It’s 7 PM on Friday, and you just started on your second jack and coke, and your phone begins buzzing. As you glance down at the screen of your phone and your exact name glares at you from the screen, it’s one of your clients, and they just texted something analogous with “OMG, stop the campaign! someone just wrote something HORRIBLE about me online!”
This isn’t hypothetical; this happened to me, the campaign in question was an SEO campaign, and the client was a large resort.
As I nervously shuffled in my seat, thinking about what to reply, something dawned on me – I should have thought about this before it happened; I should have been prepared. I, of course, was not ready; in fact, I was blindsided by what happened, and I suddenly went from having a phenomenal SEO campaign running for a great client to having a nightmare ruining my weekend.
So what did I do?, the most logical thing I could do, I contacted the client, reassured them that something posted on a review site had nothing to do with the campaign I was running, and I advised them that this could all be managed – which was not a lie, it can be managed. The conversation went long, and I detected an air of skepticism and negativity emanating from my client; despite them trusting me, they seemed to hold me responsible for their own angry client’s rant, even at an unconscious level. Everything eventually calmed down as this episode in my career drifted into the past, but it always stuck with me.
Minor reputation damage can be dealt with; what’s much more challenging to manage is the perception in the mind’s eye of clients that somehow there exist phantom connections between their reputation and entirely different services that we provide. Try as we might, the ignorant mind will often draw a direct relationship between IT service and IT service, between search engine optimization and a bad reputation, as was in my case.
So what can we do? We can educate our clients. I’ve always been a strong advocate for handling the sale of IT services in a consultative manner but not mixing consultation with education. Consulting is about providing expert advice; education is about giving an often lengthier context to that advice. Of course, consulting and education blend and weave together; that’s a fact no one can deny, but there is also a substantially different intention between the two, and it’s worth keeping in mind when talking to clients.
So, it would be best if you educated your clients, but it can be a delicate matter. Imagine you just sold an SEO campaign, is it wise to have the following conversation with your client be about how it’s not your fault if they get slammed online? No, of course not. I advocate a full-blown consultation about how they ought to protect their reputation online – because they could come under attack at any time and that I can help them with reputation management. This turns the entire situation around.
Instead of waiting until they get attacked to tell them it’s not my fault, I pre-emptively warned them and even advocated a solution I could provide to prevent this. They, in turn, have no one to blame but themselves if this does come about and when it happens, who do they call to pay to solve it? Me.