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One Day of a Digital Marketing Sales life: How to Handle a Tough Client. Case Study

23 July 2018 Philip Volna Leave a comment ALL-HANDS SEO

How often can you hear an incredibly juicy phrase or word from an outraging client? Such as “F-Do your job, Dave! I’ve paid for that!”, “This is your bread. Get your butt to work!”, “I’m the boss here! I pay. You do. Simple as that, you idiot!” “Where are my f-results?! You robbers!”

Oh, it happens so often that one day you may claim that you hate people, the whole human race.


In some way or another, we face toxic people every day, the so-called energy vampires and other haters who are just the picture of darkness themselves. On your way to work, store or anywhere else you can meet some irritating fellow, you get involved in a particularly uncomfortable event, and you may lose your temper.

Luckily, outside the office, you can choose how to behave and not follow business etiquette and f-bomb the offender.

At work, however, you’re required to have a more professional approach to dealing with stressful, swirling out of control situations.

We are here not to complain about the unfriendly clients, but to find the solution of how to deal with the most difficult clients and why you even work with them. So, let’s try and identify the root problem.

The source of all problems

Very often we tend to categorize our clients as bad and good. We want them to be more friendly, open, concrete in their goals and be better communicators. For some reason, we ad service providers confuse who should be providing services here.

Unfortunately, all the problems usually happen because the sales team has failed their meeting with a client mission. What do we mean by that?

Your sales team is lacking professional experience and went on a deal just to close the deal without even thinking about further consequences for your company. It happens because the sales manager is new in business and doesn’t know how things work.

All money is not good money. Sometimes you must have the courage to reject the deal. If you’ve been in business for some time, you know that another client will always come. And what you do is trying to catch up with the customer who is not willing to pay much but has high expectations and demands.

Expectations vs Reality

Let’s be clear with our goals. We want to make money to be able to provide for our families and ourselves, pay salaries to our employees, encourage them with bonuses, etc. And we also want to have time to spend this money on the things that we love from candies, golf, bikes to investments in SaaS, etc.

Taking a lot of low-paying projects doesn’t align with these goals. The quantity of projects (often low-paying) will definitely result in quality and may disrupt all the work.

Now, it’s very important for the sales manager to identify the expectations of a customer and define the company’s capabilities. More often than not, clients ask for the things that the company doesn’t specialize in because a client doesn’t understand what the hell SMM, traffic, SEO, PPC, CPC and other terms mean.

They see only “digital”, okay, that’s something from IT. Hm, “marketing”, okay, they can do ads everywhere, they draw banners, brochures, place big boards, etc. They want your agency to be everything for them a programmer, designer, all-in-one.

It’s up to you to make their expectations about your company clear. For the best outcome, you should be using the plainest English to make them understand what you do.

The problem with the digital field is that one cannot touch it. This is exactly what makes customers indecisive, skeptical and feeling “scam” in your every single action. You have to carefully and clearly explain that you’re selling services, not results. You can’t optimize your website once and expect the best SEO results forever. You must constantly run ads, and the most beneficial results depend not only on the existing budget but on the internal business operations and processes as well.
For example, if a client wishes to sell his goods in Oklahoma and they’re located in Colorado, but failed to do logistics no ad will help to increase sales.

Another very common issue is that clients think that you 100% understand why they have no sales. For example, they have already created a website, and now they expect to hit some revenue goals, but they didn’t put any CTAs on their website.

Your clients may know very little about business processes. But you should. When you come to a doctor, they don’t know what’s your problem. However, the therapist is trained to ask you questions and dig to the very core of the issue. You should be that therapist and be able to identify the issues of your customers and develop a business strategy for them. Just like the doctor’s consultation always costs money, so should yours. Start charging for the strategy. The strategy that you develop must show clients what they don’t know yet. For example, we have noticed that your business is not performing [here] and if we do [this] we will hit 10 million dollars in revenue next year.

Customers will not hesitate to ask you about guarantees, and in our sophisticated business, we know there are no guarantees. How do you explain it to the client? I love the big board example. Can you guarantee that after you’ve placed an ad on the big board, 100 people will buy your goods tomorrow? No, you can’t. Why? Because it depends on many factors from the niche, consumer interest to where this big board is placed.

The balance between expectations and reality should be achieved before the sale. In order to achieve this goal successfully you must properly train your sales team, or if you’re a sales manager, you should educate yourself.

Those who pay the least are the ones who rage the most


So, what does the worst client look like?

Your sales manager had failed to spot any signs of a bad client at the pre-sales. Let’s assume that the sale has already happened and the demon has already leaked in. You’ve got the project.

What happens after the transaction has been successful is that your client turns into a tyrant. You may hear the following phrases “I am the boss! You better be grateful that I found time for you!”, “Next time you can only hear from me in a week!”, “Do your job! I want to see results in a week! I paid you a hell lot of money!”

“Why do you do the same thing twice?!”, “What am I paying you for?!”, “I saw a Youtube video, and they said that you’re doing it wrong!”, “I don’t care about your SEO; I will not give you access to my WordPress! You frauds!”, “I don’t trust this sucker, I wanna see your boss!”, etc.

How to handle this client

An interview with one SEO agency has left me shocked because they actually held on to such a client simply because he gave a penny. And there are other similar clients that they have.

If you happen to be in the same situation, you should know how to handle such clients with the least loss.

First, you need to understand that you are good at what you do. And if there is anything that needs improvement – work on it, sharpen up and fix it. Once you know that, a tough client remarks should not hurt your self-esteem, ego or company. When you’re ready, there is a way to deal with it.

The following solution should work: “I see that you’re unhappy with the services that we provide and we know that we have done great work here and there. However, to make it even better we needed more time to get to the certain results. We also see that there is nothing we can do to save our relationships. Accept our sincere apologies. Here is your 100% refund. Is there anything we can do for you or recommend somebody else?”

Here is what you just did:

  1. You know what you are good at and you’re also aware of the imperfections. So the client won’t be thinking something like “Does he even now these results are a disaster?”
  2. You have just saved your face, reputation and image because you made a refund.
  3. You gained respect because you didn’t leave your client on a deserted island but offered them a direction by recommending somebody else if they please.

Digital marketing and SEO agencies often fail to break the relationships (sometimes killing the engagement may be good tactics to win the client) with the bad clients because they are afraid for their reputation. They assume that such clients will leave hateful comments and will have a huge negative effect on their company. In some cases, it’s true. Haters gonna hate anyway. Most often, however, they will just raise the white flag and go with peace.


It’s possible to avoid all these difficulties by training your staff and yourself to identify toxic clients and rejecting to have business with them. Know what your ideal client looks like.

When you have a meeting you can say something like that to sort out the negative clients: “If you’re a businessman who just wants to keep in touch with a trend without understanding why, chasing your unrealized childhood dream of a programmer or you have a lot of free time, and you like to dictate people how to work – then we are not the agency you’re looking for.”

“People that we like to work with are busy, entrepreneurial and choose the best to work with and when the work is done they take their way and move on – if you’re that type of person, then we can be good partners.”

Become a digital marketing therapist and identify the issues of your clients to help them build better businesses by using the best SEO tools and being the most eloquent communicator.

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