Tell us your new business horror story

We all have one.  That painful, horrifying moment when you were trying to sound/look your best in front of a potential new client and instead POW! fate smacked you right in the kisser with a faux pas that will haunt you for the rest of your days.

Come on…tell us all about it.  It will feel good to get it out.

Me first?  Fair enough.

Several years ago, a McLellan Marketing Group colleague and I were in an initial meeting with the CMO of a nursing home system.  We’d done some research and one of the facts we’d gleaned about this potential client is that they were known for taking care of the most severely affected Alzheimer’s patients. 

What made their work even more remarkable and reassuring to the families of their patients was that they very rarely sedated the residents.  They were just that skilled in dealing with the behaviors and health issues of these residents.

So I am trying to demonstrate how smart we are and that we’ve really done our homework.  So I say to the CMO (a woman in her 50’s who wasn’t so sure about us already)  "one of the things that really impressed us about your facilities is the fact that you don’t sedate your patients."

Unfortunately — that was what I meant to say.  But somehow, for some twisted and unknown reason, my mouth decided instead to say…"one of the things that really impressed us about your facilities is the fact that you don’t seduce your patients." 

Picture_2_8 To this day, I have no idea why that came out of my mouth.  But to make matters worse, I could not locate the word sedate in my brain. Instead, I stammered and stuttered until finally, what seemed like 20 minutes later, my brain synapes finally fired up, I corrected myself and limped through the rest of the conversation.

Needless to say, we did not get the business.  My team, however, got a funny story that they love to pull out at company parties, and other  public venues.

Okay, I’ve shown you mine…your turn!

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6 comments on “Tell us your new business horror story

  1. Erin Blaskie says:

    Well… I received an invitation to go to a client’s office to meet their team and my main contact so I packed my bags and flew to North Carolina.

    I flew through Chicago and as I would soon find out, my bags decided that they wanted to visit Chicago instead so they didn’t get on the plane with me.

    When I arrived in NC, it was late – around 11pm and I had no bags. Since this was my first business trip, I didn’t know to pack some clothes in my carry-on or to wear business attire so instead, I wore jeans and a sweatshirt.

    The airport gave me a little emergency kit with a toothbrush and a comb but the next morning I had to go into the office in my jeans, sweater, no makeup, etc.

    Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling in a state of confidence so all I day I walked around, telling my lost bags story, apologizing for the way I looked instead of focusing on the reason I was there.

    Now I pack clothes in my carry-on and I wear business attire.


  2. Lewis Green says:

    You asked:

    I begin every business day by checking my e-mail. This is among my most anxious moments of every day. Why? Because it is a new day, my skin hasn’t yet toughened, and I fear that within those 60 – 75 e-mails will be one containing changes from a client.

    You know the ones I mean: the ones that ignore your best advice, and strike out in a direction that you know from your experiences and your research will be a disaster. This happened to me last week.

    I am conducting a direct mail campaign for a small high-tech business run by the founder. The business is his first-born. He loves this business and has nurtured it carefully for nearly two decades.

    This is his first marketing campaign ever, and he hired my firm because I did some copywriting for him six years ago that he loved.
    That job went smoothly, as it should have. It was a simple sell sheet for a new product, so he was in his best “help-me-do-the-right-thing mode.” And I did. And he has used that sell sheet since.

    Six years later, he called me to manage and execute a co-branding marketing campaign with a partner who sells tablet PCs, which are stored securely and charged in the docking station that he first launched with the sell sheet that I created.
    He’s scared, he’s anxious, and he doesn’t handle either situation well.

    We began the project last August. It was scheduled to be launched, managed and finished before Christmas. It wasn’t.

    The clients kept changing specs, meaning we had to recalculate and revise goals and create new project budgets.
    And each time specs changed, we had to go back to our partners for revised bids from the list server, the mail house and the telemarketer companies. Much of this effort required lots of diplomacy because, as you can imagine, my partners were becoming as frustrated as we were and were concerned that the job might not happen.

    The job was bid based on a project cost, with no clause calling for additional charges if the client changed its objectives. During this time, my firm expended more hours that we had estimated, so before the project ever launched, we were in trouble, both in terms of lost billable hours, as we hadn’t planned on the additional hours, and in growing new business because the direct mail campaign limited our ability to grow.

    Now, return to last week. We have revised the new sell sheets, the sales letter and the post card for the campaign five times. We were now making changes to changes.

    I launched outlook and there it was—the client from hell, wanting more changes. I no longer could control myself, and called the client to announce that revision 6 would be our last and explained why. He was very apologetic.

    That is when I told him that I thought the last two rounds of changes would hurt sales. Now he’s really scared. Not only has he invested nearly $15,000 over the past nine months, with no ROI. We are busting deadlines again, and his marketing firm is telling him that his input is hurting the effort.

    If this were your client, try to imagine what went horribly wrong and why? Here’s my take:
    1. I thought I knew the client and trusted that this job would go smoothly, as the first one had.
    2. Because he is a return client, I discounted the project, as I often do for return business.
    3. We created goals, a plan, and a budget based on one set of specs.
    4. I delivered ahead of deadline, and communications stopped. Then the first e-mail came: My client’s partner did not want to invest the money required to achieve the goals.
    5. Oops! Another assumption on my part—I trusted my client and his co-marketing partner had agreed on all things. Truth? They hadn’t agreed on anything.
    6. Result: I was screwed by my own mistakes and now would pay the price in lost revenues.

  3. CK says:

    Love the graphic – ha!

  4. Erin,

    I think that is one of allof our nightmares — traveling and not being properly attired for any of a dozen reasons.

    In January, I flew to Denver to speak to a large group only to discover that I had forgotten to pack socks. All I had were the white athletic socks I had worn on the plane.

    With black trousers — not so attractive. So then I had to decide…white socks or no socks. Ugh.


  5. Lewis,

    Wow…do I feel your pain. And as I have read and re-read your story, I can’t see one spot where you could have seen it coming.

    I’m curious — what fail safes have you now put in place (if there is such a thing) to best attempt to avoid this happening again?


  6. CK —

    I thought you might!


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