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Little Bird Marketing

Notes from the Nest

We Won't Be Fooled Again: How to Deal with Difficult Clients

Date: August 15 2019

It's easy as a company, particularly in the early stages of growth, to feel as though every new client is good for business. We get it, you have to have clients to keeps the lights on, but operating your business with a scarcity mentality can and will come with complications.

We Won't Be Fooled Again
We’ve all had bad clients - clients with unrealistic expectations, who are unwilling to let you do your best work, and take up far too much of your time. They are the ones you dread calling and keep you up at night, and while they may bring in money for you, bad clients will oftentimes cost you more in the long-run.

Detecting bad clients can be difficult. But if you make an effort to ditch the scarcity mentality (even if it means those clients will go to your competitors) and take these tips to heart, you can stop bringing in costly, bad-fit clients and confidently say, “We won’t be fooled again!”


Sunshine and Rainbows

Let’s imagine you’ve just brought on a new client. Most client relationships are very exciting in the first few weeks, but it’s during this fast-paced onboarding period you can determine what the rest of the relationship is going to look like.

Pay close attention for these red flags because they're a good indication that **Rocky Balboa voice** it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Unaligned Goals
If you and the client aren’t on the same page in terms of goals and deliverables, that's a red flag 🚩

Concerning Questions
If the client asks questions that suggest they don’t value the work you're doing, another red flag 🚩

Client Input
If the client resists advice or believes they know more than you do, oh yeah, red flag 🚩

Unrealistic Expectations
If the client expects more than what has been clearly defined in the contract, red flag 🚩

Reluctant to Share
If the client doesn’t want to share all of the data you need to do your best work, definite red flag 🚩

Lack of Respect
If the client doesn’t value or trust in your expertise, you've got yourself a big ol' red flag 🚩

By recognizing these signs early on in the client relationship, you will be able to determine what the future of your partnership will look like and whether or not you should continue.


Recognizing a bad client is only the first step in preventing them from costing you more than what they're worth. You have to learn from these setbacks and develop the means to not only recognize them but avoid them altogether. So, what can you do?

Buyer Persona Development

We cannot say this enough so we’ll say it just a little louder:


You can’t skip this step and expect to bring in good clients. Really… how are you going to bring in your ideal client if you don’t even know who your ideal client is? By developing detailed buyer personas, you will know exactly who you are trying to attract and be able to target them with your marketing. This is by far the #1 tip for avoiding bad clients.

If your business doesn’t have buyer personas, stop what you're doing right now and create them. Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Don't know where to start with your buyer personas? Check this out.

Negative Persona Development

Avoid Them Like The Plague

This is one that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much but while you’re at it, it’s probably not a bad idea to create negative personas as well.

Who have you worked with in the past that you don’t ever want to work with again? Just like with ideal buyer persona development - make them detailed, list out why they are a bad fit, and avoid them like the plague.

Dial-In Your Marketing

Once you have your personas in place, it’s time to start focusing on attracting your ideal client.

Take a close look at your current marketing campaign's message and what it's conveying. Are you attracting your ideal client? Are you deterring your negative personas? Just by refining your messaging and brand voice you will start to decrease the amount of bad-fit clients entering your funnel.

Learn to Walk Away

This one is for those currently stuck in a bad client relationship. We are here to tell you it’s okay to walk away. If the client is costing you more time, resources, and sanity than what they are worth, do yourself and your team a favor...work out an exit plan.

That being said, just like any other business decision, there is a right and wrong way to do things.

Just to be clear, we do not recommend jumping ship at the first sign of conflict or tension. Ending a client relationship is the last resort to dealing with a not-so-perfect client. 

Jumping Ship

The rest of your process should have filtered out most of the potential bad clients and you should do what you can to correct any issues that arise along the way. Explain to the client what issues exist, why they are issues, and provide suggestions on how to overcome them.

But in the end, you have to do what’s best for you. If the client relationship is hurting you more than it’s helping, or if there is just no overcoming the issues that arise, do what you have to do. Walk away.


Again, we all have had bad clients and we all dread them. But until you put a plan in place to recognize, avoid, and learn to walk away from them, they are only going to keep costing you. It’s okay to let them go to your competitors. It’s okay to tell them they aren’t a good fit for your business. And at the end of the day, it’s okay to cut ties with them. Business is business, and you have to continue to do what is best for your business if you want to continue to grow!

Are you ready to start bringing in your most ideal clients?

We created the Perfect Persona to give you a complete understanding of buyer personas and how to create them. Check it out now and start targeting the people you want to do business with most.

Download the Perfect Persona Guide


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