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Fresh Cuts

  • Writer's pictureDrew Donaldson

How to Break Up With Your Client

January 2, 2023

Dear Business Diary,

You’d think the start of a new year would bring with it renewed hope, but I fear the worst. My weekly client check-ins have started to become more and more time-consuming, with less and less accomplished. This does not bode well.

January 28, 2023

Dear Business Diary,

It’s tough right now. It doesn’t feel the same between us. There’s this distance that seems to be growing daily, expanding out like a balloon. I fear it might pop.

February 14, 2023

Dear Business Diary,

It had to be done. I officially broke up with my client today. I might be the worst person ever to do it on Valentine’s Day, but I’ve come to realize that my business is my one true love. Clients will come and go, but my entrepreneurial start-up is forever. Till death do us part, snuggle bear.

Do these diary entries sound like your own? If so, you’ve experienced the heartache that comes when a client relationship doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s a slow decline, with signs along the way that all point to divorce. Other times, it’s a sudden split that you weren’t expecting. Regardless of how it happens, some client relationships will just have to end and you should be prepared to handle them when they do.

Read on to learn more about what GroHaus, your official marketing/dating coach, has to say about bidding goodbye to a client.

The Waning Email Flirt

You’ve lovingly nurtured your business’s opt-in email subscribers, instead of going on blind dates with pre-bought email lists (a dating cardinal sin). Well done. It can be personally gratifying when you see that list grow and grow, your showers of attention and gifts paying off (quite literally)! However, your old flames, subscribers who are no longer reading your emails, but who won’t unsubscribe or discount them as spam, are the ones to put on the watch. So, how do you know when you should cut the ties that bond, like I’m-sucking-the-revenue-life-blood-out-of- your-email-campaign bond? Well, your dating guru, Coach Growth, has the inside scoop (available in chocolate or vanilla) on strained email connections.

Bounce House

I know you are picturing a bunch of sugar-high kids, legs flying in the air, landing with joyful glee on a large, inflated nylon pen. Alas, we are talking about the email bounce house, less of childhood wonder and more of a padded cell of unrequited love. I know, way less fun, but a bounced email is a big indicator it’s time to say farewell to a client. A bounced email is an email you’ve sent that comes back as undeliverable. Talk about rejection. What’s worse, you can be rejected in two ways, via a hard bounce or a soft bounce.

Hard bounces are the ultimate brush-off; the email address is invalid. Whether the client meant to or not (for pride’s sake, we will go with not), the email address provided does not exist, just like a future relationship with this client. It’s time to remove all contact information for this person from your dating list. Insert sigh of resignation.

Soft bounces are, as the name implies, more ambiguous. You will receive an email back either because the client’s inbox is full, the mail server is currently inaccessible, or the email address no longer belongs to the party. Soft bounces, especially several of them in a row, should be conclusive evidence that your client is no longer checking mail at that particular email address. It appears that this client has been through a breakup as well, only with his or her email account. It’s time for you to do some breaking up as well. Salute the email gods for letting you know and move on.

Never Mind

Ah, the never-mind clients. These are the ones that will sucker punch you right where it hurts, in your entrepreneurial heart. 35% of companies send their clients 3-5 emails a week. If some clients are not opening any of those emails (according to your analytics report), then it is time to face the hard truth. They are just not that into you. They thought they were. You thought they were. But, they have detonated the never-mind bomb on you, and before your business becomes collateral damage, you need to cut your losses and run.

Clean House

If you are still not sure whether some of your clients are crushin’ on you, you could always just clean the house, your email house, that is. Here are a few email-cleaning tactics that will help you filter out who wants to stick around and who has lost interest.

  1. We Need to Talk: From polling for feedback, or communication to requesting opt-ins, you can easily figure out who still wants to hang out by asking your clients a question. Note the ones who respond and cut the ones that don’t.

  2. Re-Woo Clients: Some of your clients may still value the relationship, but have just lost interest in what you’ve been providing recently. So woo them all over again by offering enticing gifts, unique benefits, or personalized content. If you are still being ghosted by a client or two, it is time to say farewell.

  3. Re-Commitment Ceremony: It’s vow renewal day. Send another opt-in email to your least interested clients, and if they choose not to recommit to you, it’s their loss.

And that’s it for this episode of The Waning Email Flirt. Stay tuned next week for Coach Growth’s special coping-with-grief episode, Pushed Too Far: The Unsubscribe Button.

The Failed Call Dance

“Oh, I wanna dance with somebody. I wanna feel the heat with somebody. Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody, with somebody who loves me.” - Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon (probably)

We hear you, Jeff, which is why Coach Growth encourages small business owners to put on their vulnerability hats (available in blue and gray) and ask potential clients to dance. You can cold-call dance with a client or warm-call dance with a client, but there will always be no-call dance clients and this dating tip section will help you handle that rejection.

The Cold-Call Dance

Blind Date

Yes, we are Alexander Graham Bell fans, people. Call your clients. The first type of call you can do is the cold call, which is when you call someone who has had no experience with your company before. Yes, you are about to go on a blind date, but before you do, increase the odds of success by making your blind date pool an intentional one.

Spend time creating your ideal customer profile, find commonalities in your highest-paying clients (i.e., shared industries, job titles, locations, etc), and garner intel from current customers about how your product solves real-time issues for them. Armed with this information, scour LinkedIn and other public domain information sources to develop a pretty impressive dating pool. Pat yourself on the back.

