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How to be a terrible client | Morgan McLintic on Communications

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How to be a terrible client

Agency life, Marketing, PR — By on April 1, 2006 5:13 pm

Some clients are better than others. Some are truly awful. Here are a few secrets of the world’s worst clients:

1. Never praise the agency – even if the team does a good job, don’t give any positive feedback – they’ll only go soft. Far better to maintain a dissatisfied scowl so the agency redoubles its efforts to please you. Even if they’re exceeding expectations, don’t let on that you’re pleased. In fact, give them a kick occasionally to keep them honest.

2. Don’t set targets – no doubt you’ll have your own KPIs but don’t let the agency know them since they’ll just stop as soon as they’ve been reached. Better to keep them guessing and on their toes.

3. Demand constant attention – the squeakiest hinge gets the most oil, so demand time beyond your budget. What’s the agency going to do? Say no and risk losing your account?

4. Never make up your mind – ask for options, ask for ideas, ask for timelines and plans, but never feedback on any of them or set a clear course of action. What if you’re wrong? You might get blamed – no, far better to spend time considering your options. Remember a campaign’s a journey not a destination.

5. Brief light, brief late – the agency prides itself of being proactive and moving quickly, so you can afford to go to the wire before bringing them into the loop.

6. Delegate the bottom of your to do list – yup, good to find a home for all those stinkers which have been hanging around for so long.

7. Maintain radio silence – they’ll find you if it’s urgent.

8. Pass the blame – the agency is there to make you look good. As long as they do that, fine, but if things go badly, don’t forget they’re there to take the fall too.

9. Make sure you are the single point of contact – then you can control exactly what they do and what they know. They’ll just get confused otherwise.

10. Pay late – best to hold back in case something goes wrong, then you’ve got plenty of leverage. Better that the money’s in your account than the agency’s – their fees are too high anyway. As for that renewal contract – now there’s something we can drag out since they’ll probably ask for a bigger budget, and meanwhile they’re busting a gut to please. Perfect.

If you follow these simple rules, you’ll be the terror of your agency – and get the most bangs per buck, no doubt.

UPDATE – Chris Lewis has kindly posted a reverse guide – How to be a great client. I’m often asked by clients, what makes one client better than another – and here’s a great place to start.

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  • http://www.wagnercomm.blogspot.com John Wagner

    Morgan … great list! What’s interesting is that bad clients usually follow all 10 of those rules.
    My biggest pet peeve while working at a big agency was the clients who constantly wanted ideas, ideas, ideas … but who never, ever implemented them. You can only go through that process a few times before staffers become burned out!

  • http://www.morganmclintic.com Morgan McLintic

    Thanks John – yes, it’s frustrating when ideas are demanded and then just sit on the shelf without any feedback. Not that all ideas are right first time, but just throwing ideas into the pit of no response isn’t very satisfying.

  • http://www.storyblogger.de/?p=105 Storyblogger

    Wie wird man ein beliebter Agenturkunde?

    em>von Björn Eichstädt
    PR-Arbeit im Silicon Valley scheint sich manchmal nicht so sehr von PR-Arbeit in Deutschland zu unterscheiden. Die Leser, die bei einer Agentur beschäftigt sind wissen, wovon ich spreche. Denn gerade in hektischen Zeiten neh…

  • http://www.natterjackpr.com/archives/2006/04/pr_miscellany_-_36.html PR Opinions

    PR Miscellany – April 04, 2006

    If you’re wondering how else you can torture your PR agency, Morgan McLintic at Lewis has helpfully published some advice, there’s some great tips in there for all of us clients. Chris Lewis has chimed in with some tips on…

  • http://www.natterjackpr.com/archives/2006/04/pr_miscellany_-_36.html PR Opinions

    PR Miscellany – April 04, 2006

    If you’re wondering how else you can torture your PR agency, Morgan McLintic at Lewis has helpfully published some advice, there’s some great tips in there for all of us clients. Chris Lewis has chimed in with some tips on…

  • http://www.natterjackpr.com Tom Murphy

    Morgan,
    This is excellent, I hadn’t thought of some of these but I’m definetely going to try them out over the next few weeks! My agencies will love them! :-)
    Tom

  • http://www.morganmclintic.com Morgan McLintic

    You’re welcome Tom. I’m sure you’ll have them licked into shape in no time – hehe.

  • http://simoncollister.typepad.com Simon Collister

    Great list, Morgan.
    You might want to add the one-rule list for how to be a bad potential client: request a full marketing and PR brief from a roster of 4 agencies…… and then apologise for the inconvenience as you employ an in-house marketing/pr manager!

  • http://www.morganmclintic.com Morgan McLintic

    Simon – argh, been there. Shopping for ideas and inspiration rather than an agency. It’s not a wise approach though since all the ideas are covered by copyright and it’s the implementation of those ideas you’re buying, not just their conception. Plus, it gets you a reputation, not just among the poor agencies which jumped the hoops, but more broadly. Once bitten…


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