Rob Cairns talks to Ryan Waterbury about picking your ideal client.
1. What makes an ideal client.
2. What to watch for when picking a client.
3. Things clients do to make a great partnership.
Rob Cairns talks about why just being on Twitter is not enough.
Hey everybody, Rob Cairns here. So nice to see you again today. How are you?
I’m doing great. It’s the funny no rain.
Sunny and no rain. That’s about Ontario. I’m just glad I’m not out now. They keep sending you smoke, I hear.
Well, it’s it’s been pretty bad big. You know your your next door neighbor in the in. The northern states.
Well, yeah. And and. By the way, those who don’t know there’s forest fires raging in Nova Scotia right now, too. So I hope the people in Nova Scotia are staying safe. So I thought. We’d use our monthly segment to talk about getting good clients and we’re sort of talking offline. What makes a good client to you, right?
It you know, it can be a lot of things and you know, I’m working with a new client right now that came to me to do an SEO audit overall on his business in January. We did that and on that that his website. He had done it DIY. Years ago and he, you know, we had a good conversation. I said, well, here’s the the budget range. Here’s what our goals are. And you know, through that conversation, everything lined up, he understand. He understood that he wanted to, to invest in the project. He understood that he needed to hit deadlines just as well as I did, and the project has gone great. Now we’re at the point where we’re going through our revision cycle. We clear every other week for these last couple of weeks and he comes to the meetings prepared. Offline during the week before that he puts copy and images together appropriately, and he’s been generally a joy to work with, you know, because we’re on, we’re on the same page and communication has been good. He needs his bills on time. That’s another one. So there’s not anything that I really can ask for differently from this client. So I I would put him near the top of my favorite clients to work with.
Yeah, it’s like it’s funny when you talk about that. I have a political client. They’re one of my oldest clients and their. Believe it or not, July the 4th and they came to me. I normally send my contract renewals out a month ahead of. Which is pretty standard because some places take three weeks to pay and you you know how that goes. And they came to me at the end of May. And said by the way. Our boards changing and we’d like to get this approved on the current board. Could you send us our contract renewal early? And I’m thinking ohh I love you guys and they’re just a joy to work with. And so because they’re such a good client, I threw in the e-mail and said. And by the way. If you if you process it and get it in the mail right away, I’ll knock 50 bucks off your bill because I believe in. Rewarding good clients. Just a little incentive to keep it going and and believe it or not, that renewal happens. So I first to check one in the mail yesterday. At the time to just record. So those are the kind of clients that really like the ones that work with you and say, hey, we know we’re going to be dealing with some stuff. So let’s just get it done and get moving, right.
Right. It’s it’s ironic that you mentioned the nonprofit client. Hey, I I found they can go, you know, one or two ways. They can be a joy to work with and, you know. Have some really good. Active board members or people that work with the org that do what they say they’re going to do, they try and contact you during your business hours. And then on the other hand, nonprofits, because of their nature, people work on those things in their spare time, weekends, nights. And you know, they could be a nightmare at work because they don’t necessarily respect those boundaries.
So one of the things kind of I think that makes clients a joy to work with is when they respect the process that you have in place. So I am a. I have to admit I’m a bit of hard unless it’s a 911-A site down or a site issue on the weekend. There’s nothing that can’t wait till Monday and I went through this. If you recall some of our offline discussions about a client who eventually let go. Who would text me at 6:00 AM on a Sunday morning? Because they can. And it was after mine. And frankly, texting me at 6:00 AM on a. Sunday morning, it’s not respecting the boundaries. I mean, my work hours are typically. 8 till 5:00, Monday to Friday and all my clients know that if it’s a 911 that’s site issue. I had one this past weekend where a client text 3911 and I had it back fixed in 5 minutes. They happen but for stuff that’s not an emergency let good clients don’t abuse that privilege to do.
No, and most of most of the clients that I work with now you know in our last segment, you know we had talked about letting go of those problem clients and now. I’m down to a really good set of clients that even even the ones that that would e-mail or call on weekends, they stopped getting responses and then all of a sudden 8:00 or 9:00 AM they would get my reply. In an e-mail. And it’s one it’s, you know, I think a lot of agency owners and freelancers. Want to make clients happy and. They don’t respect their own boundaries and they allow clients to start doing these things, so some of it’s training and you know some of it’s just explanation of what the expectations are. And I think sending those expectations early. In the proposal and also the onboarding process, letting people know when your availability is mines 9:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, unless your site’s down over the weekend or after hours, or there’s a critical function of your site. If it’s an e-commerce site that something’s broken. We’ll take a look. At it that you mentioned, you know the 911. That, that’s, that’s just part of the part of the game, but it’s allow it’s when you allow clients to break those boundaries and and. I think it’s on us partially where we allow clients to become bad clients by not respecting our own, our own ours.
