How to Correct a Client’s Unrealistic Expectations

How to Correct a Client’s Unrealistic Expectations

Updated August 3, 2020
Reading Time: 3 minutes

When a social media manager is hired in-house, their job expectations, company goals, and overall marketing objectives for that position are most-often clearly communicated.

The same should hold true when a freelance social media manager designs and then launches campaigns for new clients; without goals and objectives, success is impossible to achieve.

What then, can be done when despite the social media manager’s best intentions, the client's expectations are well… unrealistic expectations? 

In this article, we will discuss how to best cope with a client's unrealistic expectations. 

What Your Client Wants vs What Your Client Needs

Business owners, CEOs, marketing managers, whoever hires you to do a job, needs to clearly communicate and manage expectations, and not just think they can read your mind as to what you need; support, budgets, and time management.  

A healthy business relationship between employee and employer, or a client relationship between a freelancer and business owner should consist of realistic but high expectations, reasonable requests, and a happy healthy continuous dialogue.

While the client might think they need ABC, quite often the client needs XYZ instead. 

A client might ask for ABC ‘because a friend/colleague/family member told them that’s what they should be doing’. 

It is your job to dispel that ‘want’, that myth, really, and turn it into something they need to succeed.

How Do You Figure Out What Your Client Needs?

You figure out what your client needs by starting any new professional relationship with a strategic planning session

You do this because, without a written plan in place, unreasonable requests and unrealistic expectations will be the norm, not the exception.

Once you know what your client needs, the next step is to educate that client. Explain why you’ve come to the conclusions you have, what your research spells out so clearly. 

Last but not least, go over their long-term goals with them, do remind each new client that social media is a marathon, not a sprint!

A Client's Unrealistic Expectations Look Like This

Lack of planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on my part!

Example of a clients’ unrealistic expectation:

“I started working for XYX (2 months ago) for social media and PR. The business manager came to me today and wants influencers, press, blogs, podcasts and 30 patients a day. The business just opened yesterday.”

This is an example of miscommunication. 
This can happen when clear expectations are not briefed at the start of the contract

  • The social media manager did not promise 30 patients per day 
  • The business manager did not ask for 30 patients per day 

While this is a fairly common occurrence, instead of playing the blame-game, we need to find out why this happens and how to resolve this issue of unrealistic expectations. 

The Blame Game – Don’t Play It!

In the end, it doesn't matter who is to blame.

In dealing with a client's unrealistic expectations, 99% of the time it stems from the fact that that person doesn't understand how social media marketing works.

While you as the social media manager can not change how someone behaves, you can change their expectations upfront by educating the client and by clearly communicating the following AT THE START OF THE CONTRACT:

  • What you will be doing for them, and on what platforms
  • What you expect to happen when you implement your plan
  • What results, if any, you hope to get and how to adjust your plan if the results aren’t what you expected
  • What ongoing support you need from the rest of the team
  • What budget you need to make this all happen
  • How you will keep the team updated, and how often, on what’s working, and what’s not

Can a Client's Unrealistic Expectations Be Turned Around?

The answer is ‘it depends’.

If you are very deep into a campaign and expectations aren’t met, feelings like anger and disappointment can cloud someone's judgment. Trying to salvage a damaged relationship is hard, especially if one of the parties involved feels like their trust was broken.

However, if you discover at the start of a project that expectation isn't aligned, schedule a call or sit down meeting ASAP to correct that mistake to keep a happy, healthy relationship with your client.

become a social media manager

Know When To Break Up With Your Client

Then there comes a time when it might be best to remove yourself from the project and to hand the reigns back to the client – or their marketing manager.

When it's time to fire that client… just do it!

You will know it is right by your gut feeling. Also, please know you aren't the first, or the last social media manager to fire a client.

It. Happens. All. The. Time!

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