It's a common frustration: You begin a new relationship with a client with high hopes. And the client is initially responsive, involved, and excited about the inbound marketing plan you’ve developed.

Then, all of a sudden, things come to a halt. The client is difficult to reach, and it’s impossible to get approvals on anything.

To prevent and fix client delays, try these solutions from fellow marketers who have found helpful detours. 

10 Content Marketing Roadblocks to Avoid

1) There is a gap in expectations.

Have a conversation to get to the root of the problem. Allegory Studios' Julia Ingersoll says many client delays have led to conversations about whether or not the client is seeing any ROI.

“What we usually realize is that they may not have bought into the inbound methodology from the beginning," Ingersolll said. "But it’s not doomed! Have a conversation about your expectations and theirs and give a refresher on how the methodology works.”

2) The client doesn’t understand the process.

Your client may not understand all of the moving parts it takes to complete a content project. Educate them by detailing the process early in your project plan. 

Kurt Harzke of the American Bar Association establishes a "max" number of reviews and repeats this restriction in each client reminder. For example: To ensure the project remains on time and on budget, reviews shall not exceed three rounds and must conclude by X date.

3) Your process is too overwhelming.

It can be helpful to break down the content review process into smaller projects for clients to easily digest. Even though the breakdown may appear to be a lot of steps, some agencies have been able to keep projects moving forward with fewer errors or change requests with this approach.

Nicole Pereira of Business on Market St. provided this example:

  • Select keywords to focus on for the next month
    • Approve
  • Select topics
    • Approve
  • Create writing prompts and takeaways
    • Approve
  • Write one blog
    • Approve (Note the keyword, title, focus of the post have all have been approved.)

“We focus only on the thing we are approving at that time and ignore comments on anything else,” said Pereira.

4) The details are missing.

Being detailed in your workflow process can help clients understand what you need and when you need it to get the job done. NR Media Group’s Nate Riggs suggests issuing weekly workflow progress updates with sections devoted to and highlighted as “awaiting approval.”

“If anything, that document allows us to have discussions on where things are, what they need from us, etc.," Riggs said. "Delays are typically a result of other internal things going on that take priority, so the reminder on a weekly basis does tend to help unclog bottlenecks like approval.”

5) The client doesn’t understand the urgency of your request.

Clients have other responsibilities, and in the chaos of a busy day, approving that blog post you are waiting on may fall by the wayside. In this case, it’s important to communicate the urgency of the content to the client. 

Greg Richards advises to be kind, but blunt. He says that if the client fully understands how important the content is to you, they're more likely to move quickly and push it through.

6) It’s how you communicate with your client.

Sometimes a switch in how we communicate with a client can speed things up. Using a combination of email and phone calls can be effective when you are under the gun. Alyssa Stevens of The Rainmaker Institute suggests putting "APPROVAL REQ" in the subject line to make sure it stands out in the email inbox.

Mike Wood of has a tip for bringing email to the top: Send your emails late at night when you’re working (because really, who of us isn’t?) so that it will be the first thing at the top of the client’s inbox when they get to work in the morning.

“This not only helps remind them, but it puts the information directly in front of them to make it easier,” said Wood.

7) You don’t have enough content created to fall back on.

Always have backup content that’s already been approved to use in case of delays. You can also repurpose content that has already been approved in different ways.

“We’ll turn a blog post into an infographic or break down an ebook into multiple blog posts,” said Dechay Watts of SPROUT Content. She also says this is a good time to update your client’s social media profiles or launch extra social media distribution of previously published content.

8) Your requests are being ignored.

You’ve given the client a deadline and in response you get ... crickets. If your “gentle reminders” are being ignored, sometimes it's necessary to just move forward and publish the content anyway.

“After one or two times of publishing before they send feedback, it stops happening. Most of the time, it doesn't go that far,” said Raechel Duplain of Workfront.

9) Your client doesn’t understand the mutual benefits of getting content published.

Remind your clients that timely review and response benefits them too by having new content online that will help prospects find them and potentially bring in new business. Expanding your reach of those affected by delays can be effectivebut also tricky.

“If you can widen the inquiry and reminders to include people with the most to lose from the delay, it can create leverage,” said Kevin Bailey of American Bar Association Publishing. “However, this can be dicey, and it naturally depends on the politics with the client and the way in which you've interacted with them in the past.”

10) It’s easier to blame the client than to take responsibility for the delay.

Gavin Baker of Baker Labs brings up a good point that as agencies we are hired for more than just our expertise.

“Part of being a hired vendor is understanding that we're hired not just for expertise, but also for the priority we bring to the tasks we're hired for and the responsibility of getting that work done, no matter the barriers,” Baker said. “No matter how frustrating it is for content to get stuck with a client, we have the responsibility to move it forward. Often it requires escalating to direct forms of communication (phone/meeting/text message), not just emails. Clients are complex: Maybe they had a reorganization, maybe there was an internal change to the project, maybe the topic of our content is creating internal questions and they need to figure out how to discuss it, or maybe lead volume is up and they are super busy, or maybe the client is having a bad couple weeks.”  

Client delays can be costly for agencies in the form of time, money, and frustration. If you have experienced client delays, use one of these detours to help you navigate to a solution.

Got a tip to add to the list? Post it in the comments below!


Originally published Sep 2, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017


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