At seOverflow we are very blessed to have an amazing amount of top-notch clients. I give a lot of credit to Alexis, our Sales Director, and our referral partners for sending us awesome leads that eventually convert to great clients! Though, the majority of our clients are very responsive and great to work with, occasionally we’ll get one that can be very challenging.
How, you might ask? Maybe their expectations aren’t realistic. Maybe they are so busy or unresponsive it’s hard to meet deadlines and a relatively short project can drag on for months. Or maybe they’ve been burned by an unprofessional and subpar SEO company in the past; which can lead to lingering trust issues and a need to micro-manage the project, therefore stifling the work flow.
So what can Agencies do to either avoid these issues or at least lessen the potential of them during the project? There are many and you are likely already familiar with some, but let’s take a minute to look at 5 basic ways we can help ensure our client’s needs are top priority while working in a way we, SEO professionals, can do what we do best.
1) Weeding out potential clients in the sales process that are not a good ‘fit’
No one really wants to turn away business, but after a few “problem” clients it doesn’t take long to notice certain patterns that almost always convert clients to unhappy campers once the project gets underway. Red flags include clients wanting to rush through the process, clients who want premium services on an underfunded budget, and clients who only want to sign a contract for X amount of hours but we know good and well it could easily take double that to produce the results they are expecting. Finally, often times we speak with potential clients who have unrealistic expectations; they are competing for highly competitive keywords and expect immediate results.
Lesson here – it will probably save an Agency a lot of time, headache and money to tell a client “we’re not a good fit for you” rather than bringing on these type of clients time after time, which easily can end in both sides being unhappy. Of course, whether to bring on a potentially problem client has to be looked at objectively and quantitatively rather than from the perspective of “I think this client could be a pain in the ass.” Bottom line…propose a clear and concise contract, explaining it thoroughly to the client during the sales process and reiterate it during the initial project kick-off call, making sure all parties are on the same page with goals & expectations.
2) Kick-Off Meeting
It is essential to setup a kick-off meeting between the key players of your team and the Clients at the onset of a project. Face to face is preferable, but video or phone is the majority of what we do at seOverflow given our clients are all around the US and world!
This initial meeting will start the relationship building that is all-important in short and long term projects. Second to the sales process, I think this is the most important juncture where an Agency can contribute significantly, and positively, to the client’s overall satisfaction of the project. You’ve got to connect with the client and communicate everyone’s needs during this call. You not only get to know who you will be working with but you will learn what their company’s needs are; today’s needs, next month’s needs, and long term needs/goals. If all goes well you’ll probably find things your client didn’t know that they needed; if not in the kick-off meeting definitely somewhere later in the process. When this happens the client knows you’ve got their best interest at heart and they aren’t just another project of the month.
The final details I cover in a kick-off meeting are some of the specifics of the contract – the scope of work. It is helpful to reiterate the numbers of hours to be worked, deliverables, time frame, et cetera. This will help prevent problems later on and is another step to wash away assumptions and setup clear expectations for both parties.
3) Phone calls
I am the first to attest it is so much easier to send a client an email than to call them on the phone. Yes, the majority of my correspondence with clients is via email but there are times when a phone call could prove more beneficial. Good times to call your clients include:
– If you haven’t heard from them in a while or they are non-responsive to email
– If something exciting or new has happened; an increase in rankings, traffic and/or conversions for example
– To clarify technical issues that could be better explained via phone
– To schedule a meeting
I could add a lot more here but you get the point. It’s about connecting with our clients in a more personal level. Not only are you connecting interpersonally with them, it is more organic and you may end up talking about or resolving a few other issues that would not have come out of a single email.
At seOverflow we have a soft transition from On-Page SEO to the Link Building side of things. It is important for one or more of the On-Page team to join the transition meeting into the Link Building phase. This is a great time to not only introduce new members of the team, but to be a familiar voice and to answer any lingering questions before the client transitions into a new phase of the project. Clients don’t necessarily want to feel shuffled around. If they know they have at least one person who has a pulse on the project they are much more open to staff changes.
5) Communicate, communicate, communicate
This isn’t really a step; it should have been present from the beginning; through the sales process, kick-off meeting, emails and phone calls, and project transitions. It is much easier to talk about something before it happens, than to talk about how to fix something after it happens – be proactive! Remember, your clients are human beings just like you. Sometimes they will have a bad day, sometimes they will forget deadlines or meetings, sometimes they will mess something up – it’s ok. As long as there has been a strong foundation of communication throughout the project everything should be alright. You can always reschedule meetings and make new deadlines; you cannot, however, gain trust or active and willing participation from a client if all you do is send boiler plate emails and not engage the human side of the relationship.