Be careful on the way up…

Claire Thompson, Freelance PR Consultant, Waves PR

I recently organized and event where I was impressed by one of the speakers. I had given him a platform to speak to people interested in his specialism, and he seemed to know what he was talking about. I’m fairly certain that he got business from the event. And as his service/product is both exciting and relevant , I thought I’d introduce him to a client. One of my best clients at that.

Very bad move that turned out to be!

He mucked me around several times over dates and times, booking things and changing them, until he finally delivered the ‘sucker punch’. He wanted to charge us his travel and time to come to a sales pitch, unless we guaranteed an order.

Now, whilst I was fairly confident that some work would come out of it, I wasn’t going to guarantee it. And if he’d said this up front, I’d have had a chance to consider. To save the CEO’s time I was happy to gamble the cost of his train fare. This was inadequate. He wanted paying. To come and pitch to us.

What I’d say to anyone in the digital content space just now is think long term. The digital innovation space is really exciting right now, but we’ve been here before. There will be new entrants to market and your gravy train will disappear. Tell people no, by all means, if their business isn’t quite what you’re focussing on right now. Or make your start prices clear to see how interested people are and sort the good business from the bad.

Arrogance, by contrast, is rarely attractive, and it can take a long time to get over an impression you’ve given. His demand for money 8implied he thought I was time wasting. I wasn’t.

We recently approached a team of cartoon animators. They got around this by saying that just now they were so busy that they had to charge £20k for what they were doing. And you know what, we easily dropped out of the market, but when their skillset is more widely available (it will be) and their price comes down, we’ll consider using them again because they were up front, didn’t mess us around, and seemed genuinely delighted that they could command these kinds of fees.  And if I’d had £20k to burn on one piece of digital content, I’d have loved to have used them.

This man, by contrast, will have a very hard job convincing us ever to use his company, sadly.

If he believes his product is good,and it can meet our outlined needs,  it should sell itself to us. He shouldn’t need to sell his time for a sales pitch. We had three potential projects to discuss with him. Which would have been rolled out with a number of other large companies. They’ve been put on ice.

In the process he’s mucked me and the CEO of this company around, and made me, frankly,  look like a very poor judge of character. Poor reward for having given him the exposure to so many people (at the original event).

But as a veteran of the turn of millennium dotcom boom, I’d urge any digital start up to be careful on the way up. Don’t burn your bridges unless you have to: you never know whose relationship you may wish you’d nourished on the way up as you whistle past them on the way back down.

It could  take a lot of good PR to regain the trust and relationships. You can call me, of course, but don’t be surprised if I ask you to pay me to come and pitch!


1 Comment

  • By John Duffy, August 16, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

    C’mon … who was it? I won;t tell a soul 😉

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