Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Interactive Sales’ Category


Qualifying Your SEO Clients: The Intangibles

Yes or No Questions to Qualifying Your SEO Clients

David Harry wrote a really phenomenal post on Search Engine Journal that dealt with how to qualify your SEO Clients. (If you haven’t read this post, I would suggest it’s pre-requisite reading before this post) The gist:

Or as I like to say, 80% of your grief will come from clients worth 20% of your revenues. Anyone that has been in business for any length of time will have seen this. Not only can these ‘bad’ clients be emotionally taxing, they are also a drain on the resources of your company.

It is important from time to time to assess the clients…this is why it is a good reason to pre-qualify clients. Then you will hopefully never end up in this situation.

I thought I’d write a continuation piece discussing some intangibles when qualifying your SEO clients.

Two Important Intangibles For Qualification

David’s post did a tremendous job at looking at and evaluating tangible factors and data for qualifying potential SEO clients. And yet, there are some intangibles that can only be measured from experience and gut-feel. Those would be trust and seriousness.

Even if all the data and budgets line up, if you have a client that doesn’t/won’t trust your expertise, none of that matters. If you have client that isn’t really serious about search, performing well and capitalizing on the potential revenue streams available with a strategic SEO and SEM game plan, again, no amount of serendipitous data aligning will matter.

Energy Vampire Clients

Trust: Avoiding the Energy Vampire

Even if it all looks perfect on paper, it rarely ends up perfect. There are going to be snags, hiccups, and just plain ole’ misfires. The data is rarely perfect and sound out of the gate. It a guesstimate of what the data tools are telling us in the beginning, without some analytics in support, how people search for what you do.  So that means tweaks to everything. With tweaks comes change. Change a client may not always be comfortable with, but will serve them best in the long run.

If you’ve got a client that won’t listen to the data or you, then you’ve got a tough, and most likely untenable, situation. They may know their business and the products/services, but they pay you to understand how that translates to online consumers.

If they don’t trust you to shape the site, and by extension, the brand, then you spend all your time convincing them to pursue menial changes (because that’s all they trust anyone to do) that don’t amount to anything. Small battles all the time frustrate everyone and everyone’s nerves get frayed.

It boils down to an order-taking situation. Those relationships don’t last and become “energy vampires”.

Serious SEO Clients

Seriousness: Getting on Board

How serious is the client about search marketing and online marketing strategy? This takes time to evaluate, and it’s difficult to gauge from the first few conversations, primarily because everyone is excited about the prospect of doing great things.

Then the excitement wears off after a few months. And their true colors show. They’re “just fine” with the results. No need for expanding the architecture, or creating content to focus on what the data says people are on your site for. Everything is as it should be. They spent a good deal of money on a new site design and architecture, see some results, and are happy to just be there.

Things I’ve Recognized Over the Years

Here’s a few things I’ve seen over the years that, 9 times out of 10, will let you know you don’t have a serious client dedicated to building the best results possible.

  1. The “I just need a site so we can be where everyone else is” mantra
  2. Flinch anytime you mention the words “proposal” or “estimate”
  3. Back-peddle on every great idea with excuses about “needing approval from higher up” or the “not in this year’s marketing budget”

I would take all of these as a cues that one should walk. They just want the bare minimum and aren’t concerned with the possible results or revenue streams. It’s not somebody you can build a partnership with. It’s not someone who wants to share some risk with you.

The Objective: Building Partnerships, Creating Dialog

These two intangibles, if they’re present, in combination with David’s post, bring us impossibly close to a creating lasting, sound client relationships. And, after all, isn’t that what any of us wants? A client who trusts you, a client is serious about search and wants to harness it for all its worth?

If you’re sitting across the table with someone you can’t see this happening with, then they aren’t the right client for you.


Search Engine Marketing: You’re Selling It Wrong

ABC (Always Be Closing) Your SEM

Using the SEM Ripple Effect to Your Advantage

Using the SEM Ripple Effect to Your Advantage

The past couple weeks I’ve been thinking about how most groups, firms, and independents sell their SEM services. They are always talking about RESULTS.  You see it in slides. You hear it as you walk past conference rooms:

I’ve helped so-and-so double their website traffic in the last 6 months“, or “We’ve moved Client X to the first page of results for Keyword A and Keyword B“, and, finally, “We’ve increased lead generation and conversions 200% in the last year“.

The problem is simple. It’s something we’ve all known since high school physics: Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (i.e. the ripple). The way you’ve been selling your SEM is backwards; you’re expecting a reverse ripple of action.

The Traditional SEM Sell

Here’s how the majority have been selling search engine marketing services:


No, I’m not implying there is an issue with results-based selling. The issue arises when that’s all you’re selling. Phantom numbers. Mysterious statistics of success.

