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The six deadly clients

MOUSTAFA ISMAIL, CEO, Smaat Co

At a time when ad spend is continuously decreasing, agencies are finding it impossible to say no to taking a new project or a client on board. The result in many cases of saying yes to certain types of businesses and people is a loss more than a gain.Below we discuss six kinds of clients agencies need to stand their ground against.

1. THE SHORT-TERM THINKER
The fastest formula for failure is a team that wants to achieve and judge results without placing, refining and judging the process. Focus on short-term goals without a long-term vision is one of the biggest issues we face in MENA today. The short-term thinker is a wishful thinker. They want performance without awareness, emotions without logic and consistency without discipline. This kind of business is bound to fail and, once it does, if you are the agency doing the media buying or managing the creative, good luck collecting your money.

2. THE BLAME GAMER
The focus of this client is to hire an agency to protect themselves once an issue occurs. They spend an immense amount of time discussing the problems and going in circles around them, without a constructive solution. As an agency, you are always the problem and they see nothing wrong in the way they do business, even if the issue is clear. The negativity and scrutiny the team will be under will eventually lead to bad work across all entities, including the more lucrative clients on your business. The outcome is a loss on all fronts. Your biggest sign of a blame gamer is the amount of agencies they have hired and fired in a period of few months or, in case of global alignments, their continuous “dislike” of working with “big” agencies.

3. THE HESITANT DECISION MAKER
This is a client with mostly good intentions. They see the value in the work presented to them, but they are constantly confused marketers and are unable to take decisions or make choices. The result is a black hole of feedback that needs to be deciphered and a never-ending change in final plans, productions and designs. The main concern here will be time. The time and resources spent on this indecisiveness can better be spent on new business or with marketers that can take decisions when needed. Hesitant decision makers will end up being frustrated anyway, as they expect you to do all the changes for free. Eventually they will take you for granted.

4. THE LATE PAYER
Collections today has become the most serious issue in our industry. By our nature as agencies, we pay big amounts on behalf of our clients. They receive the service/media/production outputs for free until the invoices are due 30-60 days later. As the client continues to pay late – as part of their standard procedure – your debt as an agency increases. It will be more difficult to pay your suppliers and, in the case of many agencies I have seen personally, pay salaries. The debt risk you take in the case of the late payer needs to be very cautiously calculated as the results might be disastrous for your cashflow. Not managing the collections from the late payer will paralyse your business and shut you down, as well as making your P&L statement look unrealistic in front of shareholders.

5. THE UNREALISTIC COST SAVER
It is very normal to negotiate costs. Yet there is a certain point, where you have to stop the circus and stick to what you believe is your limit when it comes to cost as an agency. The unrealistic cost saver has no limits. They want to pay peanuts and get a helicopter with Tom Cruise jumping out of it. Into a shark’s mouth. Over the Burj Al Arab. They tend to watch a lot of those motivational speakers on social media and repeat random phrases after them, like: “I am a growth hacker who can conquer the world.” Once you see these signs, know that you are in trouble. A) They have no understanding of cost; and B) They will try to use you and abuse you with phrases like: “Let’s just start – there is more business coming up.” Don’t fall for it. If you do, you will end up with low quality work not worthy of your showreel, weak media plans and a loss in the end.

6. THE EGOTISTIC POLITICIAN
Every decision they take revolves around a political standpoint and is rarely geared towards the success of the business or the partnership. You are always put in a position where you need to take sides and find the agency teams drifting away from the core business towards endless gossip.

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