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5 Clients to Dump Now (and how to do it)



youre fired

Without clients, our respective businesses simply wouldn’t exist.  However, the relationship with some clients can be so bad, you are much better off parting ways.

When one crosses the line, should you try to salvage the relationship, or do you deliver a satisfying Trump-like “You’re Fired!”?  

If only it were that easy.  Burning bridges isn’t wise. 

Here’s my list of Top 5 must-dump clients, and how to do it. 

1. The Cheapskate: Have you noticed that the client who pays the least expects the most?  If they nickel and dime you right out of the gate – run, do not walk.  This client will change scope, change their mind, and change strategies to the point where your average hourly rate pales to that of a baby sitter.

How to break up: Easy: Raise your rates.  He doesn’t value your work, and sees you as a drag to the bottom line.  You can’t win.

2. Never Satisfied Guy: No matter how may miracles you pull out of your ear, it’s never good enough.  This client isn’t ever going to be happy with your work.  It may be a communication issue – where he has something in mind he can’t pinpoint or articulate.  Or, he just plain doesn’t know what he wants.  Naturally you can’t deliver on the unknown.

How to break up: Remember, you risk this guy bad mouthing you.  So, if you’ve finished the project, make it clear you’ve conformed to the scope originally agreed upon and cite the agreements from the onset of the engagement.  It’s important he understands you delivered exactly what he asked for.  When he asks for additional work, you may want to say previous commitments will prevent any additional work now, and refer him to someone else. 

3. Abusive Guy:  If it feels abusive, it is.  You’re a professional, not a slave.  Nobody deserves abuse anywhere.    

How to break up: Stop the engagement.  Make sure all invoices are paid and hand over work to date. 

4. Einstein:  You know him!  In his mind, he’s forgotten more about what you do than you will ever know.  And, he took a (fill in the blank) course in college (hey, so did I!).  So, why did he hire you in the first place?

How to break up:  Like with Abusive Guy, stop the work and get all invoices up to date.  Additionally, Einstein will probably take a crack at what you started, so you may want to make certain his final output can not be tied back to you as it could sully your reputation.

5.  Zero attention-span guy: He sends you 57 emails a day, most of them after 9pm.  They are all on the same topic, but he’s managed to flip flop so much within each email, now even you’re confused.

How to break up:  There might be a way to salvage this to make it through the end of the gig.  First, let him know that you can’t deliver on your deadlines when he misses his.  You may even want to attach additional billable hours to missed deadlines.  To work with this guy requires an iron hand in a velvet glove.  If that’s not you, he probably won’t change his behavior, so you may want to shy away from future work.

Now, I realize if you’re an agent, some of the “how to break up” advice may not apply.  That said, tell me if you’ve run into some of these guys (or gals, as the case may be) and how you said good bye.


Brandie is an unapologetically candid marketing professional who was recently mentioned on BusinessWeek as a Top Young Female Entrepreneur. She recently co-founded consulting firm MarketingTBD. She's held senior level positions with GE and Fidelity, as well as with entrepreneurial start-ups. Raised by a real estate Broker, Brandie is passionate about real estate and is an avid investor. Follow her on Twitter.

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  1. John Wake

    September 24, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    One of the best aspects of selling real estate is the ability to fire clients. I can put up with most anyone for 30 to 45 days but having the freedom to bail out is liberating. I’ve never regretted dumping a client.

  2. Portland Real Estate

    September 24, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I have been there, some people just have ridiculous expectations that I would never be able to meet. Be realistic in what you can provide for people without it being a drag on your life or your other deals. If its going to cause you too much stress, let them go.


  3. MIssy Caulk

    September 24, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I’ve fired a few. Not many but a few. I have also deleted from my data base 2 clients in 14 years.
    I never wanted to hear from them again.

  4. allison crow

    September 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    fired a cheapscape and an abusive elderly couple last week:) felt good.

  5. Linsey Planeta

    September 24, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    I have had to fire clients. As a matter of fact, I fired one late last week. It felt painful and expensive and yet I knew that no amount of work would turn this into a satisfied customer (or a paycheck for that matter). She didn’t fit into these categories; she was the absolutely ‘Terrified Buyer’.