After you develop your list, it’s time to put yourself out there. Use Hubspot’s cold-call script and start the new-client acquisition dance, but be prepared for rejection. As R.E.M. preaches, everybody hurts sometimes, and I’m pretty sure he was talking about his cold-calling experience back in the day.

Closing Time

Semisonic knows when to shut the doors, but do you? There are three possible results of a cold-call dance:

Scenario #1:

Your blind date stomps on your toes at the start of the dance and marches off the dance floor. This is in the form of a hang-up two seconds into the conversation, or the mid-conversation, “no thank-you,” followed by a dial tone.

You might try again, with a different sales representative, who offers a different style of dance. But if your date continues to assault your feet, it’s time to cut them from your call list. Sayonara.

Scenario #2:

Your blind date is actually receptive to your dance moves and starts waltzing with you. Move over Fred Astaire. Take this person off your cold-call list, and, with pride, move them over to your new client list. Nice dance moves, Casanova.

Scenario #3:

Your blind date starts awkwardly dancing with you. Hands on shoulders? No, that doesn’t feel right. Too formal. Hands on waist? No, that doesn’t feel right, either. Way too intimate. Just sway in front of each other, arms at the side? No, that’s just weird. So, you are forced to put your blind date on pause, to be resumed at a later date. Your cold call just turned into a warm call.

The Warm-Call Dance

Second Date

The blind date was semi-successful. You didn’t get a “no,” but you didn’t get a “yes,” either. It’s time for a second date, and this time you intend to dance as if your business life depends on it, and in some ways, it does. No pressure or anything. So, warm calls involve calling a client who has had interaction with your company before. There are ways to ensure warm-calling goes well, like limiting your calls to four over twelve days or alternating the times of day you call. You are over 4 times more likely to get an appointment out of a warm call if you have built a good rapport. And that’s really the purpose of warm calls, to create a trust foundation that will lead to a lasting business relationship.

Dance Fail

But, let’s say you follow all the rules of warm-call dancing, and you still aren’t getting into a groove with your potential client. When should you exit the dance competition? Here are five signs that a warm-call dance is failing and a sprained ankle is imminent.

  1. Wishy-Washy: If your four calls in twelve days still elicit “I don’t knows” from your dance partner, then it’s time to leave the gala. Hiring a client who doubts your value is an uphill dance battle (which is a new hit dance competition show on NBC).

  2. Money Trouble: If it’s clear from your partner’s dance clothes and lack of financial commitment that he or she doesn’t have the budget to dance with you much longer, call it a night.

  3. Haunted by Ghosts: If your second, third, and fourth calls go straight to voicemail, and your voicemails aren’t eliciting a call back, it’s time to exit the dance floor. You’ve been ghosted.

  4. No More Hellos: If, after four calls, your dance partner has not introduced you to other members of his dance crew (i.e. stakeholders, collaborators, higher-level executives), then it’s time to bid adieu. Your dance partner does not have the dance authority to keep the dance going with you.

  5. One Size Does Not Fit All: Sometimes it’s just not a good fit and that’s okay. If, after learning more about your potential dance partner, you feel your services or products won’t be mutually beneficial, it’s perfectly permissible to end the dance before it even begins. Your candor will be appreciated and your professionalism valued.

Coach Growth has all the call-dance moves to help your business succeed with phone call campaigns. Feel free to warm-call us today. We wanna dance with somebody, with somebody who loves us.

The Divorce

You’ve called your client's divorce attorney to get some guidance on the next best steps. You’ve seen some big warning signs. The client is no longer flirting over email or call-dancing up a storm with you, but you want a tad bit more information on whether it’s really time to call it quits. According to the online business periodical,, here are some additional red flags that all point to client termination, and the sad divorce of your client-business relationship.

The Time Suck

The adage, “time is money,” rings true with clients who demand an unfair allotment of your time for the same price as other, less time-sucky clients. If a customer’s lifetime value is actually costing you money, then it’s time to draft up some divorce papers and sign on the dotted line.

The Nitpick

No one likes a nitpick and if your client is consistently making mountains out of molehills, the moment has come to take your leave. Constant Nitpicking of your work will breed resentment, cancer that eats away at healthy business relationships until both parties are the worse for wear. It’s best to get out sooner rather than later.

The Deadweight

Does it feel like sometimes you're dancing with a corpse? Assuming your regular communication strategies are solid, a client not fulfilling his or her part by responding with approvals, denials, or compromises, suggests a level of client disrespect that cannot be permitted. It’s time to move out and move on.

The Hostile Territory

There’s a time when even “agree to disagree” doesn’t work for the two of you anymore and the collective animosity has reached a boiling point. If you’ve tried everything in the business blue book to increase the value of your relationship and it’s still not getting better, please do yourself a favor and exit with grace. Be the mature one and let the toddler throw a fit elsewhere.

The End...or The Beginning

You’ve just made the difficult last client call, incorporating all of the professional modicum you could muster. You used your pre-planned script and, without blame, told the client the partnership was over. You did so with plenty of notice, respectful candor, and personalized tips for future growth. This is the end of one relationship, but the beginning of many more. As the saying goes, when one door closes, another always opens.

GroHaus: Your Open Door

Consider opening your small business door to GroHaus, a marketing teammate that can help bolster your success while cheering you on. For as little as $297/month, you’ll have access to a dedicated marketing strategist and our best practice resources. Don’t let the process of dumping a client get you down in the dumps. Throw away your tissues, put down the ice cream spoon, and begin a new partnership, one that will have you writing on landing pages, social media platforms, newsletters, blogs... everything BUT a diary.

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