Last week I was making the drive from Phoenix to Tucson to meet with clients, and decided to put on some Madonna music in anticipation of her upcoming Super Bowl appearance. In between “Hung Up” and “Material Girl,” one of her lesser-known songs (and one of my favorites), “Get Together” came on. I was struck by how some of the lyrics of that song resonated with me in terms of the sales cycle for organic SEO services. The first lines of the song are:
“(There’s too much confusion)
(It’s all an illusion)
(there’s too much confusion)”
which made me start to think about how difficult it must be for business owners to determine what their online marketing needs truly are. My clients, for example, are mostly small to medium businesses and when we first started working together they were trying to sort out what kind of online marketing they needed, and from what marketing firm. In Phoenix alone, there are over 100 locally owned online firms that offer SEO, in addition to numerous national SEO companies with a presence in the Valley, such as FindLaw and Yodle. While each Internet marketing firm has a different name, their pitch and their promises sound very much the same. Catch phrases like “don’t pay until you place,” or “we guarantee first page placements,” and “you will get a flood of business from our service,” is very appealing to business owners because it sounds risk free. Yet, many of my clients have tried these types of “risk free” services only to discover that these online marketing firms are optimizing for long tail, low competition keywords, or are really a pay-per-click company disguised as an organic SEO company. The hard earned money they put into their campaigns with these “risk free” marketing firms did not bring them the return on investment they were hoping for. Confusion and illusion—is the reality that many business owners face when choosing an Internet Marketing company, because they simply do not have enough industry knowledge to be able to tell what company does legitimate link building campaigns, and what marketing firm can deliver on their promises. What questions should business owners be asking to uncover the right online marketing professionals for their business?
Another line in “Get Together” that reminded me of my industry and our sales cycle is the line:
“Do you believe that we can change the future
Do you believe I can make you feel better?”
because I really do believe in the power of online marketing done properly. I have seen first-hand the powerful effects that an SEO campaign has had on my client’s businesses. Increased traffic to their sites, leads to increased phone calls and product orders, that result in new offices opening, new hires at the company, and future profit forecasts that are much higher than before their work with us. While SEO is not the only form of marketing a company can do to generate leads and traffic to their website, it is an important component of any online marketing strategy. SEO itself is a more laser targeted marketing technique when compared to traditional marketing services because of its focus on search engine queries for products or services by consumers looking to buy. The future of our clients companies is brighter because they are paying money for effective marketing tactics by a reputable SEO firm, and bringing new customers into the fold of their company. Our marketing firm, and other ethical and aggressive SEO companies, can really help to make our customers “feel better” by bringing them a trackable return on investment and can help to make the future of their company much brighter. How does National PC Solutions as a company, as well as other reputable Internet marketing providers, match up with potential clients to show them the value of our services and the positive effects SEO could have on their business?
The final part of Madonna’s song “Get Together” that reminds me of the SEO industry is:
“If it’s bitter at the start
Then it’s sweeter in the end”
because SEO is not a quick and easy marketing strategy. Good SEO takes a lot of time, a high amount of skill, and a large link building team to gain first page rankings for competitive and high volume keywords. Results oriented SEO firms will also charge a higher price in order to generate real returns for marketing dollars spent, which means that businesses will pay a sizeable amount of money before seeing a return due to the long cycle of growth that it takes before getting first page placements on the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. This waiting period is the bitter, anxious period for most of my clients, particularly the ones who have never done SEO before, or who have had bad experiences with this marketing strategy in the past. Yet, for the vast majority of our clients, doing an SEO campaign does get “sweeter in the end,” because after putting in time and money, their campaign starts to pay off with increased traffic, increased phone calls and product orders, and an increase in new clients using their services. This is because they are more visible through their online marketing campaign to the people who need the services our clients can provide. So, as an SEO provider, what can be done in order for potential clients to see the end goal of increased visibility as valuable enough to forgo making money off the service for the first 4-6 months?
In this article, I have asked three questions of my readers, and I would like to answer them now so that they can use this as a resource when choosing an Internet marketing firm for their business. They are:
- What questions should business owners be asking to uncover the right online marketing fit for their company?
- How does National PC Solutions as a company, as well as other reputable Internet marketing providers, match up with potential clients to show them the value of our services and the positive effects SEO could have on their business?
- As an SEO provider, what can be done in order for potential clients to see the end goal of increased visibility as valuable enough to forgo making money off the service for the first 4-6 months?
Let’s start by answering the questions in order.
What questions should be asked to uncover the right online marketing firm for their company?
Reputable SEO companies will have no problem proving the return on investment that they are generating for their clients. They should also never give any sort of “guarantee” to clients for first page placements, as this is a promise that can never truly be kept, particularly for very competitive keyword terms. Great SEO firms will also be very transparent in terms of educating their potential clients on how their SEO strategy works, give clients a variety of options, offer multiple data reports, and provide a wide array of quality links on a regular basis. Questions to ask to make sure that an SEO company does indeed fit these criteria include:
- Can you provide referrals from clients I can contact about your SEO services?
- Can you provide a list of first page placements for competitive, short tail keywords as examples of your work?
