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How to sell SEO is a challenging topic for SEO agencies, freelancers, and in-house corporate SEO alike. In each case, they must have the right answers for why their job is important, why they are the right choice, and why they need more of the company’s budget. In order to sell SEO, they must have a plan that beats all of the other squillion SEO experts, and they must convey the plan properly. This can also help the person seeking to hire or compare SEO services.
Here is a bit of thought on how to sell SEO effectively, and I hope it will help you. I also hope you will participate in the discussion by adding your comments.
The SEO Client
Let us first look at the SEO client. What are they searching for, and how will you deliver what they want and need? Do they want to find out what you know so they can use it to shop it around with other SEO agencies or implement it in-house? Why are they contacting you? You need to know this!
What is the SEO client searching for? They contacted you, right? I assume that they contacted you because any SEO worth their Google should have clients contacting them, often (another blog post). The SEO client knows this, too, and it should make sense to them when you ask why they contacted you. The fact that they came to you makes them a whole lot hotter lead than if you contacted them. After all, the fact that they found you is exactly the thing they want you to do for them. In my case, if they have filled out a form on one of my sites, I know what link or search has led them there, what else they have clicked on, how long they spent there, and how many times they have come back.
This gives me some great data, but then I consider an instance where the Chief Technology Officer, Marketing VP, and the whole marketing staff was totally on board with my SEO plan for their surgical supply company, but the CEO would not present it to the board because he had already made a $150,000 mistake with the last Internet marketing decision he made. He was afraid for his job, and ashamed of his last mistake. This makes it important to dig deeper into what human elements and fear factors you must overcome to get the job done. You cannot overlook these factors, such as the last joker who came in and made your industry look bad.
It is easy to toss out a few amazing claims and sprinkle their eyes with SEO dust, but let’s look at something much greater. The human factor of offering a service for sale is important, even if you are selling a nuclear reactor. If the client cannot work with you or you cannot work with them, this will clearly not work. Both the SEO client and SEO provider should be diligent in their choices, and this requires a lot of trust from both parties.
The facts and figures are hugely important to any marketing campaign, but all the numbers in the world will not satisfy a client who does not see what is in it for them, or understand your vision for their success. This is vital, and if you are selling facts and figures without how that translates into your client’s needs, goals, and comfort level, you will not sell SEO for very long.
Shopping and Comparing SEO
I have been selling SEO for over a decade, and I do not even bother counting how many SEO contact me to try and know what I know, or to gather ideas on how to sell SEO. Prospective SEO clients and SEO agencies alike will do this. If you are one of the SEO who has been in the business for a while, you have probably given many proposals or other valuable information to somebody who has no plan of ever doing business with you. SEO espionage is pretty rampant, and you will not stop it. I remember some early lessons in selling when I would go out and present myself as a customer in order to find out what salespeople were doing right and wrong, and using the information to do my job better. In the case of SEO, it is often the reason an SEO will hold information close to the vest and avoid discussing details of a plan and their SEO pricing model. It is a hard hurdle to leap, but if you are doing the job well, they will need a whole lot more than a copy of your contract or your plan … they will need you to get the job done!
If you are going to sell SEO effectively, you will need to weed this out and spend your time wisely, which brings me to the next point on confidence.
SEO Arrogance Confused with Confidence:
Have you ever talked about SEO or Web development with somebody who knows more than you? Yeah, I remember those days. When I was new at this, I recall thinking that I would never be able to absorb all that information and store it up here in my little head. That was not only in another decade for me, it was in another century altogether, and this is 2010. I do know a whole lot more than 99.999 percent of people about my job. That should be expected. I mean, how crazy would it be if you went to the dentist and learned something about search engine optimization from the dental hygienist? If it was me, I would jump up out of the chair before the drilling begins!
The hardship here is to convey confidence without being a jerk. I am not sure I have this mastered, but I try to remember the human elements I mentioned above. Sadly, some of the smartest and most talented people in the SEO industry will have a hard time talking about their work without either seeming like they are talking down to the client or just shooting straight over their head. The conversation is also often damaged by the fear of SEO espionage and that they are just being used for free information. Withholding information can make you seem sneaky and sinister, or it can make you seem as if you do not know what you are doing. Drawing the line on what you give away can be tricky, and it will be different each time.
Feeling out the client’s knowledge on the topic and tailoring your focus to their understanding is a challenge. A little fact-finding up front can help a lot.
Ask Many Questions … and Listen to the Answers!
One of the hardest things for somebody trying to sell SEO is to give their answers without really having a clear picture of the questions their prospective client has. If you are an SEO, you know the job, and you know that it does not matter whether they are selling fishing lures or race cars … the job of SEO has many of the same basic principles. The client may not know this, and what they need to know is that you have the creativity, experience, and ambition to help them.
I cannot drive this home for you enough. It is one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made, and that anybody selling SEO or anything else makes. You cannot serve the client to the best of your abilities without knowing specifically what they need, want, and expect from you.
The best way to answer those questions is to ask questions. This seems basic, but just consider how many times you are backed down because a client simply does not want to answer the questions you must ask in order to give them the best plan for their company. When this is the case, it is often best to hang up the phone, walk out of the room, or otherwise let the client know that you cannot help them until they allow you to help them. Veterinarians struggle to find the answers from patients who cannot speak, but these are human beings, and they can give you the answers. In order to give them the best results, they must!
Sure, you can do the research and you can improve their position in search engines, but if it does not speak to their expectations and goals, you will be foolish to continue. Much of this can be improved with an engagement letter and a fee for anything over “X” level of discussion. If the client is more comfortable, whip out your non-disclosure agreement for their security.
Whether you are selling SEO or buying the service, you must drop the inherent cynicism to do business. This requires confidence, which comes from asking questions and getting accurate answers. This is beneficial to both parties. If I ask a client for their server logs before I enter a performance-based contingency SEO contract, I will have an answer or I will walk away. If I ask for a clear picture of their existing marketing efforts and results, I want it for comparison and their view of their target. If I ask for their budget, I expect an answer. I do not ask for their budget without a reason, and that reason is that if I have a $5000 SEO budget, I will have a totally different plan than if I have a $50,000 SEO budget. Each of these has a totally different focus and set of criteria. Each client will answer my questions as differently as people walking into an emergency room. How I treat them depends on honesty and trust.
Just as an attorney will not defend you in a murder case without hearing your alibi, the SEO with best intentions will not take on a client without hearing their case.
So there you have just a few factors in how to sell SEO. This could obviously become a novel, so I will continue this in other articles. In the meantime, I want your input. Give me your comments and let’s discuss this.
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