I fired a client this week.
This client was the longest running client in my company’s history, they just racked up their best lead generation month in the company’s entire history, and I fired them.
It was a decision I didn’t make lightly, but I made it decisively. I admit I’m sad about losing this company as a client.
They weren’t my most profitable client, but I liked them, admired their passion, and I loved watching their business blossom. But I also have a strong base of ethics I support.
Why did I fire them?
They were using a different marketing vendor (a friend) for a project and allowed this vendor to position the company in an obviously deceptive way.
Ethical behavior in marketing is a decision you make, not something you fall into.
Sometimes people make mistakes, I understand, I’ve made my own mistakes. Sometimes a mistake isn’t a mistake, and it’s a shifty and shady marketing decision that has no outcome other than to deceive potential customers.
Unfortunately, this was not a mistake.
The client didn’t let me know what they were doing proactively, I discovered the issue because I saw some discrepancies in their data and started digging. I was the one who brought it to my client’s attention. “I’ll let [friend/vendor] know.” was the client’s response initially and I assumed they would correct their behavior and reverse their actions.
Two weeks later the issue was still active and live, and the response from the client was, “Sunny, I know. We are doing this on purpose. No need to notify me about this anymore.”
There’s a lot to unpack in that last response, but that’s a wholly different post and a completely different therapy session.
I love my clients.
The relationships I have with my clients and vendors are important to me personally and professionally. I work hard to forge and strengthen them over time. I like to think these relationships are built on a foundation of mutual respect as we’re working towards a common goal. I’m careful about client fit before signing on a new client because I want great clients, great relationships, and great outcomes.
I’m an advocate for all of my clients, and some would even say I’m a walking billboard for my clients. I love to talk them up, gush about how amazing their employees and leadership are, the nitty gritty customer benefits of their products, how happy their customers are, and this is in no way disingenuous – it’s 100% sincere enthusiasm.
So, when it comes time to correct what I hope is a simple mistake, and my client doubles down on unethical behavior, rejects my recommendation to keep them out of legal trouble and to protect their brand, and tells me flat-out they support this deceptive practice, I have no choice but to walk away.
As a consultant, it’s not my job to run someone’s company. It’s my job to make and implement educated and informed recommendations. My clients and I won’t always agree on the recommendations I make, and that’s their prerogative, but it’s also beholden to me to act in a professional, ethical, and legally compliant way.
The end of a client relationship isn’t all bad news!
In response to events like this and other larger unethical and illegal activities present in the marketing industry at large, I’ve created and published a set of ethical standards for Hunt Interaction, vendors, and clients. Every new client will receive a copy of these standards with their initial agreement so they can hold us, and we them, accountable for our mutual actions.
I needed a line in the sand, and my clients deserve to know what to expect from my company when they sign on. It’s my hope that these ethical standards help move us in a mutually agreed-upon and positive direction.
I firmly believe that my clients deserve a better class of marketer, one that has their best interests at heart, who treats everyone with respect, and who works diligently to make them smarter about their customers and how to deliver real value to them.
It also appears we have an opening for a new client. If you’re a service-oriented company (SaaS, B2B or B2C service-focused company, established or startup) and are interested in cultivating a horde of customers who are eager to pay full price, love your products and how they make their lives better, and who eagerly refer friends and family to your company, we need to chat.