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Posted: April 07, 2010

Top 5 marketing and PR blunders: No. 3

Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em

Esty Atlas

(Editor's note: this is the third of five parts.)

Not all customers (or clients) are worthy of you. It's a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but it's true; even in this fight-for-all-the-business-you-can-get economy.

There are those who are simply detrimental to your health, reputation, and success. So, Blunder No. 3 in my series offers these considerations on when to give a customer or client the heave-ho:

1) When they repeatedly insult your integrity, either directly, or indirectly to others; - or engage in bully or manipulation tactics.

2) When they continually ask for exceptions such as bending the rules on your pricing, or repeatedly miss payment deadlines and expect flexibility on terms. If you want to ensure a haggling mentality, this is a very slippery slope that you will never win and they will rarely (with few exceptions) appreciate. This begets a grandiose sense of entitlement. This customer feels you owe them so much more than what you actually get paid to do. Decide on a case-by-case basis, but once burned, twice cautious.

3) When they start causing you nightmares (literally), it's time to cut them loose. Listen to your subconscious.

4) When they don't respect or listen to the majority of your recommendations and then blame you for the poor outcome. Isn't that why they hired you in the first place?

5) When they micro-manage to the point that they can never be pleased, no matter how hard you try. Know that it's not you.

6) When they play the "Good Guy vs. Bad Guy" game and play you against their partners or other decision makers, game over.

7) If you can never get to the actual decision-maker yourself.

8) When there is no accountability on their end and you constantly hear, "I didn't say that"; "I didn't mean that", or "you should've known what I meant."

9) If, after all reasonable efforts have failed, and they truly don't benefit from your service, do them a favor, and call it a day. Your sanity is worth it. They may even appreciate the honesty.
Your Strategy: Be transparent. Put your terms in writing. Boundaries are essential to success.

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Esty Atlas is a four-time Emmy award-winning writer, specializing in leadership communications, media and public relations. 303-919-2425; email: or

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Readers Respond

Thank you for this post. We've got a couple of other reasons to part ways with customers: When their budget has shrunk to a point that your participation in their business is meaningless; When their style of decision-making disrupts peaceful operations on your end (i.e., herding cats). It's important to know and express your limits. By April Thayer on 2010 04 07

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