    I wrote about this some time ago and continue to think about it because if you’ve been in the business for any length of time – you’ve been through firing a client. But one thing I am coming to grips with is that – it’s ultimately my fault.

    It’s interesting that Missy has had to fire so few in that many years. The difference, I suspect (and Missy feel free to jump in), is that she’s listening to her inner voice far sooner. The red flags show and I suspect that she ends it sooner than I have been.

    The economy has certainly played a role in my job and willingness to exhaust ‘leads’. I suspect I am working far longer than I should when clearly my time might be better spent moving on from some of them.

    John says that he’s ‘never regretted dumping a client.’ My only regret is that I didn’t dump them sooner.

  6. Ruthmarie Hicks

    September 24, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Actually, this is a pretty good list. I particularly like “Einstein.” Sometimes I think that everyone thinks they are a real estate expert. And yes! I have to ask the question – why did they call me in the first place if they knew so much more than me.

  7. Bill Lublin

    September 24, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Brandie – Your professional demeanor shows through in this post as does your advice – great job!

  8. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 25, 2009 at 2:25 am

    I’ve yet to fire one after engaging with them, but I’ve wanted to.

    I’ve refused to take a few after the initial phone conversation. Just flat out told them that no, I’m not meeting you at a gated locked up neighborhood 45 minutes from now…late on a Saturday evening. Sorry!


  9. Joe Loomer

    September 25, 2009 at 6:35 am

    I’ve fired a few in my time but something in my character usually makes it quite late (and painful) in the game by the time it happens. I refuse to give up on them until I realize the time-suck is killing my ability to generate other business.

    Agree with Ruthmarie about the Einsteins- especially in this age. These are the ones that look at you sideways no matter what you say – casting that cynical gaze that screams “I don’t believe you! I know better! I’m EINSTEIN!”

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  10. Brandie Young

    September 25, 2009 at 11:55 am

    John – I agree. Having the option to choose to/not to work with certain clients is a perk!

    Tyler – True! Realistic expectations are very important.

    Missy – It sounds like you’ve done a great job attracting the type of clients you want. No surprise, having met you.

    Linsey – Good points! I didn’t think of “Terrified Guy” – the client that just can’t pull the trigger. And, it’s reasonable to assume we all are feeling some pressure from the economy and perhaps waiting just a little longer to end a relationship. But, at the end of the day I like the way Tyler put it “Be realistic in what you can provide for people without it being a drag on your life or your other deals.”

    Ruthmarie – I think there are more “Einsteins” than we realize!

    Bill – Thank you!

  11. Brandie Young

    September 25, 2009 at 11:59 am

    RM – Good for you, standing your ground.

    Joe – It is painful, true. But the best move for all involved.

  12. Mark Jacobs

    September 25, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Great post, As agents we need to be very picky on who we work with. It could cost you a lot of time and money.

    Augusta Real Estate

  13. Hal Lublin

    September 29, 2009 at 10:46 am

    I think I’ve worked with ALL of these people. Ugh.

  14. Doug Francis

    January 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    People are going to be… people. I too have worked with all of these people and tortured myself during the experience. Once it was over, it was like a new day had dawned, and I was my old self again.

    If we could just limit all these people then the real estate business would be so cool. On second thought, I guess we still need all these people, dar-n it.

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Business Marketing

The use of offline marketing can still be advantageous in a digital world

(BUSINESS) Offline marketing is usually skipped over nowadays for the sparkly, shining ‘digital’ marketing strategies, but don’t forget the roots.



offline marketing billboard

Everywhere you look, people want to talk about digital marketing. In fact, if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy in today’s business world, you’re not going to last long. But just because digital marketing is popular, don’t assume that offline marketing no longer yields value.

When used together, these strategies can produce significant returns.

“Some people will argue that traditional marketing is dead, but there are several benefits to including offline advertising in your overall marketing campaign,” sales expert Larry Myler admits. “Combining both offline and online campaigns can help boost your brand’s visibility, and help it stand out amongst competitors who may be busy flooding the digital space.”

How do you use offline marketing in a manner that’s both cost-effective and high in exposure? While your business will dictate how you should proceed, here are a few offline marketing methods that still return considerable value in today’s marketplace.

