the customer is not always right


I have a confession to make. I’m no where close to being good at taking advice. See, all my life, I’ve learned the hard way but its the only way that I can call something my own. I’m very skeptical of things that people tell me and I take everything with a grain of salt. I have to experience everything myself to truly understand and I’ve learned some great things from mistakes and failure than I have learned from success.

Usually, if I’m helping someone, they’re less experienced than me. I don’t mean less intelligent or less of anything but I do mean less experienced. I’m but a tiny dot, not even a blip on the radar, in the world of eCommerce – you must be an ever smaller dot…spec of dust on the screen, maybe?

But I am experienced. I founded, ran and crashed my own eCommerce apparel site which generated $36k a year of passive income. I was part of the startup crew who launched a flash-sales site catering to the street, surf and skate market (streetwear) which generated revenues upwards of $250k a year.

I have some experience. So given my experience, what is a man to do when working with a client who won’t work with you on his marketing/business plan?

This particular client has a physical storefront but it needs a lot work. It’s in a not-so-safe location and is near the freeway but on a busy traffic. He’s fortunate enough to have his own parking lot but the location is not a stand-alone building and is pretty hard to notice when walking by, let alone driving by.

He wants to focus pushing his brand and he’s been going about doing this his own way – advertising with slap-stick stickers – for about 3-4 years now. It’s obviously not working. Frankly, his designs are sub-par and he should use the money that he has to hire a graphic designer or to spruce up his store rather than pushing his brand.

My advice to him was to stop throwing away money by making more shirts, accessories and stickers and instead remodel the store and focus on lean/low-cost marketing through consignment (selling other brands in the store). Utilize the space you have the space you have now. Maximize.

The response, and this is the way I heard it, “No, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and hope it works.”

Marketing doesn’t work like that. Marketing is dynamic and requires you adjust as you go judging by the feedback or response from your target demographic and marketing efforts.

The customer is NOT always right. Not even 80% of the time. Not even 90% of the time. But you can either choose to bite your tongue or you can do your job and help. So what can you do when your client disagrees with you? What can you do when you and your client are at a stalemate? I usually succumb to 4 decisions:

1) Give the client what he wants. He’ll keep shelling out the cash and wondering why he’s so deep in the hole. You’ll feel guilty and you’ll end up with a massive headache when he asks you what you’re doing wrong.

2) Keep pushing for what you think would work best. Most likely, the client won’t listen and eventually drop you.

3) Drop the client. One source of income gone but you could be focusing your efforts elsewhere with someone who will listen to you.

4) Prove him wrong. Run your own marketing campaign and show him that its better than his. Often times, this would be the best decision. You can show him hard data and results.

May favorite is #4 (However, in my case, it won’t work since I would need access and use to the physical storefront). It shows how dedicated you are and how invested you are in the client’s success. Normally, I won’t go for #3 since I don’t take on anyone I can’t help. #1 and #2 only furthers the stalemate but you will only lose in the long run (although you do make a nice consultation fee).

Of course, you’d have to gauge where you are in the marketing process, if the client will even consider your advice or if you should do the bare minimum and give the customer what he wants because your efforts are going to waste.

It’s all up to you.