10 Phrases That May Get You Fired (By Your Agency)

Ian Lurie

I periodically fire potential clients. It’s hard to walk away from the revenue. But clients hire Portent for our advice. It’s also hard work with clients who ignore that advice. And that kind of relationship typically starts with more than one of these statements:

  1. “I just want to crank out blog posts.” Basically, they’re hoping to eat words and crap content. It’s as likely as me eating lead and crapping gold.
  2. “I want to pay you by the link.” Excellent! I’m going to charge $5/link. Then, I’m going to go to Fiverr.com and buy 10,000 links for $5. That model works. For me, anyway.
  3. “We don’t use Facebook. We’re B2B.” Wrong. On Facebook, I can target potential clients more precisely than my dog targets a lump of cheese. Someone you want to work with uses Facebook. Advertise there.
  4. “My CEO wants us to focus on [tactic].” As a CEO I lay a leadership turd every time I make tactical decisions where I’m an amateur. Interior decorating, for example. It’s as ridiculous as the CEO of a fashion company making major social media decisions… Wait.I hear the boss wrote this one.
  5. “Our developer can’t do that.” I can’t even answer this one. Fired. But as a free service, I’ll staple a sign to the developer’s forehead that reads GOOGLE IT YOU DOLT.
  6. “We can’t compress any images. They’ll lose quality.” I understand the need for beautiful imagery. I really do. But you have to balance that. If you have a background image that’s for atmosphere, you can let it blur a little. The improved load time is worth it. Focus on the product images, instead.
  7. “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” Boom. Ian’s head explodes. I don’t “agree to disagree” with my surgeon about my hernia because, hopefully, he knows more than I do about my organ sacks. Why the fucklebucket would anyone pay me to “agree to disagree” about my ‘valuable’ knowledge? I’ll save them the trouble.
  8. “Our customers don’t use mobile.” Of course!!! They still have rotary dial phones at home. When they’re out and about, they use pay phones. Two billion people use smartphones. Not one is a potential customer (that’s sarcasm, by the way).
  9. “I need to know the predicted ROI.” OK. I’m going to increase your revenue 1000%. You’d better get a warehouse for all the money I’m going to make you, or invest it in plutonium futures!!!!! All I can do is make up numbers, anyway, so I may as well go big.”
  10. “I’d like to buy ala carte.” I’d like to buy my meds one pill at a time. Thanks to statements like this, I need a bottle a day.

I lied. I don’t fire potential clients who make these statements. First, I say “I promise that I’m trying to reach the same result you are: Growth for your business. Can we try it my way?”

If the answer to that is “no,” then I end the discussion. Remember, you pay for my advice. Why not follow it?

And now, I’m going to go grab a beer.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (that's more than 25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team, training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Great stuff, Ian. Really enjoyable reading, while I enjoy a margarita and have a laugh.
    My best advice is to try to fire them before they even have a chance to hire you. I probably walk away from 60% of the prospects who reach out to us. To help with this, I typically insist that they complete an SEO RFP, so that they can better understand what all is involved in “real” SEO. If they can manage to make it through that process, that shows me that they have a commitment to doing things the right way, and don’t expect to “cut a check and walk away”, presumably praying to the IT gods that someone will actually implement the recommendations that are to be made.
    Thanks for the post!

  2. Brilliant, Ian… Simply brilliant!
    I recently fired a client with deep pockets for a number of reasons, a few of which you positively nailed.
    Did it hurt my pocketbook? You bet.
    Did it keep me sane? You bet.
    Thank you!

  3. Sometime you just gotta walk away.
    Well before I was ever in SEO (almost 20 years ago) and I was selling prefab homes in Florida I was taught your point – sometimes you just have to fire a client.

  4. Haha, always a fun topic! Here’s a handful of my favorite statements:
    “Can we just pay for implementation?”
    “Your SEO costs more than a new website!”
    “We don’t need analytics.”
    “OK, let’s proceed.. but instead of paying you now, how about we pay you a percentage of sales from your work?”

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