As a follow-up to last week’s blog about crisis prospects who disappeared after soliciting our ideas, here’s one about an equally sinister strain I call the repeat prospect (Latin: devious repeatus prospectus).
This variety makes initial contact, spins one’s wheels, leads one on and then selects another firm only to surface years later with the very same siren call.
And, yes, it is akin to a siren call when an erstwhile prospect calls you out of the blue, tells you how highly they thought of you the last time around and would really love to reengage. It’s just like the guy who, having had his heart broken once before, agrees to hook up with the love of his life, knowing full well she’ll probably burn him once again. Sometimes, just like men and women I know, some public relations firms simply can’t resist the temptation to give it another go (especially in a recession).
So, we did give it another go. Twice, in fact. And, in both cases, we were badly burned for a second time.
The first repeat prospect was a financial services firm that had actually retained us for a few weeks several years back, but then decided to halt the program, open it up for a competitive bid and ended up returning to its previous agency! The drama played out like a subplot in “All My Children.”
Then, like a bolt of lightning, they re-appeared this Spring when things were slow and we were prowling for new business. Sure enough, the repeat prospect wooed us with all sorts of superlatives about our thinking and creativity, and implored us to pitch her ‘two’ separate accounts that, in total, would bill $30k per month. So, knowing full well this woman had burned us once before, we pulled together a presentation, arranged a videoconference and, sure enough, received absolutely no response. When I finally pinged the woman after weeks and weeks of waiting, she said they’d decided to go in another direction.
The second heartbreaker was a law firm that really put us through the ringer three years ago. This one not only demanded a full creative pitch, but an on-site presentation requiring out-of-pocket travel expenses. They left us hanging for weeks before finally telling us that, “We were really looking for a firm in our headquarters town of Duluth, but thanks anyway.” So, when these guys re-surfaced, the self-defense system was at DefCon 5.
Just like the financial services firm, though, the law firm types waxed poetic about our prowess, and even called me a “rock star.” (Note: Flattery will get you everywhere with this blogger.) Still, the whole “ …ya gotta be in Duluth” thing made it a non-starter and we told them so. “Not to worry,” said the lead prospect. “We’ve learned our lesson. Please do us the favor of speaking with our lead partners." So, being the gullible, business hungry agency we were at that moment in time, we pursued the account. We once again subjected ourselves to a videoconference presentation and absorbed the out-of-pocket costs for a trip to the hinterlands. And, sure as rain (or snow, since we’re talking about Duluth after all), nothing happened.
But, you know what? I don’t blame either prospect. It’s my fault for falling for the same line twice. The ‘woman of my dreams’ had re-engaged years after breaking my heart and, like a chump, I convinced myself that, ‘This time would be different.’
Whoever said, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me’ must have pitched these two organizations. Or, maybe some femme fatale suckered him into a second go-round only to once again lay him low? Whatever the case, I’m going to start following George W. Bush’s savvy, advice. Once when delivering a speech, W. decided to quote the line, but mucked it up badly and said, "Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… (long period of silence)… you can't get fooled again."
I hear you, W. I hear you.