The 3 Dumbest Things A Client Has Ever Asked Me

by Lori Taylor · 28 comments

Brad Pitt at the Burn After Reading premiere

Image via Wikipedia

Unfortunately there was too long of a list of dumb client questions to pick from when it comes to  social media marketing.

The good news I figured out pretty quickly I was the common denominator between these unrelated clients. By my second big engagement, it became clear I wasn’t explaining the rules of the game.

Finally coming to the realization not everyone is an early adopter – well I didn’t know what they didn’t know.  I made bad assumptions that we were on the same page and then found myself if countless meetings wasting hours on, as my brother would say,“covering it up kitty.”

Latching onto the concept of managing client expectations, early this year I guest posted at Convince And Convert and actually created a pretty tight “Client Pre-Nup” you can download for free here. It’s a great social media audit you use for your potential clients.

The reality is, you don’t know what you’re doing and neither does your client.

Don’t get me wrong. I know most of you have good intentions and big plans. Been there done that.  But if you don’t know for a fact your client will execute on their end and uphold their end of the bargain, then you my friend are going to go down in shame as another casualty of the blame game.

It’s a no win situation.

Unless you can pull out a document to prove you “warned” them you’ll find yourself answering questions like this…

#1 “I Want To Go Viral. How Much Will That Cost?”

The sound of crickets fills your head.

You feel like a deer staring at the light of train getting to wreck into your agency.

Taking a deep breath, no blinking, shoulders back, you say…

“Going viral is NOT an outcome, it’s a happening.” Lori R Taylor

Are you guys with me?

You say this and you’ll see your customer’s head will nod.  You’ll feel the knot in their stomach relax as you start of on the right foot, building a teeny bit of trust.

But most importantly this is where you make sure they understand clearly if they don’t step up and allocate resources internally then you might as well take be taking a hill in Iraq with bb and water guns. And allocate resources doesn’t mean Betty Lou in accounting sending you a check, as your client tunes into YouTube waiting to be the next Double Rainbow phenomenon.

As an example, I have a futures trading friend, Hubert, who makes a boatload as a trader. Even as an internet marketer with a real deal membership site he kills it.

And do you know how he starts out EVERY sales presentation?

With the TRUTH.

“Look there are NO guarantees in trading. You will probably sign up for this and lose your ass. So if you can’t afford to lose money, don’t sign up.”

For Real.

This is how he starts every single webinar with a close rate is 30%+ and refund rate close to zilch. And so should you.

Moral of the story:

Be Hubert. Quote Lori. Win the limbo with the lowest run set on the bar possible to manage client’s expectations when it comes to social media marketing.

#2 “I Only Want Buyers As Fans On My Facebook Page, Can You Do That?”

Yeah and I want to have a three way with George Clooney and Brad Pitt on my birthday.

Too many agencies are selling social media services as a lead generation channel. The fact many brands use Facebook advertising to get more fans would be your first clue it’s not as easy as it sounds to get the attention of the users on Facebook.

However, once you do, your fan page should be valued  as a powerful touch point with your existing customers. Your goal should be to interact with your customer base in a two way conversation to stay top of mind. It’s a great workhorse to help you build the lifetime value of a customer.

Social media marketing strategies are optimized best when tied into a customer loyalty strategy to make good customers great.  

Giving your raving fans something to talk about, be excited about or even be curious about, can help you  “spread the word” about your product or service. The right promotion can help you really extend your brand reach.

It’s not to say you can’t tap into Facebook insights or other tools to track traffic to your online site.  That’s exactly what you should be doing.  This type of data will allow you to support as your social media presence grows, so do your sales or activity around your brand.

The most important thing you can do is set up at CRM scoring system for your overall customer base. This means you can look at your customers and be able to say who is a great customer and who is a terrible customer.  It allows you to append data points to build a model for social media marketing.

A Facebook page allows you to interact with your fans to get more insights into who they are and which ones matter the most.

Once you are able to start connecting the dots between social media and your sales channel, you’ll begin to be able to accurately determine the ROI of your efforts.  Knowing where your best customers come in contact with you outside of the sales channel, puts you in a much stronger position to amp up your direct response efforts.

