One of our recent monthly training sessions was centered on how to best service our clients. As we all know, clients can be difficult and challenging. Understanding personalities of those we deal with is the first step in figuring out how to best service them.

Based on my personal observation of client behaviors, I’ve been able to categorize them into various personality types. Below is my list of client personality types and what tactics I use to successfully work with them.

The Nitpicker

The Nitpicker focuses on what’s going wrong with an account vs. what’s going well. Nitpickers feel the need to point out everything that’s wrong as a means of motivating the agency or contractor to work harder. Nitpickers tend to create adversarial relationships and are very rarely satisfied. Often, the nitpicker adopts an attitude of ‘you don’t work with me, you work for me’.

The Sky Faller

Ever had one of those clients where they act like the sky is falling? I call this client type the ‘The Sky Faller” because they act as if the fate of their entire business hinges on every task you perform. Urgency is often exaggerated and used as a tactic to ‘keep things moving’. Last minute changes to strategies and goals are a deliberate way to keep you off balance.

The Drifter

I define ‘the drifter’ as the client that doesn’t have a solid vision or goals for their paid search program. You probably have worked with this kind of client based on hearing phrases such as ‘I just want results’ or ‘I hired you to tell me’. Clients who make these overly general statements do so because they can’t define good or bad results. Nor can they articulate what success looks like to them. This disconnect leads to a misalignment between what the client wants and what the agency or consultant is trying to achieve.

The Walking Dead

I find this type of client the most difficult and frustrating to work with due to their lack of feedback and guidance. Instead, this client type tends to pile up their complaints and hit you all at once about everything their displeased with. Clients who fall into this category provide very little information or resources to help you succeed.

The Geek

I define ‘The Geek’ as a client who is more interested in having the latest and greatest technology and automation in place at the expense of solid strategies and goals. If you’re a PPC geek like I am, it can be a lot of fun to work with this type of client because they love ‘the cool stuff’ such as automated bid rules and scripts. However, if you’re ultimately being judged on reaching defined goals and objectives, frustration can easily set in because the focus on deploying technology and automation is not aligned towards meeting objectives.

So How Do I Deal With These Client Types?

Now that I’ve shared how I categorize difficult clients, we’re going to discuss what tactics I use to better work with them.

Working with the Nitpicker

The nitpicker perceives they’re not receiving enough valuable information to feel comfortable making decisions. Combat this by justifying everything you work on. I do this by explaining both verbally and in written form what I’m working on, why I’m working on it, and setting expectations based on hard data. Doing this takes away any opportunity for the client to nitpick your work.

Working with the Sky Faller

The best approach to take with this type of client is staying the course. When a client is panicking over a bad day or week, it’s easy to feel that pressure and change direction. Make sure your strategies are well defined and communicated very clearly. Always have a plan to deal with immediate problems but always tie it back to the master strategy.

Working with the Drifter

The most successful approach I’ve had working with ‘the drifter’ is to take control of the situation by developing, recommending, and heavily advocating for specific goals to achieve and projects to work on. Forcefully make your case for what direction the client should take their PPC program and seek their buy in and agreement.

Working with the Walking Dead

To successfully work with this client profile, I believe its absolutely critical to force communication by drawing them into the conversation. If they are not forthcoming, I ask the client very directly for their feedback. Non-responsive clients will save up their grievances, so ask questions like ‘What am I doing well’? ‘Where can I improve’? ‘What can I do for you that I’m not doing now”? Asking these questions forces a response, which will lead to a more open, less intense atmosphere.

Working with ‘The Geek’

I’ve found success with this type of client by steering conversations towards big ideas and achieving them through the use of technology and automation. I also remind them that using technology or automation just for the sake of using it will not lead to success. Always steer the conversation back to setting and reaching well thought out business goals.

Final Thoughts

PPC accounts are often reflections of a client’s personality. Identifying their personality type and developing a strategy for dealing with them will lead to better outcomes and will keep your relationships fruitful and productive for a long time to come!