Dropping Food and Clients

I just dropped my lunch all over my kitchen floor.

It was a nice lunch – grilled chicken, pasta in cream sauce, broccoli, peas. It looked good and smelled better. And pulling it out of the microwave, I fumbled it and it poured across the newly cleaned kitchen floor.

So I swore a bit, scowled, and got down on my hands and knees to clean it up. And while cleaning, I found my thoughts drifting to another problem I faced this Monday morning.

I just dropped my first client.

When I say “first client,” I actually mean my first client. We’ll call them ABC to simplify this post. ABC is the customer who helped me escape corporate life.

Without ABC, I might not have had the courage to leave Dell. Their interest in my services, their enthusiasm for what I do gave me the confidence to pursue the writer’s life.

And today I dumped them, formally. Let them know I’ll be too busy for their requirements and wished them the best.

Why? Because sometimes, what you think you want isn’t what you need.

The other day a leading copywriter suggested, in a newsletter, that you should identify, in 50 words or so, your ideal client. Three months ago, here’s what I would have written:

Medium sized company with high margins and a diverse product line. Contact should be at director level, have budget control, strongly inspired to drive change, doesn’t require a review committee, and believes in content marketing to support the sales cycle.

ABC fits all these criteria. My contact, the director of marketing, was hired to transform ABC’s marketing. ABC is an established company, solid reputation, good relationships with resellers, but shaky marketing. They knew they needed a marketing transformation – but didn’t want to hire talented full-time employees to get the job done.

I was the talent.

Immediately, they had me working on case studies, web copy, email newsletters, and blog posts. But as I worked on their projects, I noticed a few … anomalies.

They kept revising everything – expectations changed every couple of weeks. I wrote proposal after proposal, was promised significant projects again and again, but often nothing came of the promises I was given.

After a few weeks, all of my projects were frozen. So I got blunt with the director of marketing. I asked him, “Not to sound ungrateful or anything, but what the hell is going on over there?”

That’s when he let me in on a little secret. Marketing scared the CEO.

Basically, we were making so many changes and doing so many things, the CEO couldn’t keep up. He was unsettled by the transformation. Before he micro-managed a change at a time – and now the marketing director and I were changing things ever week.

He reacted by trying to take control – cancelling projects, resetting priorities, countermanding his earlier approval. Marketing strategy and production basically stopped.

The director of marketing quit. And so did I.

That’s why this week I have a single goal in mind. I have to find another client.

And I’ve discovered a new criterion for my ideal client.

Medium sized company with high margins and a diverse product line. Contact should be at director level, have budget control, strongly inspired to drive change, doesn’t require a review committee, and believes in content marketing to support the sales cycle. Executive suite must support marketing.

Have you ever had to drop a client? What do you do when your formerly ideal client isn’t so ideal any longer?

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Published: July 16, 2012

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