At Inflow, we are very fortunate to have an amazing amount of top-notch clients. I give a lot of credit to the Sales team for hand picking clients they believe will produce the best partnerships over time. Because of this, the majority of our clients are very responsive and great to work with but occasionally we’ll get one that can be very challenging.
How, you might ask?
- Maybe their expectations are not realistic (even though we discussed this in the sales process)
- Maybe they are so busy or unresponsive that it is hard to meet deadlines, and a relatively short project can drag on for months
- 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 for them to micro-manage the project, therefore stifling the workflow.
- Fill in the blank
So what can Agencies do to either avoid these issues or at lessen their negative impact on the workflow and key performance results? 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 a 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 learn the red flags that have the potential to compromise a positive engagement. Red flags include clients wanting to rush through the process, clients who want premium services on a shoe-string budget, and clients who only want to sign a contract for X amount of hours but we know 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. For instance, they want to rank #1 for a highly competitive keyword older, established brands, with a bigger budget, already rank for.
Lesson – As an Agency, don’t be afraid to tell a client “We’re not a good fit for you.” It will save you a lot of time, headache and money in the end.
Of course, whether to bring on a potential 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 set up 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 Inflow given our clients are all around the U.S. and world. This initial meeting will start the relationship building that is all-important in short and long term projects.
Next 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 have the opportunity to connect with the client. 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! When this happens the client knows you’ve got their best interests 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. 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 set up clear expectations for both parties.
3) Phone calls
I am the first to say it is 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 a client in a while or they are non-responsive to email (duh!)
- 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
I could add a lot more here but you get the point. It’s about connecting with our clients on 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 Inflow, we have a soft transition from SEO Services to other departments such as CRO and PPC. It is important for one or more of the SEO team members to join the kick-off call of the other department. This is a great time to not only introduce new members of the team but to be a familiar voice. 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, 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 engagement 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 boilerplate emails and not engage the human side of the relationship.