But if you’re selling social media as the “must have” link to increase sales you’re selling yourself, the client and the medium short.

Moral of the story

Remind your clients it’s not an eye for an eye, ok?  A thousand new fans does not equal a thousand new sales.

#3 “I Only Have 200 Links For My Website”

True story.

I have a pain in the butt health insurance client. Yeah, I know yawn. (Which is part of the problem, but that’s another post.) Knowing what we were up against, we created a very good consistent conversational content strategy for SEO to drive traffic.

How good?

In February 2011 they had a Page Rank 0.  I started SEO in April and in June 2011 we were at a Page Rank 5.

Instead of jumping up and down, they were counting links!!

Think about it.

You, me and twenty other people in a room. We all reveal the rankings of our site with number of links. Others with PR5 sites have thousands of links, I have 200.  Which one impresses you?


But it’s always harder to explain this to them after they write the check than before they do.  You have to tell them you focus on writing awesome content to get the best links, not the most.

You catch my drift? 

It’s your job to educate your customer upfront.

Make sure your client knows it’s about staying on top of the trends, capitalizing on them where you can and maintaining flexibility and fluidity in your overall approach. Set tangible goals by being clear on benchmarks of where they are now, the obstacles to getting where you want to go and what a homerun hit would look like should it happen.

Make sure they understand what an A, B, C or even F looks like – don’t make promises you can’t control. 

Moral Of The Story:

And be clear nothing is set in stone, your plan in a guide complete with contingency plans should the worst OR the best happen.

What’s My Point?

The bottom line of all of this is for big brands the social media marketing channel is new.

Your clients are nervous.

They like shouting, not having conversations.

They are fearful of losing control of their campaigns. And they just want to win, but don’t really know what a win looks like.

If you want to not be face planted on the carpet they call you on every single week because your client is sitting in the dark, waiting for Brad Pitt and George to show up.

What Do You Think?

Who else has learned something like this the hard way?

What are some dumb things your clients have said?

Please share so we can all do a better job of getting on the same page in the beginning as we work diligently to climb onto the new york times best seller list of awesome successful social media campaigns.

Lori Taylor


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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Richards August 8, 2011 at 3:15 am

I have heard it said that “There is no such thing as a stupid question”. Not sure who came up with that one but they were obviously not in Media Marketing. I love youru first point about people wanting you to deliver something that goes viral. I saw an interesting interview with Paul McClay, of the agency Definition 6 that created the fabuolous Coke HHappiness Machine video that did successfully go Viral. Even Paul is quick to remind us that “Viral isn’t a strategy. It’s a result”.

I must admit I did blush a little when you mentioned your Birthday wish in #2. I soooo hope that you were actually game enought to say that to the customer.

Love your articles Lori. Your stuff is excellent and I am an advid follower of your prolific tweeting. Love your work.


LoriRTaylor August 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Thank you Peter – and I have said it to a customer – giggle. Just one – and he was a friend – got a belly laugh for sure – and made my point. I appreciate your support and thank you so much for commenting. I also say going viral is a “happening”. Sometimes it “happens” sometimes it doesn’t. 🙂


Sean Platt August 10, 2011 at 11:15 am

Great stuff, Lori!

YES, it’s our job to educate our clients so we can manage their expectations 100%.

And I love this thought: “They are fearful of losing control of their campaigns. And they just want to win, but don’t really know what a win looks like.”

SO true. It’s our job to define it for them.


Lori Taylor September 5, 2011 at 3:39 am

Thanks Sean – so many of us don’t know what a win looks like either because we simply don’t ask where the bar is, and we forget the opportunity we have to set the bar. 🙂

Reply August 10, 2011 at 4:56 pm

I agree with Sean. The most important thing that we can do is manage realistic expectations. Unfortunately, I think that we have all learned this the hard way.

I am a big believer in turning down clients when you know that the two of you are not a good fit. If you know that they have the wrong expectations or know that you can’t get the support internally, it is best to walk away. Although I don’t do this very often, whenever I have, it was never easy.


Lori Taylor September 5, 2011 at 3:40 am

YES – YES- YES. My daddy says the biggest mistakes are the employees you don’t fire – not the ones you don’t hire. The customer is NOT always right, ESPECIALLY before the contract is signed.


