In Seth Godin’s recent blog post, more, More, MORE!, he makes the unpopular-but-wise assertion that until you fire your worst customers, you’ll never be able to do your best.
I think it applies to clients just as much as consumers. The bottom line: you can’t please everyone, and it’s stupid to try. You’ll end up making no one happy — most of all yourself. Read on.
Some consumers are short-sighted, greedy and selfish.
Extend yourself a little and they’ll want a lot.
Offer a free drink in the restaurant one night and they’re angry that it’s not there the next.
The nuts in first class weren’t warm!
The challenge of winning more than your fair share of the market is that the best available strategy–providing remarkable service and an honest human connection–will be abused by a few people you work with.
You have three choices: put up with the whiners, write off everyone, or, deliberately exclude the ungrateful curs.
Firing the customers you can’t possibly please gives you the bandwidth and resources to coddle the ones that truly deserve your attention and repay you with referrals, applause and loyalty.
This seems to be the opposite of conventional wisdom to most people. Why not just charge the most difficult clients more money — an aggravation surcharge? Because there is no amount of money that will ever offset the penalty you’re passing on to your better-behaved, more deserving clients by having your time eaten up by one giant monster.
Last summer I met Anthony Casalena at a casual happy hour gathering, and we got to talking about the evolution of Squarespace, the company he founded, from a freemium model to a subscription model. I asked Anthony how he can get away with not offering a free version of his blogging platform. His answer: “I can’t get away with offering one.”
Why? In his first year of business, 90% of the time he spent answering support requests was for — you guessed it — non-paying users. He realized that the people willing to pay for the service are the ones who really believe in what he’s doing, and those are the people worth his time. Since eliminating its permanently free option (not to be confused with its 14-day free trial), Squarespace’s profits have skyrocketed, and today they’re considered one of NY Tech’s greatest success stories. Read more over at Center Networks.
I have had to deal with this in my own business. I’ve had clients whose actions made it very clear that they didn’t respect my work or my time. I convinced myself that I could just work harder and give more of myself to the project, to prove I was up to the challenge, to show that my determination has no bounds. All I really showed was that I had no self-respect. I finally got the wake up call I needed when the check never came.
You can’t win them all. But would you rather the defeat be on your terms or someone else’s? Always be conscious of who’s treating you with the graciousness you deserve, and who isn’t. When insolence is staring you in the face, it’s best to cut your losses early, and make the space in your life for those who really matter: your fans.
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