Yeah, I I would agree with you. And I think you know one of the things I’ve done that helps my clients. Over the years is. My contract, unfortunately has got longer, not small. Because I put in all these expectations right into the appendix and said, here’s the service level hours. Here’s what qualifies as an emergency. Here’s what qualifies. And, by the way, the. Ohh I forgot to give you the stuff on a Friday. It doesn’t quite fit and and you and I both know what’s really good clients. We all make exceptions like I’ve got some clients. I will make exceptions every day, all day and that’s really important to me.
And you know the those good clients? Yeah, they get a lot of they, they get a lot of gimmies that you know, I don’t necessarily give to you other clients, mainly because they’re not squeaky wheels. They’re easy to take care of. When they when they need something, they’re up front, they send an e-mail with exactly what it is that they need. And it’s easy to take care of. On the other hand, there are other clients that abuse that and unfortunately, yet you need to bill for your time and you know, some of those clients that. It it always starts with. This should just anything after that you know it’s going to be a long task. So those clients you know I started. This is what it’s going to cost you. Take care of this and a good client says. Take care of it. I appreciate you. Thank you for taking care of this. You know, on the other side, other clients are going to balk at that and complain about just the cost of maintenance or the cost of their request.
Yeah, I agree with that. Had one of my other really good clients this morning, e-mail me today with some changes and I know they’ve got some more changes next week. Probably going to go over their care plan time. Slightly this month, but I also know next month they probably won’t go there and they said, how close am I to my care plan time? And I said, don’t worry about it. We’ll take care of it. Like I always give a little bit. We went, but the good clients are always easy to deal with. What else makes a good client in your opinion?
Yeah, it’s interesting that you talked about some of the care plan, budget time frames. I have a couple of clients that buy extra hours to do tests and you know they’ve got those couple of busy times. During their year their their seasonal times where business spikes, where they go way over. And I don’t hear a peep from them the rest of the year, unless they, you know, unless they need something and then they give me plenty of lead. That’s the that’s one of the other things is understanding, timing and knowing what’s appropriate. Time to take care of something. Some tasks when you want to do a new feature on. It’s not you. It’s not always just a plug in. And even if it is, there’s configuration and testing and it takes a little bit of time. Good clients respect that time and we’ll understand that when you tell them this is how long it’s going to take. They’re great and they they they plan for it. Some of the, you know, on the flip side, if they need it right now that’s, you know, one of those red flag.
No, I agree with you and kind of where I wanted to move on to is when we’re selecting those clients and that’s really important and you. Talk to her. A little bit about things good clients do. Is there anything that kind of stands out at you when you’re selecting a client that says? Streams go away. A red flag big in the middle.
I so I started with my new plan that hopefully we’ll launch this next week. I think we’re and that’s right on track where we’re supposed to be. We what I changed over the past couple of years. One, my contract got longer, not shorter, and I’ve learned from your experiences from, you know, our our other friends experiences in our group on being a little bit proactive in that sense and preparing for. But that that process is, you know, about 1/3 of the way, you know in my onboarding. So generally when somebody reaches out, it’s going to be in you know an e-mail from my contact more with an inquiry. And usually I’ll do a little bit of. Research on the client asked them to book some time at for a 15 minute call. And what I call that call is, you know, lead qualification and I can tell within you know that 15. And that’s if you know a client’s going to. Be one that I want. To invest the time in to build the proposal and do discovery or whether they’re. Not going to be. A good client. You know, I asked them a series of questions from budget to time frame and you know, a few other things. See if they’re gonna fit my work style and be able to work with me. Good clients are gonna be prepared to invest in their business. Invest the time into the project and if they don’t know, they’re going to lean on you as an expert. In your field to be to be able to educate them. So if there are any red flags in there, it’s either education or it’s truly a red flag in that client is not one I want to work with and I will stop the process right there. The next part of the process is. You know, discovery. Usually that’s a paid process and I don’t charge a lot for it normally, but it can be up to 10% of the project and you know we apply that to the project. Again, if there are things that I find out within that, that process that are red flags. Normally I’ll put together a nice report that the client can go and use that. As you know, an RFP for another agency or make recommendations to an agency that might be a better fit. That’s happened in two cases. It’s not often because usually I try and do a good qualification process and that point we go through a proposal and very carefully layout what’s expected of the client, what the dates are and what. Each of our responsibilities are. The more that I’ve added to this process and really it was building the process where it’s it’s a lot of educating your client on here are the expectations here. Here’s what I’m going to deliver. Here’s when I’m going to deliver it. And here’s what it’s going to cost. And that’s the last part. Everything’s an estimate. Usually the first two payments are on track, you know, and normally what we have in our proposal, it’s that last one and I always like to remind clients that if we start adding things to the scope. It’s going to cost you more money and educating clients along through the process of the build. Has been another another way to. Keep clients informed and they stay good clients, because then they’re part of the process and they understand that if something’s going to cost more that. They’re going to pay for it and. You know, I think we as agency owners sometimes turn clients into bad clients because we don’t go through this whole process and that’s what I found that as I’ve standardized my process and done more education and added more pieces to it, I’ve found more good clients. But I’ve also said no more often than not. With the 1st 2 phases.