LoriRTaylor December 29, 2011 at 7:36 am

David I’m loyal to a fault too! That’s why I started to get more aggressive upfront before I took a client to save myself heartache later. I thought it might hurt business – but in a weird way it helped – even with the ones I didn’t take. No one was offended, in fact I think they were comforted more with the No’s than the Yes’s. Go figure. At the end of the day – people want to feel safe. And limits seem to do that very well. Even if things don’t go your way, you don’t have to hide your eyes when standing in front of a mirror. 🙂


Janet Callaway August 10, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Lori, aloha. Though I do not have social media clients, I enjoy reading your blog because it is educational and very entertaining. Absolutely love this:

“I Only Want Buyers As Fans On My Facebook Page, Can You Do That?”

Yeah and I want to have a three way with George Clooney and Brad Pitt on my birthday.

Saw this yesterday and did not have a chance to comment so I wanted to return to tell you how much I appreciate your style. Aloha. Janet


Lori Taylor September 5, 2011 at 3:38 am

Oh mammacita – that was my favorite too – it just “came out” and I thought – well why not? It’s so true. On every level. Giggle. 🙂


LoriRTaylor December 29, 2011 at 7:34 am

Janet thank you for always supporting your tribe. You are a loyal, collaborative person – and if all someone did for 2 days was watch what you do on twitter and facebook and blogs – they’d know EXACTLY how to be successful at social media. xo.


Rachael Seda August 11, 2011 at 2:07 pm

These are great points Lori and they’re helpful for potential clients of a communication professional to read. Sometimes we often don’t think about it from the other person’s shoes, take for an instance a doctor. Shouldn’t they know exactly what’s wrong with you, that is what they went to school for right? But it’s not always that simple. Sometimes questions like you gave in your example make my blood boil and then I realize it’s an opportunity to kindly educate them about these issues. As a designer as well I have often been asked, “can you just copy and paste this picture I found online of what someone else created for me.” AHHH no I want to scream this is so wrong on so many levels and insulting, but it’s also an opportunity to share with the client what you can and cannot do in your profession…hopefully they remember it and learn from it.

Thanks for a great post!


davinabrewer November 3, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Good one with the “copy and paste” Rachel, I get that all the time with anything web, pics not the clients, then make it all print quality, for the cover of a magazine. Same with PDFs dine bynothers, “logos” pasted in Word docs, etc. Sheesh.


CristerDelacruz August 12, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Great post. Make me chuckle and roll my eyes at times (not at you, but along with you). Here’s a couple I’ve gotten:

“I want to get on Oprah before she ends her last season. Can you do that?” Ummm, yeah, ok… while I’m all for having high goals, this is like… well, you know.

“Yeah, I perform that surgery… it’s for the exact condition that President Obama has. Do you think you can put together an information kit and send it to Washington? He needs to know about me.” Hmmmmm… again, supportive of aiming high, but I would venture to guess he already has a physician for that.


Lori Taylor September 5, 2011 at 3:36 am

Oh those are priceless – giggly goo! Oprah and Obama. Like I tell my kids, I appreciate your confidence in me but life is not as easy as mommy makes it look. (and yes, they get my tongue in cheekiness now) Thanks for a great comment!


LoriRTaylor December 29, 2011 at 7:19 am

Glad to have added a smile to your face…

But you’ve taken the cake with these two. LMAO.


Gina Carr September 6, 2011 at 4:24 pm

ROFL re: George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Totally loved the article. Can’t wait to try the pre-nup. You make some great points here. I recognize you from Social Buzz Club!


LoriRTaylor December 29, 2011 at 7:31 am

Gina – I’m loving Social Buzz Club and I see your awesome sauce all over the place there – so keep shining – and I’ll keep turning up the lights for you!


davinabrewer November 3, 2011 at 5:11 pm

So glad you RT this today, and that I caught it. Hilarious, snarky, shoot from the hip.. awesome. I may totally have to do this one day. Like the Oprah wish, it’s media their audiences don’t reach, pitches too technical to understand but they insist on using. So many things to teach clients, not always successful. In case ou don’t follow it, there’s a funny Tumblr/Twitter you might like @cliensFH. FWIW.


