Blueprint For The Ideal Digital Marketing Client

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OK, a blueprint for the ideal client is perhaps wishful thinking. But having worked across in-house and agency roles with countless clients in practically every industry, I have seen digital marketing clients come and go, kick off and sing praises, renew and resign etc etc. Looking back on this array of experiences got me thinking. Is there a formula for the dream digital marketing client and if so what is it?

So the short answer is of course ‘No’. You can have all the boxes ticked then one element out of your control goes wrong and you’ve got a nightmare client. But in a strange way the long answer is ‘Yes’, (from my experience) there is a basic check-list of signals to look for:


Looking for high budgets may sound very obvious but Im going to explain why. Digital marketing and its various activities such as SEO have become increasingly complex in the last few years. No longer are there quick fix jobs and copy and paste wins. Everything from PPC, to SEO and Content Marketing requires considerable planning and time. Investing in personalisation, engagement, analysis and considered strategy doesn’t come cheap.


Try and avoid those clients that overly focus on price or negotiating the cheapest deal. This may include the potential client giving you pricing information that they’ve pulled off the site of some offshore digital marketing firm no one’s ever heard of and expecting you to match it. Try and explain your pricing structure right from the start to avoid receiving a complaint about it later.

Point of Contact

Your client point of contact can make all the difference to the success of a project or campaign. Obviously this isn’t something you can choose but look out for those businesses that warrant a Head of Marketing, Marketing Manager, Brand Manager and so on. Someone who’s remit involves getting the most out of their marketing budgets, agency and resources. You want someone who is proactive and receptive to listening to someone else’s perspective. Better to have someone calling you once a week for a catch up that gives you the opportunity to ask for outstanding content or deliverables from their end.


The ideal client has knowledge of the basics across the digital marketing landscape. But not so much that they counter every single recommendation with something they have heard on a blackhat forum. They need to understand the longevity, activity and time-scales of any strategy and the amount of hours it takes to carry out certain tasks. Without this type of knowledge, you will find it hard to report, upsell and plan with them. Here are some warning signs to watch out for:

  • They refer to search engines like some sort of mythical Gods, for example “Have you submitted the site to The Google yet?”.
  • They sell shoes and want their main keyword to be “women”.
  • They have bought for $500.
  • They forward on emails offering their site submitted to 100,000,000 directories.

Company Size

Too small and they are knocking on your door every day asking where their pennies have got to. Too big and they expect you to manage alone with no additional resources or communication. The ideal digital client has to be where they are big enough to warrant a dedicated marketing person/team who deal directly with you.


Digital marketers require access to more resources than ever before. These include content, news, business insight, product information, branded email accounts, industry contacts etc. There is nothing worse than getting a client on board then discovering that getting information from them is like getting blood from a stone. Outline the types of information you will require and the regularity you will expect it. This sets the scene for the working relationship moving forward.


Again something that sounds very obvious but is left out of many a client : marketer relationship. To truly understand a business and all that encompasses it we need to collaborate with that business. a give and take relationship is the client for me. Set up the concept of a give and take relationship from the very start.  Look for potential clients that want face to face kick off meetings, pitches or brainstorming sessions. There is alot to be said for the results and productivity which come from face to face meeting.

Expectation Management

Like any marketing medium, digital marketing involves taking ownership of everything a brand is, does and wants to be. If a business is outsourcing their digital marketing they are putting their trust and investment in an external business or person. This comes with a responsibility to manage the sometimes unrealistic expectations of a client. Expectation management should be part of the onboarding process and something that goes both ways. It is the online marketers job to explain and educate a client in the current . It is also up to the client to give realistic expectations, dates and processes to the digital marketers on everything from a new site build, to product launch dates to a budget release. This feeds back into the Collaboration point mentioned before, but we as digital marketers are only every as good as the information we are given.


With digital marketing being offered by three man collectives, call centre production lines and massive corporate behemoth, the chances are a client will have had some sort of digital marketing previously. Try and find out as much about what they did, what worked and why that client left them. This will give you a feel for what sort of client they made. Also look for large amounts of agencies in short succession. This may be a sign that the client has unrealistic expectations or have been burnt in the past.


To finish this post I thought I would give you a little one word check-list to ask test a potential client during info-captures, pitches, proposals, or kick off meetings:

  • Communication?
  • Knowledge?
  • History?
  • Resources?
  • Budget?
  • Expectations?

I would love to hear what signals or elements you feel make the ideal digital marketing client. Pop them in the comments section below:

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On February 26, 2014