1. Yard signs

When most people think about yard signs, their minds immediately go to political signs that you see posted everywhere during campaign season. However, yard signs have a lot more utility and value beyond campaigning. They’re actually an extremely cost-effective form of offline advertising.

The great thing about yard signs is that you can print your own custom designs for just dollars and, when properly stored, they last for years. They’re also free to place, assuming you have access to property where it’s legal to advertise. This makes them a practical addition to a low-budget marketing campaign.

2. Billboards

The fact that you notice billboards when driving down an interstate or highway is a testament to the reality that other people are also being exposed to these valuable advertisements. If you’ve never considered implementing billboards into your marketing strategy, now’s a good time to think about it.

With billboard advertising, you have to be really careful with design, structure, and execution. “Considering we’re on the move when we read billboards, we don’t have a lot of time to take them in. Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard,” copywriter Paul Suggett explains. “So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.”

3. Promotional giveaways

It’s the tangible nature of physical marketing that makes it so valuable. Yard signs and billboards are great, but make sure you’re also taking advantage of promotional giveaways as a way of getting something into the hands of your customers.

Promotional giveaways, no matter how simple, generally produce a healthy return on investment. They increase brand awareness and recall, while giving customers positive associations with your brand. (Who doesn’t love getting something for free?)

4. Local event sponsorships

One aspect of offline marketing businesses frequently forget about is local event sponsorships. These sponsorships are usually cost-effective and tend to offer great returns in terms of audience engagement.

Local event sponsorships can usually be found simply by checking the calendar of events in your city. Any time there’s a public event, farmer’s market, parade, sporting event, concert, or fundraiser, there’s an opportunity for you to get your name out there. Look for events where you feel like your target audience is most likely to attend.

Offline marketing is anything but dead.

If your goal is to stand out in a crowded marketplace where all your competitors are investing heavily in social media, SEO, PPC advertising, and blogging, then it’s certainly worth supplementing your existing digital strategy with traditional offline marketing methods that reach your audience at multiple touchpoints.

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Business Marketing

What you can learn from Ulta Beauty’s marketing mix up with Kate Spade

(MARKETING) Ulta Beauty’s insensitive marketing email surrounding the Kate Spade brand can be a lesson: Be cautious and respond to crisis appropriately.



Woman typing on computer representing the Ulta Beauty and Kate Spade email scandal

Last week in an email sent to subscribers, Ulta Beauty made light of designer Kate Spade’s suicide. Ulta said the lighthearted connection to Spade’s death was unintentional. The email sparked anger across social media and some national news outlets picked up the story. In an emailed response to the New York Post, Ulta apologized to their customers, their Kate Spade corporate partners, and Kate Spade’s family. They ended by saying they will strive to do better.

Words matter. Messaging matters. Hopefully, we can all learn a lesson from this painful mistake.

Check your tone. It’s one of the early things we teach writing students. The tone should match the content. If the icon you’re using to sell a product ended their own life, perhaps light and fun isn’t the tone you should embrace. Ever. But most businesses won’t be dealing with well-known people whose stories have been shared with millions. It’s up to business owners and those who write their copy to ensure the tone matches the message.

Always have a second pair of eyes look over words going out to the public. Or even a third and fourth. Often those in the creative room are brainstorming messages, reworking copy, and looking for the perfect pitch. And they get it. It sounds good, looks good, is easy to say and share, and, best of all, it will lead to sales. Having a multi-person system in place to check the copy and someone separate to give final approval can help catch the oh-my-God-no great words, but absolutely not pieces of sales copy.

Listen to your customer base and have a system in place to listen quickly. All businesses need systems for immediate customer response in play. Ulta caught their so-called oversight quickly.  But they’re a huge brand and Kate Spade was a beloved fashion icon. The negative response went viral and they had a giant mess to clean up. Companies make messes with their words often, messes that don’t immediately go viral but lead to real pain for consumers. When customers ask you to stop a message, listen to them and act.

Apologies don’t make excuses. If you’re caught in a messaging mess of your own making, I’m sorry goes a long way. If needed, follow that apology up with a plan to show you’re serious about “doing better” and making sure this never happens again.