Lori Taylor November 18, 2011 at 6:13 am

Davina – ha! This unfortunately will turn out to be a series I’m afraid. 🙂


LoriRTaylor December 29, 2011 at 7:33 am

Thank you! I’m totally going to check out @cliensFH – I love fresh and funny. And you are so right – the worst thing we can do is fall in love with a pitch – especially if even the crickets hop away quickly. LOL Happy holidays.


davinabrewer December 29, 2011 at 8:19 am

Oops, it’s @clientsFH that should be right, it’s a lot of design shares still totally funny.


C. Michael Croston December 28, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Looking at this from a client POV (a health insurance client at that) two things stand out. 1) I will always demand more of someone than I expect to receive from them. My expectations will border on the unrealistic. It’s the same as being a boss, nothing an employee does is ever good enough. That’s just business. 2) As someone mentioned, I don’t know your business, you don’t know mine. I will personally ask inane questions at times to get a reference point. Not so much of what I’m dealing with, as instead who I’m dealing with. The answer to a question isn’t always as important as the way a question is answered. Business people aren’t always good marketers. They have to fake it till they make it. This is especially true when it comes to the secret mysteries of social media.


LoriRTaylor December 29, 2011 at 7:31 am

I really appreciate your feedback and am sorry you took this post as ANYTHING but mocking the agency side of things where we don’t do a great job of managing expectations. Which is the entire point of this post.

And to be honest, I’m know many customers out there with the attitude “nothing is ever good enough” or the mentality of “always moving the bar”. However, in this new media time – that’s very old school and doesn’t serve either side. At all.

As a personal note on this – I won’t work with them -ever. I’d rather set up a lemonade stand and use my 3 year twins for sympathy than partner with a person who was “unrealistic” with their expectations.

I’d rather tell someone No than Yes – because Yes’s cost money and I’m as careful with my client’s money as I am mine. I LOVE tire kickers – I LOVE to have my ideas questioned and strategy FULLY flushed out with the client who I agree – knows their business better than I do!

But, I’d also say…

If your agency doesn’t know your business don’t hire them.

[Note my dad is John Word of Word and Brown, Inc – he’s the largest General Agent in the country for health insurance – been in the business since the early 80’s – so I do know a lot about the broker side of the business if you are in health insurance and what the agents are up against. And I’ll be the first to so it’s HARD to make work in social media. So kudos to you for trying!!!)

If you don’t trust your agency – don’t hire them.

If you don’t find a marketing partner who clearly gives you a roadmap of what a win looks like – run screaming.

With social media it is way to ambiguous, too new and most people on BOTH sides are not educated on who to turn it into a win.

And I truly believe there are no stupid questions – this was more tongue in cheek because you’re right- many clients who hire an agency do NOT know the ins and outs of this stuff. What’s sad, is neither do many of the agencies who are taking the money, right?

Which really was who this post is for…when your client asks you these things, you wouldn’t laugh in their face, you would take a deep breath an LEVEL set because clearly they are misinformed as to what social media marketing is capable of doing for them.

Again, I appreciate your comments and just wanted to explain the spirit which it was intended – the title is the hook to get agencies to read – the post should explain what I think they should do to take care of the client.


C. Michael Croston December 29, 2011 at 11:50 am

I guess I should have acknowledged that I understood (and appreciated) the spirit of your post. From the post I understand you to have a sense of humor, experience, a lack of fear (confidence), and a willingness to be yourself. These are things I would look for from an “expert”. I was just giving perspective as a form of feedback. Connecting frustrations with those of like occupation helps relieve the pressure those that are new or facing challenges might be experiencing. That is a considerate and helpful way to start/end the year. That’s another thing I would look for from a pro.


Larry B. January 24, 2012 at 11:16 pm

May I ask why no RSS feed? I was going to subscribe but . . . .


Lori Taylor January 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Just doing some clean-up work on the blog. The RSS feed button will be right back! 🙂


LoriRTaylor January 28, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Because I updated wordpress theme and all my images and code got screwed up . They are working to fix it – sorry for that!


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