by Itamar Gero, founder and CEO of SEOReseller.com
Each day is an opportunity for SEO agencies and experts to peddle their services to businesses who aim for online marketing success and have the money for it.
If you’re about to embark on growing your SEO agency, you’ll quickly find yourself in the thick of this competition.
First, let me point out that there are many ways to get ahead. That is to say these are not the only ways, just that they’re the ones that have worked for us. They’re not only effective at winning new clients, but also at winning the right kinds of clients.
I’m talking about the people who respect, trust and value your advice and are a breeze to work with. This is where you will perform best and achieve the best results.
So, how do you find these people? It starts with looking at your initial market, and then establishing trust and credibility.
Get Your Foot in the Door.
The first step to our approach is to examine and evaluate your initial market – who do you plan to sell your SEO services to? You can build your initial market in two ways: focusing on a niche or targeting businesses that already have digital marketing services.
Here’s how each approach would benefit you:
- Delve into Niche Marketing (and Go Local).
Over the years, my company has had the fortune of working with thousands of agencies and marketing professionals, coming from different locations and backgrounds.
I noticed that the most successful agencies have one thing in common: they know how to market not just their clients, but themselves. They invest in marketing their own brand and focus on a specific niche, either by industry, location, or business size.
Targeting a niche means cornering the market so you can embark on a course of effective and deliberate growth. And often, that entails establishing a local presence that makes it easy for your prospects to find you and shake your hand. Ask yourself if your potential SEO clients are competing nationally or locally. For agencies that are just starting out, the local market is often the best place to start. Start local, and then perhaps later, when you have the capacity to perform more, grow from there.
- Target Businesses with an Incomplete Digital Marketing.
Some businesses have an optimized website, but no off-page SEO in place. Others are investing in social media, and not much else. Targeting businesses with a digital marketing budget is often the practical approach. If they have an existing provider and are keen enough to mention it over the phone, it’s all too likely that they’re not open to change. Maybe because they’re comfortable with their current provider or don’t feel compelled to switch agencies.
You can either change their mind by being a more effective salesman or providing better results. Show the results you’re getting from your methodology and leverage the premium experience you can offer with the technology you have.
The more specific, exact, and differentiated your positioning is, and the more clients you’ll be honest with by stating exactly how much value you can provide them – the easier it will be to attract and close the right clients.
Quite often, it’s a hard concept to fully embrace. After all, if you’re saying no to 70% of the people who approach you (because you can’t provide what they’re asking for), then you must be saying no to 70% of potential profit, right?
Wrong. The more specific you make your positioning, the easier it will be to attract your best buyers and your most ideal clients. It allows you to laser-focus your marketing efforts, and then later, your pitches.
If you’re a dental practice, you’re more likely to be interested in working with an agency with the tagline “Attract New Patients – We do SEO for Dentists and Dental Professionals”, than a tagline that reads, “John’s SEO Firm – We do SEO for everyone.”
- Being on the Ground.
To build your initial market and get leads, go where your prospects are.
- Get Referrals – It goes without saying that the best clients are from direct referrals by happy, existing clients. It’s one of the easiest, more surefire ways to close a prospect.
- Attend Local Events – Your presence in local events presents opportunities to meet potential clients, attract leads, and build your reputation. There are resources that make it easier to find events expos, or trade shows in your area. I recommend EventBrite and Facebook.
- Conduct Workshops – Free workshops offer value to prospects outright. The workshops present a great opportunity to convince businesses that are unfamiliar with the industry to invest in your services.
It’s All About Trust.
If you’re targeting businesses that have digital marketing but have had bad experience with another provider – it’s no longer about selling SEO as a service, but selling you.
These clients already understand the value of SEO. What they need to know is if you’re a provider that they can trust. This presents an excellent opportunity to demonstrate expertise and leverage trust signals in order to set yourself apart from other providers.
Keep in mind that clients are adamant about not hiring an agency that badmouths other companies, so be careful not to speak ill of a previous provider or put the client in a negative mindset.
Instead, focus on your agency’s strengths. It may be on-page optimization, link building, content development, or a combination of these aspects. Focus on one strength at a time to avoid over-promising and under-delivering.
The goal is to show you are an expert at what you do, so that means going beyond simply telling – but showing. You can achieve this by providing clients with resources and collaterals, such as SEO reports and case studies.
- SEO Reports – Providing reports that highlight key areas is a testament to how solid your strategies are.
- Case Studies – Publishing case studies supports the effectiveness of your methodology and gives SEO prospects and existing clients assurance in your service.
Automate What You Can.
Time is of the essence, especially when you’re a business that’s supposed to focus on getting more clients. Don’t do in five hours when you can finish in 6 minutes. In my agency, my team uses a suite of SEO tools to make their jobs easier and their time more productive. These are some of the tools we use for our SEO campaigns:
- Keyword Planner (AdWords)
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- Screaming Frog
- OpenSite Explorer
- Majestic SEO
- PageSpeed Insights
- Think with Google
Pull Up a Contract.
Although it might be tempting to seal a deal with nothing more than a handshake, you still need to find a way to secure your cashflow. Have a contact ready when you’ve made the sale. Putting agreements on paper projects professionalism, a quality that can’t afford to be understated for a company that’s only starting out.
More importantly, a contract is a show of commitment. Offering your service on a contract basis eliminates some of fear and second-guessing that many freelancers face every day.
Determine the minimum length of contract that works best for you. SEO is a long-term process that takes time to generate results. SEO clients usually don’t leave (or stay) based on execution of tasks, but rather based on what the campaign has achieved (or hasn’t achieved) so far.
Some firms require a minimum of 6 to 12 months, with no possibility of cancellation within that period. If 6 months feels too long, then a month is too short. You can go somewhere in the middle. A 3-month minimum contract can give you enough time to show progress in SEO efforts, and provide the type of results that the client is expecting.
In summary, to build your client base, you need to:
- Target the right niche
- Target businesses with incomplete digital marketing
- Have an exact, specific positioning
- Go where your prospects are (local seminars, events, conferences)
- Establish expertise and leverage whatever tools you have at your disposal
- Automate, automate, automate
- Prepare a contract
Being able to do and promise all of these, you’ll be guaranteeing value – which is ultimately what all clients want to hear when you’re making that pitch. With a strong value proposition, you’ll be steps ahead and on your way to building bridges with SEO prospects and becoming a stronghold in the digital arena.
It’s not an overnight endeavor – building your client base is a long, hard trek. But once the momentum starts, the journey can be rewarding.
Itamar Gero is the founder and CEO of SEOReseller.com, a White Label SEOdigital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies — and their local business clientele — all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s traveling the world, meditating, or dreaming (in code).