5 Big Mistakes That Are Costing Your Clients Money

Posted on October 29, 2020
  • When you’re trying to be everything to everyone, you’re actually doing more harm than good
  • Technology can be a minefield for marketers, and excessively expensive for your clients
  • If your client says they need something, dig deeper
  • Keep your clients in check like a boss
  • Don’t lose focus on the bigger picture

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s cliche and my college journalism professors would be very upset with my using it as the lede of an article.

It’s an appropriate phrase for this piece — especially when we’re talking about mistakes that cost your clients money.

Most of these problems arise when your intention is to provide good service to your clients. But the problem with good intentions is that it still doesn’t negate the fact that you’re still foolishly spending your client’s money — it only prolongs the bleeding.

But there is a silver lining. All five of these major mistakes are fixable, and many are just a matter of making some minor adjustments.

1. Trying to be Everything to Everyone

Sometimes you’re looking to scale your business. Other times, an opportunity for a really impressive client appears out of nowhere. In another common scenario, investors are pressuring you for sustained growth.

You want to grow your business, you want to show your investors growth, and you want to work with that dream client. So, of course, you’ll take on a client that falls a bit outside your core expertise. You’ve gotta do what you gotta do, so you’ll figure it out along the way.

The problem here is that no matter how great your team is, they simply can’t be everything to everyone. While you think you’re providing better client service, your struggle on the execution can lead to a lost, angry client. And that angry ex-client can poison the well with their network, and potentially yours.

Even if you’re producing capable work, you’re likely using overrated tactics because you simply don’t know enough to create the type of unique, creative strategies that you’re known for. You’re also probably making recommendations based on general knowledge of an area, instead of relying on a deep well of expertise. The problem with this approach is that you can miss critical items that will set your client back in the long-term.

Whatever your underlying motivation, we know that sometimes your client needs a service you simply can’t provide. There is a way to keep that client out of the hands of your competition, continue to deliver the high-quality work you’re known for, and not blow your agency’s margins by hiring a new expert.

Building a network of trusted strategic partners in niche areas of marketing that require deep expertise (like SEO and web development!) is a great way to say yes to these opportunities with little risk. You bring the partners in when it makes sense to do so, and stick to your core specialties when it doesn’t.

Your client gets deeper expertise in additional areas of marketing, you don’t have to stress out about losing the client, and your partner gets more of the work they love to do. Everyone does great work, the client is happy, and life is good for all.

smashed computer to illustrate technical difficulties

2. Introducing Technical Difficulties

The next category of costly mistakes marketers make all.the.time centers around technology. More specifically, we see the same 3 issues over and over and over again:

  1. Suggesting or using outdated technology
  2. Creating, or not addressing, technical debt
  3. Overmatching your client’s needs

Let’s start with the part about outdated technology. By nature, marketing tends to lag behind the cutting-edge of technology — especially when it comes to website development.

Building websites has become highly commoditized over the past decade. With WordPress’s seemingly easy-to-use and highly customizable platform, many agencies (and businesses) see it as an easy solution.

Your client wants a website? No problem! We’ll just choose a theme, add some plug-ins, and voila! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, amirite?

But the problem is that WordPress is not a very good choice for most websites, except for blogs. While we go more in-depth into why in this article, here’s a quick, tl;dr version:

Stacking plug-ins to power your client’s website creates a house of cards. Each element is built in a vacuum, without any thought given to how it’ll work with other plug-ins or themes.

Every time you add a new plug-in to the stack, you risk a conflict that can happen between two plug-ins, or when you update any part of your website. Should a conflict happen, your website will grind to a screeching halt — or worse — the house of cards will completely collapse and rip your site offline.

Failure to update WordPress, your theme, or any of the plug-ins also leaves the door open for hackers to gain control of your client’s website.

What’s more is that WordPress’s structure also creates technical errors that hurt the client’s SEO rankings, which prevents your work from being found — and leads your client to believe that you’re not doing a good job (when you’re actually doing amazing!).

The good news is that there are several better alternatives to WordPress (including using a methodology called the JAM stack, which is just as rad as it sounds).

By working with an actual website developer to build your client’s website, you can be sure you’re choosing a platform that meets their needs, is built on a solid foundation of SEO best practices, and is the rising tide that lifts all the boats of your marketing.

The second technology trouble is adding to your client’s technical debt. While we go into more detail about tech debt in this piece, here’s the tl;dr version:

Technical debt happens over time when layers of code get stacked on top of each other, creating a more complicated (read: expensive) system to run. Every time you add a feature to your website, you’re adding a layer of code to the stack. Just like with WordPress plug-ins, if your tech debt gets big enough, your website can completely collapse.

Even if your site doesn’t collapse from the weight of technical debt, all of the time (and money) spent working around the issues on a day-to-day basis add up quickly.

The final costly issue with technology is when you overmatch your client’s needs. This one happens all the time, especially in smaller agencies that happen to specialize in a certain well-known CRM that’s used for marketing automation and lead generation.

