Meeting with your SEO agency shouldn’t feel like a conversation with your mechanic, and calling your client shouldn’t be met with the same degree of dread as a Thanksgiving dinner with extended family. (Aunt Jody never stops bugging me about “finding a nice girl.”)
What Happened to Honest Communication?
Unfortunately, SEO’s and online marketers work in an industry that enables us to easily fill our conversations with technical nonsense and acronyms that only others in our niche can understand. In this way, we’re able to avoid the tough conversations. If a less than scrupulous agency is failing to bring you clients, no problem, they can spin the metrics so that they still look favorable. (It helps having so many metrics to work with).
It’s likely when your agency should be telling you, “Google AdWords isn’t working for you as a marketing channel – it’s just not making your phone ring. We should kill our spend with Google and try investing in a different channel.”
They’ll instead offer up some technobabble bull like this, “Well the conversion rates were low last period, but we’re optimistic. The ad’s quality scores are all above 6, our CTR is at about 2%, and the average CPC is over $40.00 for your vertical.”
This might as well be Cantonese for a client who uses the Internet solely to share pictures of their grandchildren on Facebook. *Cough* my parents *cough*
If the client can’t even understand the answer to their question, what value are they receiving? Are they learning anything about the efficacy of their advertising spend? What return they are seeing from their investment?
If I’m starting to sound passionate, it’s because I am.
Important side note: I don’t speak for everyone in our industry – there are a lot of people doing really great work and an even better job communicating it.
Calling your Client Shouldn’t be Dreadful
Communication can be hard — especially for those of us who spend our life on the Internet. It’s twice as hard for those of us with an inexplicable phone phobia.
As someone who falls into both of the previous buckets, I would be lying if I told you I’m always excited and eager to deliver reports to clients. Proactively delivering bad news sucks. It just really sucks. But, in the end, my clients are important to me. When I don’t perform for them – yes it happens – I want my clients to know they can (and should) hold my feet to the fire. I want my clients to know they at least deserve an explanation, and one they can understand.
If you’re going to pour 15 hours of your life into broken link building, why not spend 15 minutes on the phone explaining what the hell link building is? I use SEO-related examples as the vehicle to drive my message, but really this holds true for any industry.
The fact is this: none of my clients care that I spent 15 hours compiling a list of over 1,000 sites we found with broken links to similar resources so we can perform email outreach. Why would they care? They care about the phone ringing. Communicating how building this list will lead to the phone ringing is a must.
Content Communication is King
Often times in SEO we hear all sorts of experts talk about how to be successful: “content is king” or “you need local links” or “mobile friendliness is top priority.” Yes all of these things hold some truth, but unfortunately, none of these things matter if you fail to explain their importance.
I’m far from an expert in communication. However, I know the value of doing it well. Communication is imperative to a client’s success and both parties need to care in order to be successful. Client won’t pick up the phone? Hound them. A few polite, “I’m following up on the follow-up to my initial follow-up” emails should get your point across. Clients: You hired an agency to do the work for you, but you’re investing in yourself here. You know your business and the ‘feel’ of the impact of the work being done. Be involved in the marketing of your business. Be available when your agency needs you.
Our Director, and overall awesome communicator, always reminds the team to follow this simple principle. It can pay considerable dividends in client loyalty:
“If you’re thinking about your client, shoot them an email. If you’re getting ready to send an email, pick up the phone instead.”