There’s no doubt that your prospective is more than likely impressed with the numbers. Probably even made a face at you too that went something like this: *Raises eyebrow* and *Eyes-Get-A-Bit-Wider* –> *Pensive Facial Grab* and *Leaning Forward*

Right. It’s that last part that should worry you. That last part is what you don’t want to see: THIS PERSON THINKS YOU’VE JUST BULLSHIT THEM.

They don’t really believe you made those results happen and/or you did it once, with one client, and probably haven’t repeated it since. That’s how far results-based selling will get you: just far enough to get a “thanks for your time” and “we’ll talk this over and get back to you”.

It’s a weak footprint to leave behind. Every other agency/firm/group is doing the exact same thing: blowing hot-air results. And, what that leaves the decision-maker with is a battle over price, personality, and brand-fashionista-ism.

Company X charges $$$, promised incredible results, very nice guys and seemed knowledgeable, but haven’t heard of them around town. Company Y charges $$, also promised great results, nice too, and I’ve heard the name before. Budgets are tight: Company Y it is.

This method expects RESULTS to produce ACTION. And, in some cases, this method can be to your advantage, but we know from living our lives that ACTION produces RESULTS. So, why would the opposite be true when your pitching SEM?

How You Actually Should Be Selling SEM

Here’s how you should be selling search engine marketing services:

Create The True SEM Ripple Effect

Telling the prospective client what it is you do to produce results, is what sells your SEM services. Results, in any fashion, are always an aftershock, a ripple or after-effect, of any action. For better or worse.

Using this, in combination with a result, makes the logic simple to follow and the results tangible. You can imply the results are attainable and not just phantom numbers on a slide.

You make think this method leads to giving away the “secret sauce” and “demystifying” the SEM process, but it doesn’t.  You don’t have to give intimate details away at the pitch, you present a 30,000 ft. view of the process, stratifying larger tasks. In a marketplace that most people already think is related to the “dark arts” or “snake oil salesman”, this is an instant route to earning trust with the prospect, and retaining leverage as the authority.

The only pitfall here is the tendency to overwhelm with process. And, while on occasion this can work to your advantage, especially with prospects that are familiar with search engine marketing, in the end it may dizzy them up and leave them action-less.

The next time you walk into a pitch sell using ACTIONS, what you WILL DO to improve their online efforts. Then tell them the results. ABC, people. Always Be Closing.


Time to Fire Your Clients?

How do you Know When it’s Time to Fire Your Clients?

When do you fire your clients?

On occasion, everyone deals with a difficult client. They might be very sensitive to keyword choices and hyper-sensitive to optimized content and internal anchor links. It’s understandable. Because, hey, it’s your brand and it has to be represented a certain way.  As a search marketer, as someone concerned about their own brand and image, I get that.

And, yes, “difficult” can cost you profits if handled incorrectly, be a total time-sink, and in some cases, ruin your day. Yet, how you perform with difficult clients, in the worst of times, will only make you that much better with everyone else. It’s the easy, amicable clients that get you into trouble. After all, you can’t hit homerun everytime out, and the struggle is where joy arrives.

At what point does difficult turn to “fire-able”? That’s the question.  And, everyone has a different answer.  Every person has a varying tolerance level. Some could/can tolerate it forever because the client is the “Golden Goose”. Others, based on past experiences, have a extremely low threshold, won’t put up with the slightest rumblings, and pull the trigger. It all falls along the bell curve and standard deviations.

There’s Only So Much Shit You Can Eat.

Be honest, there’s only so much shit you can eat. Even the most easy-going, lax, and tolerant person has a limit.  So I asked the question:

When is it time to fire your client?

Clients do need to understand that this is the last resort. I don’t think anyone EVER wants to fire someone. You always think it’ll be better the next time around. Maybe just a phone call to explain my point-of-view on the situation and how it affects our partnership. But I’m learning: once an asswipe, always an asswipe. Clients don’t change. I think Ian Lurie put it best:


The McDonalds-ization of Client Service

“The client is ALWAYS right.”

Unfortunately, that is not the case. There is an overwhelming pressure to kowtow to the client’s wishes, one that has infiltrated businesses across the globe. And, with a global depression/recession in full-swing, the client knows they have an advantage. They’ll press you. They’ll barter, bargain, and attempt to de-value your services because there’s a global crunch and they think they can. They ignore you to avoid having to approve work they were so desperate to get.

The fact of the matter is, it’s NOT ok.  The client is not right. They want filet mignon at chesseburger prices. If your search marketer is worth their salt, they completely understand you’re marketing budget got tighter. That every dollar needs to be accounted for, stretched, and maximized. But, that does not mean that I have to grossly de-value and debase myself and my services to fit your budget.

Time to Fire Your Client…

Fire clients when they cost you more than they pay you


It’s time to fire your client when the relationship is completely lopsided and no mutual balance can be found. Or as Alysson Fergison put it:

[when the] need to understand that their decisions impact other people’s lives

Then it’s time to fire your client.

%d bloggers like this: