong, PR is wonderful, however I strongly believe PR works best in the context of an overall business and marketing strategy, rather than a smattering of PR opportunities which can cost time and money with no calls to action or indeed plan of action towards maximising these very same PR opportunities.
I digress! In an effort to avoid the pitfalls of meeting insincere potential clients, I highly recommend the following:
- Emailing pre set questions, which they must fill out in advance of the meeting. There attitude towards work completion will be conveyed by their ability or inability to complete same,
- Along with the above email, include an attachment that outlines the format you have whilst working with clients and state clearly the required investment. This will help outline for prospective clients what is entailed whilst working with you and whether they have set aside the required budget.
- Learn to say NO! Here is a link to Marie Forleo’s video blog with some great tips on how to say no firmly and elegantly Marie Forleo – How to be a class act when saying no to clients
- If they do not complete the above, simply stating that you are currently and unfortunately booked out for the coming month.
- Arrange to meet at a central location that is convenient to you and at an appropriate time. Time wasters will not value your time and will push towards meeting at inopportune times that mainly suit themselves. If someone is serious about real business growth, they will arrange to be at the meeting on the appropriate day and time. Skype and other online mediums are also terrific ways of having initial meetings, in particular when distance may impose restrictions
Thank you for reading, this topic might polarize some people, I am merely wishing to outline that as business owners we can say no and that that is ok.
What do you think? Please comment below