Clients Shoot Themselves in the Foot

Have you ever interviewed a prospective client only to find that they think they know what their problem is but they really don't?

Agreeing to the principle that understanding the problem is the first step to solving it does not work -- unless we realize that it applies to every problem.

Here's a good example of what I mean.

A leading competitor and founder of the idea that a lot of people want cash now for their settlements was no longer number one in the market. J.G. Wentworth was taking over the market from my prospective client. They brought me in saying that their direct mail was no longer generating sufficient leads to keep up with their younger competitor companies and wondered how I might help.

We went through my questions and theirs trying to nail down what needed to be done to compete with their direct mail program.

They showed me their direct mail packages, list selection criteria, results over the last few years and readily answered my questions. They also listed their foremost competitors.

I went back to the office and contemplated what we should do to reverse the tide.

Their in house direct mail was weak and the results reflected it. They believed this was their biggest problem and that correcting it would get them back on course.

Unfortunately, the client failed to look at the big picture of what was happening. Their competitors were taking their business away with multi channel strategies such as DRTV, direct mail, digital and every known medium was explored and used heavily.

So I returned proposing a full solution including testing other channels -- especially DRTV -- as well as bringing additional talent to bear on their direct mail program.

They decided instead to hire a freelance copywriter to work with their in-house copywriter to improve the creative product. Never mind that the freelancer was not even a direct response specialist.

But I mentioned that this did not scratch the surface of what needed to be done to increase their growth and slow down their competitors as needed to recapture their lost market share.

This prospective client responded by saying that no, they knew what the problem was and countermanded my recommendation for testing DRTV. They had tried it several years ago and they could not make the numbers work.

This event happened three years ago and J.G. Wentworth's DRTV program has grown unabated.

I never was able to help my prospective client compete with J.G. Wentworth. Why? They had the money, the infrastructure and everything else except an open mind.

They failed to look at the big picture and made the false assumption that J.G. Wentworth did not know what they were doing.

The take away here is to never make the assumption that you have the problem nailed down without an objective and knowledgeable outside voice chiming in. Spend money and thought on what the problem is and season it with a heavy dose of objectivity and humility.

Posted on November 23, 2011 and filed under Consulting, Direct Marketing Strategy, New Business.