Because of familiarity with the tool they’re recommending, or lack of expertise around alternative technology, these agencies will recommend their clients use specific technologies or software that has way more features than the client will ever need.

The problem is that all of these extra features aren’t free. Let’s take that CRM that shall not be named. They have a free version of their product, but like so many SaaS products, it is extremely limited and probably won’t meet your needs. Basic marketing automation tools cost $800/month. If you add on tools to manage your sales operation (which, of course, your agency will recommend), that’s another $500/month.

For small to mid-sized businesses, $1,300 a month is a major expense for software, especially when other systems have a lower price tag and similar capabilities.

Or, to put it another way, wouldn’t you rather your client spend that extra $1,300 by upping their monthly retainer?

woman looking concerned in a business meeting

3. Taking What the Client Says at Face Value

Every account manager wants happy clients. But as you’re constantly bending over backward to keep your clients happy, you’re actually costing them money.

“The customer is always right” is bullshit when you’re talking about customers at McDonald’s, and it’s still a pile of shit when you’re talking about clients. While your clients are very intelligent and talented at running a business, they probably don’t have the expertise to run a marketing program.

That’s why they hired you. You are a strategist and an expert — not an order-taker.

But still, we see account managers only focus their strategies on what a client says they need. The problem with this approach is that it treats the symptom and not the actual “disease.” All too often, your client stumbled upon a viral post on LinkedIn written by someone with “guru” or “ninja” in their title who proclaims their business (or their client) grew by 10,982% overnight by following this one little hack. And now they must try said hack.

Or, clients will request features, deliverables, research, or other time-consuming projects based on a perceived goal, but with limited insight.

The cure for this is simple: Ask questions. Lots of ‘em. And then ask some more questions.

Taking the time for a thorough discovery can help uncover the actual issues with your client’s marketing, and address the problems behind the symptoms your client recognizes.

While you’re doing this discovery and crafting your brilliant plans, make sure you’re thinking long-term with your strategy. By focusing too much on short-term fixes and quick wins, you may be sacrificing the long game. Even worse, tunnel vision with strategy can lock you into a path that limits (or eliminates) future opportunities.

Stay curious, my friends. Especially when your client says they need something.

traffic signs

4. Account Management Mishaps

Account management is a tough job. There are times when your hard work is totally worth it, like when your client wants to increase their retainer because you’ve built an amazing relationship. But there are other times when your hard work leads to major, and expensive, issues.

The first is failing to keep client requests in check. A good account manager wants to move heaven and earth for their clients, but you have a scope for a reason. Going above and beyond to keep them happy is something we all do. But when it becomes routine, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

By giving away a substantial amount of work, you’re hurting your profitability and training the client to undervalue your services. You’re also costing your client money.

Each time you agree to a request for a new feature, additional revisions, or other deviations from the plan, you’re pushing back your timeline to launch. And every day that your campaign hasn’t launched, you’re not getting results. No results mean nothing is translating to revenue. On top of that, your strategy and tech could also be getting stale.

The other half of this is not owning your mistakes. We get it. It’s tough to say you messed up, especially when there’s money involved. But hiding it is worse. Working too hard to save face or not lose the client over mistakes might cover up the damage. But it’ll also leave scars that will have to be addressed later or will be persistent issues.

Shit happens. Own it, iterate, and move forward.

don't get tunnel vision like this photo

5. Losing Sight of the Bigger Picture

Adding on to account management mishaps is neglecting to see the whole picture.

Maybe you’re not trying to be everything to everyone, but instead, you’re so hyper-focused on your core specialty that you’re not fully understanding the client’s larger goals, or what makes them look good in front of their boss or other stakeholders.

If you’re not paying attention, you’re missing out on larger opportunities to really shine.

Or maybe you’re so focused on driving people into the funnel that you lose sight of the user experience and engagement along the way. If you’re neglecting conversion, you’re missing a major opportunity to maximize revenue with the resources you currently have.

You might also be a terrible gambler when it comes to clients. Just like the song says, you’ve gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, and know when to walk away.

There are times when no matter what you do, results are just not happening. And it’s not necessarily because you’re doing anything wrong. It could simply be that your expertise isn’t the right solution for the client’s specific issues, goals or project.

Sometimes the client simply needs more than you can provide, or vendors who have more expertise, resources or experience in a different area of marketing.

By knowing when to fold ‘em, many clients will respect you more for it. And you’ll walk away with your reputation intact, if not improved.

The Takeaway

Every single one of these costly mistakes can be boiled down into two elements: Lack of expertise and the desire to help your clients. In many cases, it’s a little bit of both.

But every single one is fixable. It’s time to stop costing your clients money — and time to start raking in the returns on their investment.

If you have questions about technology, need a bit of SEO or web dev firepower, or you just want an outside perspective to bounce some ideas off, get in touch. We’d love to talk shop with you and help you look like a superstar to your clients.