Like a lot of my articles on IFB, today's topic is the sort you hate to think about, but that you must think about. You've figured out your ad rates. You've gotten your media kit together. You've gotten several regular advertisers. And then disaster strikes. One of your advertisers is not only unhappy, they're very unhappy. What do you do?
If you're making money from your blog, then your blog is a business, and as as business owner, your reputation is everything. One unhappy advertiser can result in an untold number of lost ad contracts as they tell all their friends and business associates not to do business with you. As you can see, this is a very serious thing, and knowing how to appease an unhappy client is one of the most important things any small business owner can learn to do. After all, they have the power of the internet…same as you.
Listen and Validate
The first thing to do when an advertiser comes to you with a complaint is listen. Don't problem solve. Don't fix. Don't offer solutions. That part's coming, but right now the most important thing you can do is pay attention. Your client is obviously unhappy; empathize with their discontent and frustration, even if you're in the right. Just letting someone know that you've heard them does a world of good and helps get the conversation off to the right start.
Determine the Cause of the Dissatisfaction
Is the error on your end or the client's end? As publishers and content providers, clients often want to cast the blame our way when an ad doesn't work out. And sometimes the blogger is to blame. Whether it's missing a deadline, using an incorrect link, uploading an incorrect image, sending out a newsletter full of typos and grammar errors, or what have you, if you've messed up, fess up. The worst possible thing to do here is offer excuses or try to put the blame back on your client when you're the one in the wrong. Own up to your error, apologize, and try to make it right.
But what if the error is on your client's end? Did they send the wrong information? Have unreasonable expectations? Cancel a promotion or coupon without informing you? In that case, the fault isn't yours, but you'll still need tact and prudence to handle the situation. If you have an e-mail record of your conversations (and you should), this might be a good time to forward those emails along to your client. Similarly, if your media kit or your advertising contract address any of the issues your client is having, this might be a good time to refer to those policies in writing. The goal here is to remind your client of your agreement before moving forward to an equitable solution, if possible.
Remedy the Situation
Regardless of whether the error is yours or your clients, you still don't want to burn bridges and end things on a sour note (sometimes, bridge burning is unavoidable, but we'll talk about that in the next section). Do what you can, within reason, to fix things. That may take the form of extending an ad contract, giving a refund, offering a discount, resending a newsletter or tweet, or even making a public apology. Offer several different solutions so your client has a choice of remedies. A bad experience can sometimes leave people feeling like they don't have any options; give your client back some control over the situation with a variety of ways to fix it.
What If Things Just Can't Be Fixed?
Sometimes, no matter what you do or how hard your try, a client relationship just cannot be salvaged. This also seems like a good place to mention that no matter how unhappy an advertiser is, abusive conduct should never be tolerated. If a client is calling you names, sending you threats, or engaging in other kinds of harassing behavior, terminate contact immediately. You'll want to keep a record of what's happened so far (perhaps even storing a copy in the cloud or forwarding a copy to your attorney), but there is never an excuse for that kind of hostile behavior.
Even once it becomes clear that the advertising relationship is about to end on a bad note, it's still inappropriate to lash out or return harsh words for harsh words. Explain to your client why were unable to arrive a mutually agreeable solution, sign or cancel any relevant paperwork or checks, and wish your now-former client the best. And of course, it goes without saying that you never bad mouth a former client. Whatever happened between the two of your should remain between the two of you. No good comes from airing dirty laundry.
Have you ever had to deal with an unhappy advertiser? What did you do? Please share your experiences in the comments.
[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]