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What to Do When Clients Perpetually Miss Deadlines

Gray MacKenzie
Gray MacKenzie is a true operations nerd who has spent the past decade helping hundreds of agencies build more productive, profitable, and healthy teams by solving the core issues plaguing their project management.

To chat with Gray and have ZenPilot lead your team through the last project management implementation you'll ever need, schedule a quick call here.

As an agency, it’s undoubtedly going to happen one day … The client is late! 

It could be a payment, a piece of content or approval on a piece of content. The result? Your revenue pipeline is thrown off, or your campaign loses its invaluable momentum. 

So how does an agency prevent and attempt to avoid the past-the-deadline situation?

Before we dive into the semantics, be sure to check yourself as an agency. If you, and your team, are chronically late on your obligations then you have some serious work to do. Grab the reigns on your operations and do what’s necessary to get your team on track. If you aren’t going to be on time, don’t expect your clients to be either. 

In either situation, missed deadlines cause friction. And friction causes client fires, so it’s important to handle these instances strategically. 


Set Expectations

As the agency, you need to be the one setting the guidelines and making sure that the client follows your lead. They came to you to solve a problem for them, so take the initiative to ensure that the problem is resolved.

That means they follow your processes!

A client-agency relationship is a two-way street. Make sure the client is aware of their obligations. You are not just outsourced marketing, but a partner.

Reference your expectations in documents and emphasize them throughout the sales process.

Get yourself in the habit of overcommunicating.

It may be useful to brainstorm all the different headaches that clients missing deadlines would create for your agency. Then plan out how to address each of them in your sales and marketing processes.

Blend It Into the Process

Being prepared set a high level of professionalism at the beginning of the engagement. Be the one that sets standard. If you are prompt, organized, and reliable a client will know you’re not just another agency. You will be taken more seriously and respected.

Blend in setting expectations and penalties for missing delays right there in your contracts and documents.

Lean Labs sends their clients a risk management e-book to ensure clients know exactly is expected of them. Include information on expectations throughout your sales, marketing, and during your engagement.

If you do it correctly, clients will be bought into how you do business your way right from the start.


Confront the Issue

If delays become an issue, bring it up directly with your point of contact. If it’s not them, find the the name of the person responsible for the delay and bring it up with them.

Don’t be afraid to refuse to work if your money isn’t arriving!

Never work for free. Make it clear that you need the client to respect your business if they want you to respect theirs.

Overcoming the Content Problem

One frequent cause of delays is content. This can either mean relying on the client to send you content or getting approval on content. You need to find ways to overcome this. It will cause bottlenecks.

One way is with a GamePlan from the start to get all the information you need and have enough content for your retainer. Another method is scheduling weekly meetings and setting aside time to make sure they go through what they need to.

Be a strategic partner. They’re a business as well, and things get lost in the shuffle.

Make it easy for them to work with you and simplify what you need from them to do your job!

Enforce Penalties

If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile!

Don’t dole out punishment for an honest mistake, but be firm and make sure that you stick to the penalties you established. If you don’t penalize, they may take advantage of it.

If it continues too long, give the client an ultimatum. You don’t ever want it to get to this point, so put out little fires early on.

However, if worst comes to worst, don’t be afraid to put your foot down. You need to make sure that the client is respecting your business.


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