- How many keywords, links, types of links (for example, directory submissions, high Page Rank one way back links, ect) will my campaign have?
- Are your links hand-submitted or automated?
- How big is your link building team and what is the “stick” rate for the links that are submitted?
- What sort of tracking measures do you have in place for my campaign and how often will I be informed of the progress that is being made on behalf of my business?
How does National PC Solutions as a company, as well as other reputable Internet marketing providers, match up with potential clients to show them the value of our services and the positive effects SEO could have on their business?
These next two questions that I am answering are the most difficult because they are questions that everyone in the Internet Marketing industry, and most businesses in general, struggle with. How do you get people to “buy into” your business? I think the answers lie in implementing a few key processes into your marketing and sales strategy.
- Prove your worth as a marketing firm by showcasing case studies of SEO campaigns that have helped your client’s businesses grow. Allow potential clients to contact current or former clients to speak with them about your service. This means relinquishing control of what is being said about your business—and trusting in the service you provided to your current clients to win over the new ones.
- Focus on what is different about your company even though you may offer the same service than your competitors in the SEO industry. Once you know what is different about your company (maybe the culture of your company is more appealing to start-up businesses and tech companies, or that your copy writing is more effective, or the level of customer service your company offers is above that of your competitors, etc), you will be able to use it to stand out, and attract the types of companies that care about your special niche and will gravitate towards it.
- Educate potential clients, and current ones, about what SEO is and how it compares to other forms of online marketing (Pay-Per-Click, Social Media Marketing, etc) and traditional marketing (radio, television, newspaper, etc). Speak clearly in terms of risk and rewards for each. Encourage potential clients to compare rates, levels of service, and overall marketing strategies of different SEO companies in order to find the right fit for their business after you have educated them on the value of using your service, and how you are different. Trust that they will choose you in the end because you took the time to educate them when most companies are just trying to hard sell them.
- Try to establish yourself as the helpful, go-to company that oozes industry knowledge and competence. Encourage your sales people to be excited to answer any question, and take on any project, regardless of how small. This creates a ripple effect that will inevitably push business towards you. For example, if you are enthusiastic about consulting with folks in your networking groups about their business without hard selling them, you might not get their business, but you will probably end up doing work for people inside their circle of influence because you were willing to share your expertise. If your sales agents are excited to take on just small website redesign, they will be able to leverage it into an SEO campaign because they were able to prove their dedication to the client in their interactions, and build trust with that business owner to move forward and spend more money with your company to make the most use out of their new website design.
As an SEO provider, what can be done in order for potential clients to see the end goal of increased visibility as valuable enough to forgo making money off the service for the first 4-6 months?
This is a really tough question, and not one that has an easy answer. What I can provide are tips that have worked for our company that might work for others as well.
- Make sure that your potential clients understand that no marketing medium is risk free, and SEO is no exception to that rule. Still, out of all marketing options, online or not, I think that SEO is the least risky out of all of them because of its ability to match consumers with business/products that they want or need to buy from. For example, if my pipes burst in the middle of the night, I need a plumber to come and help me so I will use Google to look one up and call his emergency line and give him my business because I need him immediately. SEO is also less risky because its results can be tracked in a multitude of ways, from call tracking, to heat mapping on the website, to Google Analytics, or monthly or daily reports on the growth of a campaign. This data can be put together to learn how it is generating sales or new clients. Try doing all of that with a radio ad or television commercial—typically the best you can do is monitor call tracking.
- Manage client expectations properly from the beginning. Educate them on the pros and cons of doing an SEO campaign, what the search volume and competition in their industry is, and how long you predict it will take to start generating first page placements. Be conservative in all estimates. For example, if you have a personal injury firm as a new client, you know that it is a highly competitive and expensive industry to do an SEO campaign for. If you think it will take about 4 months to start showing first page placements, say it will take 6. If there are 500 people a month searching for a personal injury lawyer in their city, estimate that they will get a conservative 10% of people calling their firm a month after they get first page placements, and can realistically expect to get one new client from their campaign every month. If the personal injury firm is paying you $1,000 per month to get them one case that generates $30,000 for their firm, and they expect to only get one case per month, then they will always be happy with your service. Any more than one case per month from your SEO campaign will make them sing praises of your firm because you properly managed expectations from the beginning. Under promise and over deliver is the key component of our SEO services, and it results in loyal and properly managed clients.
- Encourage potential clients to contact your current or former clients to talk openly about the dreaded “waiting” period of growth for first page placements to see if it ended up being worth it for them. Show your potential clients case studies of how you have helped others in their industry succeed. Make sure that clients you sign on truly do have the means to make it through the first few months, and that they are also doing other forms of marketing and not solely relying on SEO to make or break their business. Try to help them strategize what they can do to help the SEO process along by improving their websites, blogging, shooting and syndicating videos, and getting active on social media platforms. If you work together on mutually beneficial tasks, time will fly by much quicker, and their placements and rankings will be even better than just relying on a link building campaign to generate improved rankings.
I hope that you found this article helpful, and I encourage you to pass it along if you did to others who you think would enjoy or learn from it. As always, I welcome questions or comments, and look forward to posting something again soon to share with our loyal and new readers.