Since 2021, the market research firm I manage has also proposed inbound marketing services. In the summer of 2021, we were approached by a well-known European institution as part of an even more well-known scientific program. The project’s purpose was to carry out a series of monthly podcasts. After a series of exchanges and despite the pre-selection of our offer in the leading tandem, I decided to withdraw our offer. Here’s why.
I’ll be honest with you. Turning down work for a customer makes me uncomfortable. However, looking back, I made the right decision.
Producing a podcast: a standard project … in theory
At the end of the summer, we were contacted for a company podcast project for a well-known European agency. Everything was looking good. The project brief was clear, and the scope well defined:
- one company podcast per month for 1 year
- remote podcast (our specialty)
- podcast in interview mode on technical subjects
Everything was looking good to make this project a success. We had communicated a clear schedule, and we proposed a standard but very attractive pricing offer (for more information, see our article on the price of a company podcast).
First questions and early warning signs
After a few days, the first questions were sent to us. It is normal for a prospect to ask questions, and we are happy to answer them. The ones we were asked caught my attention.
Each telephone conversation was the subject of a written report. We were asked to describe the process of creating the podcast, the tools used, and the timelines in detail. In short, I had the impression that the prospect wanted to “lock down” the services and that every action beyond the framework would be subject to a remark.
In itself, I have no doubts about the proper conduct of the projects and the respect of the deadlines. But every project involves risks and unforeseen events. A certain amount of flexibility is, therefore, always expected, both on the part of the podcast agency and the customer. Here, I had the impression that a straitjacket was imposed.
And then there were the questions about the GDPR.
Unfounded GDPR claims and new warning signs
The prospect came back several times with questions about the GDPR. It’s an important subject that we emphasize much in our market research (see this article for more on that). But in the context of a company podcast, it doesn’t apply.
The customer flooded us with questions about the location of the servers used to record the video stream and the nationality of the company providing the video capture software. Of course, the files were stored on the servers of an American company. I tried to explain that the podcast was based on an interview between two people who had given their consent, but I still needed to do something. The prospect returned with more requests and an action plan to record the files in Europe.
That’s when I said STOP.
Potential problems and withdrawal of the offer
The repeated requests about the GDPR were the last straw. The prospect clearly didn’t understand what this was all about, which spelt significant trouble throughout the lengthy contract execution.
I called the prospect and told him we were withdrawing our offer. I also explained why. He was speechless, no doubt believing that the prestige of his organization allowed him to ask for anything.
To sum up: recognize the warning signs and withdraw in time
Lack of understanding and rigidity are the worst enemies of good project implementation. The insistent and unfounded remarks were a precursor to many others that would complicate the project and add:
- unnecessary stress
- unbillable work time
When you are in a situation like this, you need to recognize the dangers of the situation ahead and withdraw in time.
Grieving a project is difficult. But the years have taught me that it is better not to have a project than to have an unprofitable one.