Grumpy teen

Are Your Marketing Clients Acting Like Grumpy Teens? Three Reasons Why

Good customer management practices to protect your customer relationships

Just like my teenage son can be completely lovable one second and a horror the next, we as marketers and consultants need to steel ourselves for the inevitable “mood swings” among potential people we want to work with and customers we already serve.

Good customer relationship management best practices can help soothe our clients: Most clients and prospects react negatively because we haven’t, like some recalcitrant teens, done our homework.  Most of us know better than to treat clients like that. But here are three common reasons for clients and prospects to develop “mercurial” mood swings and how to solve them:

  1. You treat them all the same

If you have more than one teen at home, I’m sorry. And as parents, we probably should try to treat all of our kids the same for most things. Yet not understanding the needs of each kid can get you in trouble. As a teen, my daughter loved to talk but I had better just listen, not try to probe too much and only give advice couched in the gentlest of terms. My son, on the other hand, must be drawn out to talk but loves to be drawn out. He will answer the most challenging questions I have—he thrives on it. Clients all need different things and the better you are at pinpointing these differences, the better service you’ll be able to provide.


With CRM vendors telling us we can precisely pinpoint where our buyers are on their journey, even Marketo acknowledges: “it can feel nearly impossible to interpret each customer breadcrumb for valuable insight.” If you don’t ask the right questions, you’ll be coming up with the wrong answers for what they need. Here’s a start:

  • When do you need to start work with your communications/marketing partner and why? This lets you in on their marketplace challenges and triggers for hiring consultants.
  • Have you ever used another firm for what you are going to use us for? What happened?

This gives you a chance to start not making the same mistakes and a hint about sensitive areas. If you’ve interacted with a teenager lately, you know there are a lot of “no fly zones” for conversations. That doesn’t mean you should clam up about thorny subjects—just make sure you’re prepared for those they’ve run into before.

  • What will it look like to you when we reach our goal? You must have the metrics conversation up front or you’ll never be able to understand each client’s unique definition of success.


  1. You talk to them when they’re distracted or not ready

It’s Sunday night and your kid is on the phone with her best pal. You know she has a project due Monday that’s not finished. You also know her pal has just been cut from the soccer team. Do you snatch the phone out of her hand and tell her to get to her assignment or you’ll drop the phone in the fish tank?


Clients have so many issues pulling at their attention. We must follow up when contacted and keep meticulous records of these interactions. You’ll need a smart lifecycle management process to do this well.


A blog from Smart Insights warns: “In reality, lifecycle communication involves a huge number of touch points across the customer journey to achieve different goals” and coaches that identifying “the value of your customers over longer periods, rather than reducing everything down to a simple conversion of each contact” will serve you well when deciding when to contact and what to reach out with. Of course, this is not a cold-eyed reason to have them, but your kids will be the ones taking care of you in your old age—talk about “value” “over longer periods”!


With clients and prospects, as with teens, pick your timing carefully and don’t needlessly set yourself up as an adversary.


  1. You make everything sooooo difficult

As expert marketer Gail Syman Carson shared in her superb SlideShare, Customer Loyalty: The Secret Weapon In Your Brand:

Read my article on sales leads

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“We argue that performance is sustained not by offering customers the perfect choice, but by offering them the easy one. So, even if a value proposition is what first attracted them, it is not necessarily what keeps them coming back. Many customers don’t want yet another choice. In this alternative worldview, holding on to customers or reaching a prospect appropriately (italics mine) is not a matter of continually adapting to changing needs to remain the rational or emotional best fit. It’s about helping customers avoid having to make yet another choice.”

As parents, we’ve all met other parents (of course) who exhaust their kids with incessant demands, unending complaints, criticisms and constant input about everything they do. Let your prospects vent about current projects without offering an alternative unless you’re asked. Don’t overwhelm your prospects with value-add suggestions when they’re trying to check off a box (I need better content) and then move on.

I want to make sure to note here: My clients, like yours, are effective, often brilliant, professional adults and I don’t mean to sound patronizing or dismissive of them. And many teens may have even temperaments (just not mine). Creating respectful and meaningful interactions will help you serve both prospects and current clients with excellence– with a minimum of mood swings for you both.

Patty Tomsky

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