When Agencies Should Say No to Reputation Management Clients

Garrett SussmanClient Acquisition, Customer Behavior, Reputation Management, Review MarketingLeave a Comment

Reputation Management Clients Title Image

When you’re building your marketing agency, every time you bring on a new client, it’s like adding someone to your family.

And when you’re just starting out looking for reputation management clients, it’s tempting to accept anyone. Worse yet, we often talk with new agencies who reason that businesses with the worst reputations must be the best candidates for reputation management. Hint: they aren’t.

But there’s more to it. Choosing the wrong reputation management clients to work with can be disastrous for your business, potentially costing you money, time, and your reputation. Here’s what you need to consider:

  • Know your own business and your own ideal customer.
  • How to identify ideal Reputation Management clients.
  • Red flags that will allow you to avoid the wrong types of clients.
  • How to say no when you establish that a client is not the right match.
Research With a Magnifying Glass

Knowing Your Agency, Your Audience and Your Niche

Many of you already have a target audience in mind or in practice, but for marketers who are just starting up your agency, take heed: it’s rarely a good idea to try and be everything to everyone.

Trust me, we know first-hand. Grade.us might seem like a different animal because we’re a SaaS company, right? The reality is that we’ve periodically had to reevaluate our own target customers.

Most recently, that meant discontinuing our Small Business plan, designed to serve small and local businesses with an affordable review and reputation management software they could buy directly. Over the years, we found that serving small business customers alongside marketers, agencies and SEOs was bifurcating our efforts and preventing us from serving either group optimally.

By eliminating our Small Business plan and focusing on our Marketer, Agency, and Enterprise plans, we can better cater to one core customer segment, grow more swiftly within that target market, and ultimately increase our profitability by achieving greater scale with less support demand. Plus, Small Business owners can still use our Marketer plan, but the higher price point works as a gatekeeper for those who are less sophisticated or not ready to truly commit to their own reputation marketing efforts.

When it comes to your own target audience, focus your attention on these key factors:

Key Factors

      Are you only working with reputation management clients locally or are you willing to work with clients no matter where their business is located?


     Are you a generalist or do you have a few specific industries that you prefer to work with?


     Will you work with individual entrepreneurs, small 1-5 employee businesses, medium sized companies, or enterprises?


     Do you prefer to work with B2C clients or B2B clients?

     Would you prefer working with clients that serve a younger audience or an older audience?

     Are you only working with clients that have a larger budget or are you amenable to work with smaller organizations that are bootstrapping?


     Is your ideal client’s personality more fun and adventurous when it comes to marketing or more conservatively professional and risk adverse?


Once you’ve identified your target, you’ll be able to better tailor your services and marketing to address them as potential reputation management clients with your marketing/sales funnel, lead scoring, etc.

Hitting the Bullseye

Who Is the Ideal Reputation Management Client?

When it comes to identifying ideal current or prospective reputation management clients, you might look for the following sensibilities:

  • They invest in customer experience. Customer support is a top priority. These reputation management clients are responsive in social media, have a strong internal culture, and make customers feel like they’re the number one priority (you’d be surprised how many companies don’t embody this mindset).
  • They already have a positive online reputation. They have a spattering of positive reviews on a few different review sites. They have already garnered press affirming the value of their product or service.
  • They view you as an expert in your field and respect your recommendations and execution.
  • They have reasonable expectations for communication when working with you.
  • Your main contact has the authority to actually make actionable decisions for the company. That contact also understands the value you provide, respects your time, and buys into the importance of your services.

Researching Your Prospects

How are you able to know if your prospect checks all of these ideal client boxes?

Start by doing your research. First, plug their business into our online reviews report tool and generate a report to scout their existing online reputation (or get your own branded version of the tool from us). Then:

  • Investigate their website and social media channels.
  • Scour their site to see what sort of customer support they’re offering. Is there an easy to find support form or email address? Do they have a phone number on the site?
  • Take it to the next level and call in as a prospect to see what it’s like to talk to someone at the company. How did they make you feel when they spoke with you?
  • Read their ‘About us’ page to get a sense of their company persona and mission statement.
  • See how active they are on social media channels and how they utilize them to interact with customers. Are they consistent? Are they providing value to their audience?
  • Go on LinkedIn and take a look at the employees of the company. Do they have great recommendations and endorsements?
Keep Your Eyes Open for Red Flags

Keep Your Eyes Open for Red Flags

You already know what to look for in ideal reputation management clients, but what are those red flags that should make you double take?

Ben Butler, from DoInbound.com, writes about 5 illustrative personas in an article aptly titled, “5 Clients Who Will Burn Your Agency Down.” These archetypes apply equally well to reputation management clients. In short, here they are:

  • Cheapskates. Don’t compromise the integrity of your pricing by accommodating them. Doing so devalues your services, and these folks always require more hand-holding and support.
  • Scatter-brains. When working with small businesses, your main point of contact will undoubtedly have multiple responsibilities outside of your relationship. You don’t need their constant, undivided attention, but you do need to be able to get it once in a while.
  • Disinterested Parties. As mentioned when discussing the ideal candidate, you need the higher-ups to understand the value that you’re providing, to value customer service and be bought in.
  • Egomaniacs. This type of person tends to think they know everything, and will have a hard time respecting your expertise. Naturally, you’ll have to cater to them. And you can imagine how quickly they’ll get upset with you when their own demands aren’t producing results.
  • Over-eager Beavers. When it comes to reputation management, earning positive reviews is an ongoing, long-term process. It takes time. Set expectations accordingly, and if the client has no appreciation for reality, look for the door.
Review Marketing Clients can be the right puzzle pience

How To Say “No”

If it becomes pretty clear that you and the prospect aren’t a proper fit, the way in which you let them down can actually impact your business.

Naomi Dunford of ittybiz explains that “Saying no to a potential client is an especially weird animal because it is often very difficult for people to imagine anybody turning down paid work.” She provides a thoughtful email template for how to say no in her article.

Samar Owais of Creative Class also has a variety of great email templates for saying no to a client, whether it’s before you’ve signed the contract or even if you’ve already started working with them.

Both Dunford and Owais point out how delicate of a process saying “No” needs to be. The last thing you want to do is burn bridges. They both recommend providing a recommendation or solution to the client if their services aren’t the right fit. By providing that value, the prospect may end up referring their network back to you if they are a better fit for your agency. As a general rule of thumb, provide value to everyone in some capacity, even if you’re not being contracted. You never know how those people can come back to help you in the future.


Saying no to reputation management clients is difficult. You’re turning away business. But the truth is, the cost of a bad fit in terms of time, energy, personality styles and resources, will impact your agency’s bottom line. By passing up those opportunities, you’re setting your agency up for happier clients, more realistic results, and a more enjoyable agency-client relationship. Chances are, you’ll also begin to see more referrals for the right people.

About the Author

Garrett Sussman


Garrett is the Senior Content Manager at Grade.us, an online review management and marketing platform. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

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