Professional Ghosting – what’s it all about?

One minute they are there, then “poof” they are gone!

I’m an old hand at my actual work, that is, developing and executing marketing strategy, but I’m new to the world of small business ownership, and in particular the need to drum up my own business.  But, I’ve approached it in the same way as I do with all my work – timely responses, providing a good level of detail, having a professional approach, partly to protect my brand and reputation, but mostly because it is just good manners.

So imagine my surprise the first time I encountered “professional ghosting”, that is, the sudden termination of communication from a would-be client with no explanation or warning.  Let me describe one particular example.

Jane* (*not her real name) contacted me (I emphasise…contacted me) asking for some marketing support, initially to rebuild a website, and then possibly some other ongoing work after that.  She was Brisbane-based (in loose terms – actually a 70km round trip), so when she asked if I would come and meet her to discuss her website and view her premises I agreed.  She could only do a Thursday, so I duly arranged childcare for my son to make that happen.  I also spend a couple of hours trolling through her extensive website, making notes and coming up with a couple of approaches to discuss in the meeting.

Thursday arrives and out I go to Woop-Woop*(*not the real name of the town) to meet with Jane and her off-sider.  We have a good discussion for an hour or so, I get a tour of the facilities thrown in, and then I start the long journey home, having been asked to go away and prepare a quote and a scope of works.

This is a pretty big job – the website is a bit of a mess, it’s a huge site, and I want to be sure to quote it right so I don’t underestimate the time it will take.  To do that, I also have to further develop the approach I’ll take, so I can best guess how I’ll go about it.  I also draw up the standard T’s and C’s and get ready to send it through.

A week later I follow up, by phone and email.  No answer, no response.  Then another week passes and I have one more go, then just for fun, I try again another couple of weeks after that.  Then I have to give up – by now I’ve spent many, many hours on this and need to move on.

That was around July 2018.  I never did hear back from Jane, but I did experience professional ghosting a couple more times after that. Always the same process – they contact me asking for my services, I duly respond, and then never hear from them again.  In fact, I have only ever have two responses to a quote – a resounding yes, or the deathly silence of the ghost.

I have to say this phenomenon leaves me completely baffled.  I certainly don’t expect to win every job I quote on, but I had expected to hear back one way or another.  Now that I know this is a “thing” I hear about it all the time – always the people who initiate the contact then become the ghosts.

So how do I feel about Jane?  Well first I was a bit confused, and of course, being my nature, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  Then I questioned my judgement – did the meeting not go as well as it seemed to have? Did I misinterpret what she was after?

Finally, I came to see it for what it was – rude and unprofessional.  In my eyes, through her actions, Jane has done irreparable damage to her brand.  She’s shown me that she’s unreliable, with a dubious attitude, and is certainly not someone I would work with, recommend or use the services of.

So ghosts!  I’d love to know, what’s the go?  Why ask for someone to provide something and then ignore them when they do?  What message do you think that sends about you and your brand?  How hard is it to say “thanks, but no thanks?”

As always, I’m looking for the positive. Any ghost fended off is a bullet dodged, and now I’m just grateful that I don’t have them as clients.  I’m certainly hoping for a less spooky 2019 – ghosts beware, I’m on to you!

If you’re not a spooky spirit and would like a marketing consultant who always returns your calls, drop us a line.