Many startup entrepreneurs dream of landing marquee clients – names known around the world. Whatever business you’re in or trying to be in, few things signal the arrival of your business more clearly than catering to the rich and famous. And few things can do more to amplify your brand – or destroy it – than working with the world’s glitterati. Just one tweet, one photo, one mention from the right person can change your brand and business immediately.
Finding celebrity clients is tricky since most of the business they do is by referral – one movie star telling another or one athlete sharing a tip with a teammate. But once you land one or two, keeping them happy under the prospect of instant, worldwide attention can be a challenge.
Related: 5 Ways to Land Celebrity Clients
Personally, since I started my professional life in politics, I’ve worked with high-profile politicians and candidates from president to governors and party leaders. As both a member of their staff and a business owner selling them products and services, I’ve spent considerable time under the microscope of knowing that everything I did could be international news and make or break me in an instant. In other words, I get the pressure and opportunity of working with and for high-profile clients and customers.
I have some suggestions for you. To help me develop and share some tips on keeping these valuable clients happy, I asked Adam J. Zayed and Edgar M. Duarte to offer their insights as well. Both run their own small businesses and have high-profile clients. Zayed is an attorney in Chicago who represents some of biggest names in professional sports – mostly in medical and injury claims. Duarte is in Miami, and his firm has worked with the heads of state and government ministers in several governments, mostly in Africa.
Together, we’ve put together these five tips for managing famous and influential clients.
1. Be friendly, not friends.
Being with famous people is fun, sexy and exciting. But resist the urge to be their friend and go play and party with them. You’re building a business, not a posse, and it’s entirely possible to be friendly without being at the center of their social lives. What you want as an entrepreneur is to have a roster of clients who value and rely on you – not one friend, even a really famous one.
2. Lower your expectations.
Many celebrities and famous people grow accustomed to getting what they want and, in some cases, the best of everything. In a small business though, under-promise. If you think you can do 100 of something, tell them 70 is likely so when you deliver 90, they think you’ve won instead of fallen short. Yes, your competition may over-promise, but that’s not a sustainable business model. And sustainable business should be your goal.
“Managing your client’s expectations can be tough. It’s so easy to tell them what they want to hear,” said Duarte. “But the good clients, the clients you want, will know when you’re telling them the truth and will learn to value your honesty and reliability.”
3. Don’t ask for the spotlight.
It’s tempting to ask famous clients to promote you or your business, especially when they are happy with what you’re doing. But don’t ask for that. Yes, it’s valuable to be in the spotlight, but that’s not nearly as valuable, business wise, as doing good work and earning a client’s trust and referral. When the big publicity does happen, you’ll be glad you didn’t build your business around it because it can disappear as quickly as it appeared.
4. Avoid gossip.
Nothing will sour a business relationship with a well-known person more quickly than bragging about it. It’s tempting to put their picture on your website, issue a press release, or brag at the bar about who you’re working with and what you are doing. But don’t. Most celebrities, athletes and world leaders value discretion as much as quality work.
“It’s a bit easier as a lawyer because there are limits about we can say anyway,” Zayed said. “But if have any hopes of building a business around big name clients, the best advice is to keep your head down, your mouth shut and do good work.”
5. Don’t cut your fees.
As much as you may want to wiggle your way into the celebrity client or customer market, don’t cut your prices to get their business. High-profile clients are often more work than the less famous ones, and you don’t want to be in a position where you expect their cache to offset some of the lost revenue. Charge a fair price, the right price for whatever you’re selling – regardless of who’s buying. That’s true across the board.