From the Desktop of Michael DeMos: Identifying Green Flags in Potential Clients


We all have our own version of the bad-client story. For small business owners like myself, the allure of a new, big-name client or big project can tempt us to overlook red flags and we start to think, “This one will be different … right?”

Identifying Green Flags in Potential Clients

Not usually. And yes, I have done it — and I have always regretted it. I have learned the hard way that one of the biggest killers to team morale is a bad client that we let get away with bad behavior.

Working with a bad client is challenging, but sometimes it’s the best way to learn how to recognize red flags and what to avoid. By knowing what you don’t want, you learn what you DO want. Here are three of my favorite green flags that indicate if a client is someone I want to work with.

Valuing Expertise
Running a business requires a lot of juggling. I like to work with clients who recognize what they are comfortable handling, and what requires outside help. For example, maybe they are able to easily handle tennis balls and bowling pins, but they’d rather leave the swords to an expert. What’s important is they don’t try and do it all.

For me, a green flag is when a company or organization appreciates the expertise we bring to the table. It’s more than us just saving them time; we bring a wealth of knowledge and ability to execute that is just out of their wheelhouse.

Combine this with a client’s willingness to engage in the marketing process, and successful campaigns are the rule, not the exception.

Commitment to the Process
Developing effective and successful campaigns can take time; it also takes respectful and productive collaboration between an agency and its client. If we have to chase down a client, begging them to show up to meetings or respond to requests for feedback or a decision, our time and energy is spent herding rather than producing quality collateral.

We are committed to our clients, and we value those who are committed to us. When a client places trust in our established processes—as exhibited by engaged communications and thoughtful, timely feedback—it’s easy to have successful outcomes.

Understanding Prioritization
Sometimes a request comes up fast and out of the blue, and our team scrambles to execute. While we strive to be flexible and accommodating, there is a real threat: Urgent, rushed work can lead to missed details.

With any project there are three desirable outcomes: good, fast, and cheap. The trick is you can only choose two. If it’s good and fast, it’s unlikely that it’s cheap.  And if it’s cheap and fast, it’s probably not very good.

Identifying Green Flags

I love clients who understand the importance of prioritization and are committed to following a well-established process. These clients recognize that maintaining quality while accommodating timelines can lead to successful campaigns, emphasizing a balanced approach to project management.

Definition of Success
For me, success means my clients are happy. I recognize that some people/clients just don’t know how to be happy (or how to take steps to make it possible to be happy), and I try and steer clear of them. Rather, I choose to work with clients who set up themselves — and my team —for success by being great partners. Together, we can achieve greatness.


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