How To Deal With Bad Clients (Your PPC Agency’s Biggest Nightmare)

This article discusses how to deal with bad clients by providing a list of red flags that you can use as guideposts during your early interactions.

Greatest hits

Late night calls, bottlenecks, and unrealistic expectations…

Those bad client stories that drain your resources, restrict your team’s capacity to deliver value and stunt the growth of your business.

You tell yourself it won’t happen again. Next time, you’ll make a better choice in the sales process and not work with them.

But it’s hard to turn down an opportunity. Revenue through the door is a crucial part of keeping your head above water in the agency space. And despite your instincts telling you otherwise, problem-child clients slip through the cracks.

As well, the relationship is very unlikely to improve over time. A bad client on day one will be a bad client on day one hundred. They aren’t worth your time and effort.

Instead of letting the bad eggs suck the life out of your resources, you need to focus your energy on the gems. The clients that respond to your emails, appreciate your efforts, respect the boundaries of the relationship, and invest long-term.

To do so, you need to identify a bad client when you see one and walk in the other direction. The rest of this article will discuss how to deal with bad clients by providing a list of red flags that you can use as guideposts during your early interactions. Avoid clients that trigger any of these red flags, and you will run a much more enjoyable and profitable agency.

They see you as a commodity, not a partner

Knowing how to deal with bad clients begins with your first interaction. You can identify warning signs early if you know which questions and comments to listen for. You are looking to establish a partnership with your client, not merely undergo a transaction.

If you hear your client ask any of these questions an alarm should sound, because things might not be pretty down the track.
  • How much does it cost?
  • How fast can you do it?
  • If it doesn’t work, do I get my money back?

These questions are very transactional in nature. If a potential client asks you these things then they are seeing you as a commodity, something that can be traded out for a cheaper alternative at any moment. You should choose to work with clients who see you as a valuable service provider, a partner, an integral part of their business make up. 

Transactional agency relationships rarely work well over time because they are not built on trust. Without trust and a strong partnership, you will get traded out at the first opportunity. Not to mention that these relationships are more likely to squeeze your margins and uphold unrealistic expectations for results.

They don’t respect you or the relationship

We get it, it’s a business deal, not a friendship… But that doesn’t mean your clients can treat you with disrespect. There are a number of personality traits and behavioural signals that typify nightmare clients, and you need to keep an eye out for them.
  • Aggression. Is your prospective client aggressive towards you with their tone or body language? If you notice a certain level of aggression before a contract is even signed, things will only scale up when results and money are on the line. So be careful.
  • Boundaries. Do they respect the boundaries of a professional relationship? If you notice a potential client calling you out of office hours, on the weekend, or hitting you from all angles expecting an immediate response, run in the other direction!
  • Respect. How often does this prospect cancel, reschedule, or simply not turn up to a call or meeting? Are they courteous, professional, and respectful of your time? Do they ever sound distracted when they are speaking with you? If you are going to help them grow their business you need a respectful and responsive relationship. If they aren’t willing to make that happen during the sales process, they won’t make it happen when you are working together.
If you want to know how to deal with bad clients, watch out for these three signals, avoid them, and you’ll weed out 90% of the nightmares.

Their business isn’t on a positive trajectory

Moving past the personality and behavioral traits of the client, you’ve also got to think about the potential of their business. Which type of industries or niches do you want to work with? Which businesses end up being labor intensive and yield little to no return? 

Consider some of these points to determine if a business is on a positive trajectory:

  • Service fit. First of all, you’re offering PPC services. Does this business have a product or service that people are actually searching for? If they don’t, it’s going to be extremely hard to run a profitable search campaign for them. For example, if they’re an underwater unicycle instructor, I suspect that the search demand is very, very low. You may have the best campaign and the best skills in the world, but some things just don’t fit with PPC.
  • Marketing approach. Think about how they are currently marketing their business. Start by looking at their website. Do they have a compelling offer? Is their website dull or boring? PPC is all about catching the attention of your ideal prospect with a strong marketing message and an enticing offer. If they don’t already have that in place or are willing to collaborate with you to create an offer of some sort, then it may not be a good fit to work together.
  • Closing leads. Does their business rely on referrals? One thing we see with businesses that rely on referrals is that they aren’t used to closing leads from PPC campaigns. They will tell you the leads are “low quality,” but in reality, they just don’t know how to handle them. As well, how do they handle inbound calls? You are likely to be generating inbound calls for this client, are they polite on the phone? Do they know how to sell? Are they following up? Will they be available at the times you are running campaigns? Clients without adequate internal sales processes can be challenging to partner with when you are running PPC campaigns.
  • Reliance. How critical is the success of this PPC campaign to their business? If they are 100% relying on you to miraculously turn around a failing business, then you are putting yourself in a position that is likely to fail. This can create a lot of unnecessary stress and tension when they are breathing down your neck waiting for sales to tick over. Don’t get caught in a situation where a client is betting their last $1,000 on you to make things happen.
At the end of the day, avoiding bad client stories comes down to choosing the right businesses to work with.

They aren’t willing to compromise

A big red flag when you are in discussions with a potential new client is if they are unwilling to compromise. They expect results from the campaign, but may not be willing to test offers, update their website, or tweak their follow up process.

Compromise may also come in the form of budget and a willingness to go “all in” on a campaign. For example, some business owners will want to start with a budget of $250 a month, with the intention of “spending more when it’s successful.” The reality is that they are not even spending enough to find out if the campaign can be successful. It’s set up for failure from day one. Then, once the campaign doesn’t hit goal, they’ll still blame you. So if they’re not prepared to commit and invest an appropriate amount of budget, it’s a big red flag.


We all want to win new clients. Of course…

But I urge you to take the preventative steps required to avoid working with bad ones. It’s not worth it.

Sure, you’ll see a temporary shift in revenue. But soon enough you’ll hit roadblocks with the campaigns and be managing a relationship that lacks trust and respect.

None of this aligns with the growth and health of your agency. You need case studies, happy clients, motivated staff, and reasonable profit margins to move forward. Not late night firefighting.

Use these tips on how to avoid bad clients to make the right choices next time you are choosing to work with a business.

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Picture of Avi Kumar
Avi Kumar
Avi took the Engineering Route to Marketing. He loves proving that all marketing is Scientific and not black magic. He is obsessed with finding efficient ways of doing things. He started at 17 from improving how to “Holystone” ship’s wooden decks efficiently as an apprentice on ships!