Spotting the Succubus Client: How to Identify Rotten Potential Clients and Politely Turn Them Away

succubuscensoredYou enjoy a challenge. Nothing is more satisfying than helping a young business grow or navigating new digital markets for an established brand. However, not all clients are challenges. Some are a Succubus Client – a resource-sucking monster that leaves unpaid bills and demoralized campaign managers in its wake. Learn to distinguish between a challenge and a succubus. Embrace the former. Renounce the latter.

Have a strong vetting process to spot a potential Succubus Client. Our process includes research, a qualifying call, a peek into their current accounts and a keen eye on how they communicate during this process.

Here are 6 smoke signals that a fire breathing Succubus Client is lurking on the other end of a qualifying call.

They have not set clearly defined goals.

If they do not have a focused direction, they will frequently and erratically change metrics – leading your team down many twisting, overgrown, dead-end paths.

They request an unusual payment structure or payment schedule.

This is a money sucking Succubus Client. They usually do not have the funds to pay fees up front or have various financial obstacles.

One way you can spot them is by their request for profit sharing or “pay-per-performance” fee structures (once upon a time Clix provided a pay-per-performance fee structure. It attracted Succubus Clients like the mouth of hell had opened.) They may claim the request is, “so you have skin in the game.” Like most boutique agencies, we already have our full coat of epidermis in the game. We are already on motivation level 11.

They may also not have a projected budget for ad spend. Usually this indicates they plan to use the returns from the first month of PPC efforts to pay for the ad spend and agency fees for the following month. “But maybe they are a young brand, or they are having cash flow problems.” Even if those things are true, they are not going to pay you. No really, you are never going to get paid.

They have unrealistic expectations.

This one is perhaps the most damaging to your team’s morale. This client will have absurd expectations for the timing for campaign building and ROI. No matter how incredible the account’s performance or how outstanding the campaign manager’s efforts are, nothing will be good enough.

They are agency hoppers.

During the qualifying call ask about their previous history with agencies. Be cautious if they have a long history of dissatisfaction with multiple agencies. This is understandable if they have been burned by inexperienced agencies. Be suspicious if they list a string of respected PPC-focused agencies.

The product or service isn’t right for PPC.

There are the rare cases when a product or service just isn’t a good fit for PPC. An experienced agency will know this, and should be honest with themselves and the potential client.

The organization’s owner or CEO will be your main contact.

This is like a surgeon operating on a child with the kid’s frantic parent looking over his shoulder. It is preferable to have a CMO or other team member as your daily contact.

The promise of a shiny new client touting a golden ad spend is very alluring, but a Succubus Client not only drains your team, it also steals time from your other clients. Take up the mantle of “Succubus Guardian” and forsake these damaging clients.