If you find yourself in a place where a public apology is necessary, consider hiring a crisis manager to help with that plan as well.

Part of business today is constant communication with consumers. Try to have systems in place so you don’t find yourself in a “learning to do better” moment like Ulta. Words aren’t just about sales. They have power. Remember that.

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Business Marketing

Experience Design & Marketing: Where do they intersect, where do they diverge?

(MARKETING) The field of marketing has been around the sun and back, whereas experience design is a newer, but growing field. Where do they overlap?



marketing trends and experience design

Identify, understand, educate, promise, and fulfill. Is that marketing or experience design? Is it both? The closer we get to marketing in the digital spaces* being truly organic and less about carpeting mobile sites with pop-ups and interruptions, the more marketing and experience design (XD)** start to intersect.

Software experiences used to be only about getting jobs done and the learning curve it took to operate that software was accepted as unavoidable. There was no expectation for ease of use and the competitive landscape was far smaller. The same can be said of marketing; when the pool of offers and services were drastically smaller, you won with volume or referral. Now there are deep expectations for human-computer interactions, expectations of low friction when dealing with a system or entity, and more choices than there are biting Tweets. Volume rarely wins anymore unless the traffic spend is massive or the niche is narrow. Both of these are the result of crowded, loud marketplaces and way more noise than signal. So what did marketing do? What did XD do? They turn to delivering more curated, personal interactions and messages. Those are now driven not by gross demographics and forty pieces of car dealership push cards in my mailbox, but by extrapolated wants and needs taken from human voices and applied to custom outreach.

  1. XD uses ceremonies and activities to discover and define our version of market evaluation and segmentation.
  2. XD prototypes and iterates based on focus groups, unmoderated testing, business requirements validation, and the things they expose. That’s our audience testing.
  3. XD seeks to remove the uninteresting, unused, or unnecessary parts of a decision tree (journey if we must lingo) based on response and introduce a version sans those things to drive closer to the intent and outcome. This is our nurture.
  4. XD uses continuous feedback to improve, refine, and in some cases recommend next steps, products, adjustments, or augmentations. That is our remarketing/retargeting, it’s how we adjust the “campaign”.

And those are only the most obvious fibers of the common thread the disciplines share. Others with a deeper knowledge of both topics can surely add to this list tenfold. The essence of this examination is to ask the question, should marketing and experience design work in tandem? Under one shingle? Can they coexist as a federated faction under the larger umbrella of CX?

They are both a part of a unified journey and the natural progression from first exposure to adoption to “damn I love this thing, I think I’ll TikTok about it” for products and services. That kind of melding could serve a common goal; seamless brand engagement.

The people that consume whatever is being offered don’t see us, the company, the thing, as a cluster of siloed pods vaguely marching in the same direction. They see us as a whole and our disciplines should support that impression.

Marketers and Experience folk– integrate! Learn each other’s wares and purposes, share things that work and definitely those that don’t. XD gang, I mean really combining to achieve specific goals. Don’t just send them a Jake Knapp YouTube, find common goals. And marketing kin, this means more than citing some Sprinklr data and the latest NPS around trending SEO. Wonder Twin into a test and prove machine, use HCD tactics to undercover new copy strategies, and test it with a group in a Pepsi/Coke standoff. I know you are A/B-ing your work, but you can narrow that lane before you traffic it. We can learn from each other, we can benefit from one another, greatly.

I’m betting we can forge something slightly fresher than passing people through our business cotton gin and expecting them to feel like we are one. What are the afterimages that last from the time I see a LinkedIn post, follow to the affiliate, subscribe/buy and actually get something good out of the product? Don’t tell me there isn’t a marketing/design love story in there.

I look forward to following up on this with an actionable plan and (hopefully) killer outputs.

Be well, feel good, and know peace.

*Experience Design as a proper name encompasses exactly what is in the eponymous name; the experience is every interaction, passive or active, through the entire cycle. From the first shred of awareness of a product or service to the lasting relationship made– that is experience in this context.

**I’m not going to call it Digital Marketing anymore, pretty sure we aren’t doing direct mail along with our IG ads

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