Yeah, I would agree with you. I mean one. Of the things. That I’ve struggled with over the years is. Is reporting systems and ticketing systems. As you know, I’ve tried. Every ticketing system under the Sun and. One of the spots where my clients get hung up and I finally broke down recently and said OK, enough of this. I’m not doing anymore e-mail long emails. Here’s a notion board that you can go read. Here’s a link to such notion board. You know, that’s the end of it and I got pushed back. I got pushed back several times, and now I’ve just said no, I said if we want to keep projects on time, this is the way it’s going to be because it’s really hard. And one of my clients said to me recently, good client, why are you pushing this way? You’ve tried this before, I said. Yeah, and the problem is I’ve let my clients off the hook. So I’ve said, OK, I’ll circumvent the process and now I’m not even. Doing that so.
I yeah, I I have a a nonprofit that I work with. The board is largely older and one of the board members made a comment that. He’s not going to do anything unless he use his new ticket system and I got heard of that and my good contact and the board, it said you’re absolutely right. I said technology changes and some of your younger board members have told me how great this. This, and here’s why, and I walked through and. Did a lower education. Because I liked them as a client. I want to help them, I said.
I get a.
Video of exactly what you did up to this point. If you send. Me an e-mail and say this doesn’t. I have no idea what you were. Doing so, this helps me to understand how you’re trying to do this. In the process. And I use two different tools to do that. And once once I I showed her that she’s. Like that makes a lot of sense. So I went through and I had recorded a couple of videos and explained how to use the two different tools. And why we have two tools but they both feed into my clickup board for each client and. Once they got. That that e-mail, a couple of them e-mail me with requests and I said, well, this next time can you try and use the tool and all my good clients have and they they’ve actually been happy with that. But yeah, it’s education and it’s also. I’ve done some of those things in the past and I’ve let my clients off the hook too, so you know, a lot of it’s our own fault with not not respecting your own process.
Yeah, and an example of education is one of. One of my favorite clients, also a political client, they had a new person joining their board. It was going to take on some of their WordPress updated and the Communications director, who I adore reached out to me and said do you have any time? And I said not only to have time, I’ll make an hour time and help her. And show her what the layout of your website is. I’ll record it. We’ll send you back a recording. We’ll do all that stuff. And she’s like, you know, you can charge the board. And I’m like, yeah, I know that. But this one’s on me because at the end of the day, if I spend an hour with her doing that, it’s gonna make my life 10 times easier. So. So it’s an investment. And I’ve heard no squawking. No screaming, no complaining, no nothing out of them because they took the hour to do a little bit of customer service and helped him out. And that sometimes the best.
And I, I I like clients that you know communicate well and you know I talked a little bit poorly on nonprofits for the simple reason that you have personnel changes often. In some of the nonprofits as people you know have more or less availability in their lives, they become more or less involved with your, and so you have more personnel changes than commercial clients, at least in my experience. So one of my colleagues who does nothing but a nonprofit CRM integration into WordPress and Drupal. He made the comment the other day that volunteers have absolutely no consequence. When they they. Leave the board or leave the organ. So it’s kind of interesting. When new people come on. And your point point hit the nail right on the head, being proactive and training up front saves you a lot of time and headache and it could save you from having a good client turn into a bad client and go fast.
And it’s funny with new clients like the ones that appreciate you, they don’t. Even think twice about stuff and when you let them know you’ve done something, you should get back nice emails and it’s hard to know what people are thinking if they don’t communicate. I mean, communication is a big part of the whole process when you.
And it’s, yeah, it’s the communication and effectively communicating. And not only. That but communicating through the proper channels, when my clients, you know use the markup tools or use the support e-mail to request changes and they do it appropriately and are are clear with what they need. I love that because then I don’t need to to go back and ask them three or four times. What do you need here? What’s what’s the scope of this? Yeah, clear communication is extremely helpful and is great for making a good client.
Anything else you would say and trying to make a good client? Or help them.
You know the, I guess if I were to make a list of things, it’s respecting my time, respecting my expertise, clear communication in the appropriate channels and. And timely billing, taking care of those things. If you know a client does all those things, they’ve hit my top five every time.
I I I would agree with those and and the other thing that’s all is is respect the process. I think that’s part of it as well as always. Ryan, thanks again for your help and your expertise. Somebody wants to get a hold of your house the best way.
All every major social media channel at one dog solutions. You can visit my web website, one dog dot solutions or e-mail me Ryan dot Waterbury at one dog dot solutions.
Ryan, thanks so much. You have an awesome day, my friend.