When there’s new client money on the table, it can be all too easy to ignore red flags and gut instincts. Our judgment can be temporarily clouded if it means account and wallet growth. However, I’ve seen how signing the wrong clients can cause agencies to lose money, reputation and even employees.

Likely, you’ve experienced this kind of client before — or perhaps you’re currently dealing with one — but don’t worry. It’s a problem all agency owners, including myself, have dealt with at one time or another. To make things easier, consider a proactive “client filter” approach. To identify the ideal client for your agency, follow these simple steps:

  1. Organize your tangible needs: These can include a client’s industry size, marketing department size or company location as well as client budgets and potential future marketing goals. 
  2. Create a list of intangible needs: These can include how collaborative a client is or whether a client has worked with an agency before. Keep in mind what kind of workplace culture your agency promotes—straightlaced, laidback, or something in the middle?
  3. Determine levels of sophistication: Sophistication meaning how established are your clients and how will that affect the amount of work they expect from you and what you can feasibly commit to completing. These scales will be unique to everyone, but try to find clients who are in a happy medium of sophistication in order to avoid problems from “big fish” and “minnow” clients.
  4. Draw your lines in the sand: Based on the needs and values you lined up in the first three steps, make sure you proceed forward by ranking every prospect according to that list. Will you accept clients who possess 50% of the traits on your list, 70%, or 90%? That is for you & your team to decide. However, if you meet a client that doesn’t meet that benchmark but still seems promising, open it up for discussion. The simple practice of going through the ranking and having an open discussion will prevent you from getting stuck with a poor fit.

It’s our job to delight clients. Taking on the wrong ones, however, makes this near impossible. When you first discern what kind of company makes for an ideal client, you’ll find that the delight is mutual.

As seen in Forbes.com.