I wanted to share with you a call I got yesterday. I’ve redacted the names to protect the “innocent”.
“Hi, I’m [redacted]. I want to hire a marketing consultant, my number is [redacted], thanks *click*”
That was the whole voicemail.
It’s worth mentioning, I hate the phone. So for me to call anyone back who isn’t a dying blood relative is a big deal.
For the record: I’ve never had a good client come through the phone. Never. Not one. Every client I’ve had has come through some other medium – one of my classes, usually.
So when [redacted] called me back, I had a 10 minute bullshit limit on the phone call. It’s not entirely fair since I had no clue who he was, admittedly. Even so, [redacted] had all of 10 minutes to convince me that he wasn’t full of crap, that he had a budget, and that he had a project interesting enough for me to work on it.
Why? Because the phone is still the best prevention against ambiguous in-person coffee meetings.
Does that sound elitist? Maybe. The first lesson you learn as a business owner (the one that lets you stay a business owner) is to value your time and work. Skip that lesson and you’re headed for a “backup” 9-5.
In the first 10 seconds of conversation, [redacted] said, “I want to hire a marketing consultant. Everybody wants to sell me on these 3 month packages. What can you do for me?”
I asked what [redacted]’s company was and what it did. He put me on hold to loop in his business partner on the call to explain the business.
Helpful Hint: if you’re the person calling the shots in your business (like hiring consultants) and you don’t know how to explain what you do, that’s a problem.
His business partner, not knowing I was on the line, reminisced with [redacted] for 3 minutes about the marketing merits of ubiquitous pizza aroma in the city. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t hang up right then. The business partner then started in on the women of the city and [redacted] sensed the conversation was about to take a turn I shouldn’t be privy to. He stopped the business partner and introduced me, sort of.
[redacted]: “I’ve got a marketing guy on the line.”
Helpful Hint: If you waste my time and keep me on the phone with useless banter, I’m going to not like you (I only work with people I like).
Biz Partner: “Oh. Ok, go ahead.”
So I stepped in. I said, “OK. What is it that you do and what kind of help are you looking for?”
Biz Partner: “I guess you could say I’m a philanthropist.”
Helpful Hint: if your business partner doesn’t know what you do and describes his role first, that’s a problem.
“No,” I said, “What does your business do? I have no idea who you both are, what your business is, or what you do. I am just returning [redacted]’s call. Start from the beginning, please.”
Was it masochism? Maybe. I think my brain was having a hard time reconciling how these two had anything to do with running a business or being philanthropic. Presented with a mystery like that, I can kind of forgive myself for sticking around for the answer.
The two then hemmed and hawed over who would tell me what and what it was exactly they wanted to tell me. After listening to the two argue for 3 minutes over what it was they did and what they needed – something about a website, I interrupted.
Helpful Hint: if it takes you longer than 30 seconds to tell me what you do, even in general terms, you don’t have a business. You are a wantrepreneur.
“Look guys, I’ve been on the phone for 8 minutes. I don’t know who you are, what you do, what your business name is, or what you need from me. I want you to put those four bits of info into an email and send them my way.”
To clarify: there is no way in hell I was going to work with these ass-clowns at this point. I just really wanted to know what business they thought they were in.
Anyway, back to the call.
[redacted]: What do you mean?
“I need to know what kind of help you need. Do you need website help? Help with a strategy? Help to drive traffic? What is your goal?”
[redacted]: (to his business partner) “I have no idea what this guy is talking about, do you know?”
Biz Partner: “No…”
My brain locked up. What on earth? Did they forget who they had called? Or why? Or… that they had a business? Did they even know what a business is? Was I being punked? Ashton Kutcher, you clever bastard.
Helpful hint: If you’ve forgotten that you called a marketing guy, maybe you should just hang up. If you don’t know what you want to ask a marketing consultant, you’d better figure it out before you call one. If you don’t know what a website, strategy, or traffic have to do with marketing, you need to read “Business for Dummies” before you call a marketing guy. And, when you do, you sure as fuck had better not keep him on the phone for 8 minutes without telling him what you do, what your business name is, and what you want to do.
“Good luck with your business, you need to find another marketing consultant.” I hung up, my bullshit meter having hit full at 9 minutes 37 seconds.
[redacted], nor his philanthropist business partner, never told me what he did, what his full name was, what his business name was, what his website was… and he still called back TWO MORE TIMES.
I realized I had better make my requests crystal clear for the future. So, I decided to write a handy guide on how to be a good client (no matter who you work with). Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!