If you want guarantees, I can't help you.

I met with a potential client the other day who launched his online business very recently. It’s in a relatively new but growing sector and there are some big players in the market with huge budgets behind them, but there is room and opportunity for new entrants.

We were introduced by a creative friend of mine who had developed the brand and online presence for launch. The client wanted to start seeing results and was demanding action but there was no plan in place beyond the publication of the website and setting up social media accounts. The creative team needed some structure and direction for the next phase of the business.

Now launching a brand, website and social media accounts without a long-term plan is a whole different can of worms which we can look at another day. My thoughts for today are around client expectations, how unrealistic they can be, and how they can be managed.

The client seemed reasonable enough when we met. He was keen to move quickly, to see the action he felt had been lacking and the results he expected.

We chatted for a while about what he’d done so far - how they’d created the product and launched the business. I talked about my approach; how we would start with an in-depth review of the business objectives and vision, the products, the market and target audiences etc before developing a plan. I had already provided a price for phase and for the plan itself, so this was a chance for me to expand on what’s involved.

But then the client started talking about wanting to work with marketing people who would love his product, tell him it was amazing and that they would get the sales he needed. He expected very quick growth and was looking for guarantees – he wasn’t interested in discussing objectives and making a plan.

“I just want someone who’ll say ‘This is a brilliant product, it’s going to fly. Leave everything to me and the sales will come flooding in for you – I guarantee it’”

Now, with the best will in the world, I can’t help with that. As marketers we can control what we say, how we say it, where and who we say it to. But we can’t control the world economy, global events, the weather or the personal circumstances of potential customers. These and hundreds of other factors determine how people spend their money every day. No one can control this, and no one can guarantee sales.

I told this guy that if he wanted guarantees then I wasn’t the person to help him, that he had to go with business relationships that work for him and wished him luck with the next stage of his business. We chatted some more and went our separate ways.

Despite losing out on potential income, the outcome was the right one for both of us. Had we worked together, this client would constantly be chasing unrealistic goals and demanding results, putting pressure on our business relationship. With the budget he has available he could achieve steady growth, but the approach needs to be organic and the pace much slower than he wants. And nothing can be guaranteed.

It would be irresponsible of me to tell him what he wanted to hear, take his money and watch the rate of growth fall short of his aspirations. 

The ability to manage client expectation is just as important for a consultant as delivering expertise and I’m not prepared to promise what can’t be delivered.

If you’re looking for some honest advice on your current marketing issues, email me to arrange a free consultation.