I don’t consider myself a natural salesman, but I am a people person by nature. I enjoy contradicting societal norms that tell me that I need to puff myself up in order to be cool or popular.
I like who I am, and I have learned that I form deeper, longer-lasting relationships when I just lay it all out there and act like myself instead of some guy from a movie.
In the new age of Internet marketing that dawned this year, selling SEO requires less flashy technique and more of a relationship built on trust. Email solicitations do not build relationships.
@Gmail? Are You Kidding Me?
Yesterday, I received this email…
I am a Marketing Manager and would like to take few minutes of your valuable time for introducing our affordable SEO services.
Our assured monthly task and responsibilities will definitely give a boom to your online business.
Our packages for 15 keywords are mentioned below:
1. Keywords Analysis & Research
[...yada, yada, yada...]
24. Monthly Full Detailed SEO Work Report in Excel
We send weekly report to each of our clients so that they can have regular updates on their website. We truly care you and so ensure to work regularly on the website elegantly. We use white hat SEO techniques for each website to give new boom to your online business.
We are available for your services here so please do let us know in case you are interested.
Thanks & Regards,
Now, this isn’t necessarily a great case study because this nameless “Marketing Manager” obviously isn’t from the United States and doesn’t realize that he is soliciting his SEO services to an SEO company, but I see these emails all the time sent through my clients’ websites from people who seem to be competent SEO who can speak and write in fluent English.
As much as we’re all interested in “new boom”, effective SEO sales starts with building a relationship based on credibility and trust. If you’re trying to sell your expertise as an SEO professional, poney of up the dough for a domain name with email hosting and a nice-looking website. Your email address and website are going to act as reinforcements to show you’re legit. If you use a templated website, be sure to fully customize it. Don’t cut corners. Once you’ve done all that, throw out any notion of using mass email marketing to sell your services.
I talked with my client, Rod Strickland, about what kind of email solicitations he gets and what he thinks of them. “I’m thinking, this is probably someone who is in China, being paid a very low wage, and they’re just surfing the Internet, finding websites to reply on,” he said. “We have the security code on there, so I know it’s not a robot. It’s got to be a live person doing it, and it’s just shocking to think that they’re spending so much time to find just a random site and type it in there and send it. It’s such a waste of time.”
Rod is a dentist. He’s well-educated, tech-savvy, and highly intelligent. He’s even an inventor and has been published. He’s also willing to invest in something if he knows it’s going to give him a return, but it’s a waste of time to spam Rod’s site because he’s already very well ranked on Google for the terms that he cares about. That doesn’t stop some people from just spamming away with the same sloppy sales message.
I asked Rod if he’d ever followed up on an email solicitation, and he said, “No, never. Unless it’s CE that I’m aware of, I’m always wary of anything unsolicited. I hit the DELETE button ten times more on my keyboard than any other button.”
Do You Want A Spam Client?
This is just Rod’s take on the spam messages that he DOES receive. I’m sure there are tons of messages that he is blissfully unaware of in his Spam folder, but even if your unsolicited email happens to get through to a prospective client’s inbox, chances are that it just isn’t going to be read. So why bother?
Rod had a theory, “I suppose there’s some unsophisticated people with businesses on the web that fall for it. It’s obviously working for people to pay someone to do that, but for us, we can see right through it.”
Are clients who “fall for” an unsolicited spam email going to make for good clients? They’re obviously not very savvy, which means that it’s going to be an uphill battle for you to:
- educate the client on what you’re proposing to do for them.
- convince them that they probably need a new website.
- help them to see the value in what you’re doing if they’re not seeing immediate results.
- retain the client when they get the next spam email.
What Valuable Clients Value
As Rod puts it, SEO today from a client’s perspective is very “airy fairy”. What used to seem like voodoo to prospective clients before, now looks like voodoo performed by someone who forgets their name every 5 minutes. They don’t feel like they can trust anyone who claims to know what they’re doing.
“It’s very difficult to see that something someone is doing works, or is it just a random event that we happen to be first in Google?” Rod says, “It’s difficult to know the ongoing work that’s put in. We could pay you X number of dollars to work on our website, and then ‘Boom’, we’re at the top of the first page for all these different searches and then a year from now, [what was] all the work that I believe you have to do throughout the year to maintain that result, or did you set it up one time and it’s done, and we’re continuing to pay month after month after month, you know?”
Clients who are willing to pay top dollar for quality SEO work want to know what it is that they’re paying for, and they want to have a relationship with the person who’s doing that work. Clients want to know what you’ve done via some type of report, but if they don’t trust you, even those reports aren’t going to save you if the phone doesn’t start ringing in the first month that you start working for them.
Relationship Building SEO Sales Tactics
The bottom line is that not everyone is cut out to be a salesperson, and mass email solicitation is a sales crutch that just isn’t worth employing. We are told by marketing gurus that UX is to key to conversions, and we tell our clients that social media is key to building a relationship with a target audience, so why aren’t we focusing our sales efforts to improve the experience and relationship that our target audience has with us and our businesses? Here are some techniques that may be harder to implement than a spam email campaign, but are likely to yield more responses from quality clients:
- Get published (online or offline) in industry publications for the niches where you see the most opportunity
- Score speaking engagements to speak to industry groups in these niches
- Focus on building relationships with your current clients that go beyond a basic vendor/client relationship. Go above and beyond for your clients if you expect to get referrals from them. The first step to this is more regular, proactive communication with your clients.
- Be the expert whenever a client asks a question, do everything you can to answer their question in an authoritative way or at least to point them in the right direction. As Rand Fishkin pointed out in a SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday not too long ago, if you’re asking yourself whether or not this is really part of SEO, it’s time to look at your goals and motives.
- Get involved in networking groups and industry organizations in your niche.
If you’re thinking, “That sounds really hard,” or, “I’m not really a people person,” then it’s probably time to look at who can do these things on your behalf. If you’re a one-man show, and you’re an SEO wiz, but you hate dealing with customers, it may be time to look at partnering with someone who can do a better job at relationship-building than you can.
The SEO world is constantly changing whether you like it or not. In the Darwinian evolutionary sense, if you can’t grow your business through relationship building, you’re probably not the fittest, and you’re probably not going to survive. Are you going to adapt or die?
Jonathan Fashbaugh is the president of Pro Impressions Marketing Group, an agency specializing in online marketing for dentists. He’s written for numerous industry publications and been interviewed by the Academy of General Dentistry’s AGD Impact magazine for his marketing expertise.