5 funny (and frustrating) client types

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Everyone knows that dealing with clients can be rewarding, but it can also be quite funny, and even a little painful at times. We accept that the agency world can be challenging, grueling even, but there are those one or two clients that are just a little beyond the pale. They push your buttons. Make you grit your teeth. You ask, with no small amount of trepidation, "What do you want from your campaign?" because you know that what comes out of their mouth will not be what you want to hear. It may suggest severe delusions about marketing itself or even a willing intent to sabotage the process; the future of the campaign appears bleak, and the fighting, or laughing once you've seen enough of this, begins. 

These are the clients that challenge us, make us upset, and, most of all, give us the best stories for after-work drinks. Over the years I've found that some of our clients fall into identifiable types, and you may recognize them too.

Client type No. 1: Bad idea guy

The bad idea guy has become disconnected from his audience. He loves jargon and industry acronyms. He speaks in terms of USPs and value-add. His PowerPoint presentations are noisy and bloated, but they get the point across -- he is right.

All of these contribute to what the bad idea guy loves to churn out: boring copy, dysfunctional websites, ineffective campaigns, and a large bill to show for it. He's mastered the inefficiencies of bureaucracy so well you'd think he worked for the government. If you've ever read a mission statement like the one below, you've witnessed the Bad Idea Guy's work.

"We provide strategic, value-laden, multi-platform SaaS solutions to small- to medium-size enterprises across the globe." 

One former client, in prepping us for a new microsite said, "Can't you see that our product is superior? Given our target market is women between the ages of 25-55, we want to focus on the fact that our DSL VoIP combo is 2 mbps faster than the competition." Really? I'm an interactive marketer and I don't even know how many mbps my high-speed connection is.

This client type often attempts to carry over industry knowledge (of which they have plenty) to marketing know-how, resulting in blunders they perceive to be brilliant. Beware of the red flag phrase "Because I said so," a common defense of the Bad Idea Guy.

If you work in search marketing, you're also probably familiar with this statement: "I know our users don't search for this term, but..." Sometimes you may get through to these clients by slowly explaining that what people search for is, in fact, one of the most crucial variables to consider, but more often than not these clients will be so focused on what corporate wants that your words of reason will not penetrate. In these cases, the only option may be to give them what they want and suffer the ramifications.

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Sridutt YS
Sridutt YS June 1, 2010 at 9:21 AM

yup. On target.

And these five species have a symbiotic relationship. They travel in packs, and are known to be brain-parasites for other species of homo sapiens, who want to actually accomplish something (namely the agency/freelance/other species). This is because they prefer to camouflage their inefficiency by blaming the agency/freelance/other species.

A favorite camouflage tactic is to give phone briefs, and loudly insist that the agency/freelance/other species are at fault - when an error occurs, due to their own insistence on what they want - which is an exact opposite of what their customers want.