4 signs it's time to fire your client

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I recently wrote an article called "4 broken promises agencies make to brands" in which I advised clients to be on the lookout for warning signs that their agencies might be jerking them around. The following article is written from the opposite perspective.

A contract, as we all know, is an agreement between two parties. So obviously both sides must honor their responsibilities or else the contract is kaput. Many digital agencies, especially the larger ones, chronically suffer from efficiency problems that stem from problematic clients. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the phrase, "We're doing 90 percent of our work for 10 percent of our clients" uttered in agency hallways.

4 signs it's time to fire your client

So what's an agency to do? Fire the client, of course. It sounds like a foreign idea -- telling a client that you don't want its money anymore. But from an ROI standpoint, you might find that the arithmetic doesn't add up. If you are an agency, and you have a client that isn't compensating you at a fair hourly rate, you either have to raise your price or fire the client.

Here are some warning signs that a breakup is coming. Go get your sweatpants and The Cure albums.



Jay Melone
Jay Melone December 5, 2012 at 2:19 PM

We just fired 30% of our clients at digitalxbridge.com. We're a young creative agency, so we were hanging onto them to get us off the ground. Turns out they were dead weight preventing us from lifting off. Aside from forming some new and amazing partnerships and launching their businesses, firing the deadbeats was the best thing we've done for ourselves, to date.

Adam Kleinberg
Adam Kleinberg December 4, 2012 at 4:27 PM

I've fired several clients over the years. I take my cues from David Ogilvy. I believe the quote in his book was "I've fired 10 times the number of clients that have fired our agency and every time for the same reason—degradation of employee morale. It's unacceptable in this business."

Never a pleasant point to get to, but when the writing is on the wall you gotta do what you've gotta do.

Great article, Drew.

Nick Stamoulis
Nick Stamoulis December 4, 2012 at 2:21 PM

I actually recently let go of a client because I finally realized that no matter what we did for his and his website/product, there was a fundamental flaw in his business model that he just wasn't willing to change. Sometimes you have clients that refuse to get out of their own way and no matter what you do you just can't help those guys.

LLoyd Berry
LLoyd Berry December 4, 2012 at 1:37 PM

I actually have a few more points that I could add to this as well, but overall Drew you have nailed it. Too many times have I seen a client that expects "You” to make gold when in fact they are doing nothing to enable the success of the campaign. Yet upper management is too afraid to be stern with the powers to be of the company/brand that is paying the retainer.