June 14, 2016

Conflict Type 2: Emotional Conflict

Have you ever worked with a nightmare customer?

Three years ago I received a new AdWords management lead. George had been reading my emails for a few months, and one day he got in touch.

George’s company was using AdWords to generate leads for an offline sales process, which was something I looked for at the time. The company was spending ¬£25,000 a month on AdWords (about $35,000). Which for me was a large account.

George mentioned on the phone they had ‘been through’ quite a few AdWords agencies. But he’d like to ‘see what I could do’.

On the eve of the project George sent me an email in badly-formatted English. ‘I’d like a daily report please Rob’, the email said. ‘The report should show yesterday’s spend by campaign, click through rate, conversions and cost per conversion.’

I’ve never sent daily reports to clients because daily fluctuations can be misleading. Weekly numbers are more meaningful. And monthly numbers never lie.

I’ve also since learnt that clients who demand a daily report are usually spending more than their resources will allow. Clients who shit themselves about a daily drop in conversions are usually flying a little close to the sun.

It’s a tricky trade-off as an AdWords manager. On one hand you are spending other people’s money, and those people have a right to know what is happening. On the other you need the time and space to get on with your job.

I always knew if the conversions were down for the day because at 3PM I would get an email. ‘URGENT Leads down Rob. Please action ASAP.’

Things like this make me rage. Please action what? I’m not a magician. Most of the time I would ignore it and rely on a natural upturn in leads the following day.

I’ve also since learnt that clients who routinely send emails with URGENT in the subject line, signed off with ‘ASAP’ are not great clients to work with. It’s a small clue that they see you as a vendor to be used, not an expert to be consulted.

Not long after the project had started I made a bunch of changes to the website, and George blew his lid. “We make changes on a month by month basis,” he informed me. “That way we compare apples to apples.”

Apples to apples – yeah right. You can’t have it all ways up. You can’t scream and shout about your AdWords results, but also refuse to make any changes to the website.

The project fizzled out after a few months. I was glad, too. The hassle wasn’t worth the management fee they paid me. Or so I thought.

A year later George was back in touch. His last business had tanked, and now he had a new business in another highly competitive market.

George asked if I would consider managing the account again, since I had ‘done such a good job last time’. I wavered for a moment. The warning signs were all there. I knew George was a well-meaning but troublesome client. But I also needed the revenue.

So we went again. This time George wasn’t my main point of contact; he had a marketing manager, Jane. Jane was nice enough, but clearly under a huge amount of pressure to perform. Once again I failed to set the boundaries on when I could and could not be contacted.

At 9.50 every morning my phone would go (Jane started work at 10). Despite my repeated warnings about daily statistics she would want to discuss yesterday’s numbers, and know ‘what I was doing for them today’.

“Nothing,” was the response I should have given. “You’re paying me for results, not graft, sweat and labour.”

I didn’t have the gall to say that at the time.

A few weeks later I went to Italy for a week. I tried to reassure Jane that her AdWords results were unlikely to tank for a few days without my daily hand-holding. I had no phone signal in Italy, and no computer.

Two days in to our holiday I logged on to Wi-Fi in my hotel, and my phone buzzed to life. Wotsapp. It was Jane. “URGENT: NO conversions yesterday. George won’t stand for it. Please look at this ASAP.”

Really Jane? You’re going to harass me on holiday… by wotsapp?

After three months of emotional conflict our second project came to an end. George finally discovered that I had been ruining his monthly ‘apples to apples’ comparison by sending traffic to pages other than the homepage.

Emotional conflict is our second type of conflict (we looked at physical conflict last week). Emotional conflict still occurs between you and another individual or entity, the only difference is nobody gets physically bruised.

That isn’t to say it doesn’t hurt. Emotional conflict can hurt just as much as physical conflict. It can keep you awake at night. It can make you dread going to work.

The point in using emotional conflict in your stories is to:

  • Expose your mistakes and show you are human. Everybody can relate to emotional conflict
  • Add a degree of drama. The drama stakes are not as high as physical conflict. But your readers should be wondering what your nightmare opponent is going to do next.
  • Illustrate learning. The project with George was ultimately my fault. I saw the warning signs. I failed to set boundaries. I accepted the project. TWICE!

I can’t be the only person in the world who has to make every mistake twice before getting the message.

The final type of conflict is reflective conflict. We’ll talk about reflective conflict in a few days.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.