Clients Ignore Your Advice? Here’s What to Do

After I read my client’s email, I had to hold myself back from beating my head against my laptop.

“Heather, we agree with what you’re saying. But I think we’re going to go in a different direction and try something else first.”

AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!

Whether you work in-house or freelance, you’ve probably had moments like this. You spent hours carefully crafting a strategy, web page or idea. You have reams of paperwork supporting your recommendations.

And then the client goes in another direction. What? If they always planned on doing their own thing, why the hell did they hire you in the first place?

Yeah. It’s frustrating.

And there’s (generally) nothing you can do about it.

The good news is: Your client’s decision is typically not about you. They reached their decision based on a host of other factors.

Here’s why your client may be ignoring your advice:

– The boss believes that his/her strategy decision is the better one  (whether or not that reasoning is correct is irrelevant.) There is nothing you can say to change his or her mind. The decision has been made.

– Internal politics (that you typically know nothing about) are what’s driving the final strategy decision.

– The internal team is already overloaded. Instead of doing what’s hard (and more effective,) they prefer to do something easy and more within their control.

– The powers-that-be don’t trust your strategy because you’re an existing team member. Having said that, if they were to hire an outside consultant who said the same thing, your boss would implement those recommendations immediately.

– The internal team is arrogant, pure and simple. No matter what you say or do, they will always have a “better solution.” I highly recommend firing clients like this as soon as you possibly can.

– Your client is working with an SEO who is telling them something completely different. In some cases, the advice may be completely incorrect. This situation is extremely frustrating.

Your smart recommendations just got dissed. Now what?

– Resist the urge to call or send an email saying, “Why should I bother doing everything I’ve done for you if you’re just planning to blow off my advice.” Punch a pillow instead. Scream at your television. Hand write a nasty letter and rip it up. But for goodness sakes, do not let on that you’re frustrated, mad or feel slighted. If you do, the situation will not end well.

– While you’re punching your pillow, try to remember that their decision isn’t about you. They aren’t judging your expertise and finding it lacking. Their decision is all about them.

– When you’re calm – and preferably the next day – send an email outlining your suggested changes  and ask why your client decided to take a different direction. You need to do this (in writing) for a couple reasons. The first reason is a fact-finding one. If your client has other “things” going on – and they are willing to share – you can possibly adjust your recommendations accordingly.  The other reason is purely CYA. If your client’s “great” idea blows up, you don’t want to get blamed for it. And yes, this happens. A lot.

– Ask yourself if this is an ongoing pattern, or a one-off. If it’s a one-off, it’s typically no big deal and you can go back to business as usual. If your client always ignores your advice, ask yourself how you feel about that. Some people are able to shrug it off and merrily go on with life. Other people get frustrated, hurt and angry – no matter what the reason. If you fall into the frustrated camp, you may want to consider firing your client (or finding another job.) Things aren’t going to get any better. Believe me.

Unfortunately, this situation will rear its ugly head no matter where you work (or who you work with.) The key is to be as emotionless as you can about the situation. You can’t force a client to implement your recommendation, even if they’re paying you. Nor should you get offended when they don’t.

When things get tough and screaming into your pillow doesn’t work, just remember four wise words:

“You can’t fix stupid.”

It won’t make the pain go away completely, but it may make you feel a little bit better.

What about you? What do you do when a client ignores your recommendations?

4 replies
  1. Laura Crest says:

    Heather, I. Love. This. Yes, you “can’t fix stupid” and screaming into a pillow is wonderfully therapeutic. Have had to fire a client and it is no fun – but in the long-term scheme of things, it was the right thing to do. Thank you so much for your insights into the realities of handling the, um, arrogant client.

    Reply
  2. Beverly Bergman says:

    I love it — “You can’t fix stupid!”

    Thanks for the post, Heather. I know this happens to all of us, but when it happens to me, it’s hard to not take it personally. Your post helps.

    The energy such clients take from me isn’t worth the money in the end.

    Happy Birthday!

    Bev

    Reply

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  1. […] if you’re screening clients, you’ve probably also received some form of promise not to ignore your advice and to help obtain needed resources and cooperation from leadership.. So, with this assurance, […]

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