How to Convince Hesitant SEO Clients to Sign-Up?

Dealing with potential clients is a delicate process, so what should you say when they are hesitant?

Video transcript:

Tim: That’s a perfect segue into something that I’m curious about. I want to know how you talk to potential clients that might have a rough history with the previous SEO agency or an experience with their website where they might be used to paying a few hundred dollars a month or something, but they’re not really sure what they’re getting. Right?

David: Right.

Tim: They’re optimizing their site and really probably, without all the details, thinking that they’re getting maybe some local SEO services where they might be posting a Google My Business posting, watching over it, and stuff like that. I just don’t have evidence of anything actually being done, though. No new content on the website; nothing has changed in five years on this website. You know, that sort of situation. One where the business owner is used to that. They saw some leads coming into their website, but now they’ve dropped that for a year. In one instance, I know that thinking about a plan that is so involved and has so many components to it and is not just a single facet into just like, citations or only writing content, or anything like that. That might be too big of…just too big of something. I don’t know, I’m losing my thoughts, but too big of a bite to take, you know, going from one extreme to the other.

Tricia: Yeah. Going from a small to a large plan.

Tim: Yeah.

Tricia: When you offer your plans like that, do you have anything other than here’s the big plan, or do you have any middle ground? Where it’s not quite as big of a jump?

Tim: To a certain extent. But like I’ve heard David say before, there is still a minimum level of engagement.

Tricia: Yes.

Tim: And so, I think the minimum level engagement is kind of where they’re even balking at. I could probably put together a plan that’s bigger and better for them, but they’re also working off of a zero-dollar annual budget at the moment because they’ve had a budget, and they’ve spent the money here and there over the years. But over the last year, they’ve barely had any, and they had other projects going on. You know? So, going from say zero to thirty, forty thousand a year for a piece of their overall marketing budget is still intimidating to them, I think.

David: This is a very hard thing, especially when you’re starting to provide SEO services because it’s always hard to say no to clients. You feel like you’ve got to take on these clients, but sometimes clients like this might end up being bad clients. And so, sometimes you just have to say, “at this point, you can’t make my minimum. I understand. Why don’t we talk when you can.” Because there is a finite amount of stuff that has to happen to move the needle, if they just don’t have the budget to spend to do that, well, this isn’t the best marketing channel for them. Right?

Tim: Alright.

David: And so, that’s really a tough question. But it will serve you as a business owner better later, too, because then you’re not dreading working or realizing that you’re bleeding money working for this client. You know, everyone on this call is a very altruistic and kind person. Right? And we want to help people, but we also have to have good healthy boundaries and not help people and hurt ourselves by taking a loss just to take them on. So, maybe there’s a way to find a service that will help them regardless. Like, what if it was something like, “Hey, for a one-time price, I could set you up with Google Analytics. And that’s going to help you matter what marketing you do because it’s going to help you see what’s working.”

Tim: Right.

David: Right? And “so even if you, client, do your own SEO for a year because you have to save money, you’ll know whether that’s working.”

Tricia: They’ll know it’s properly set up too with the proper goals and not who knows what they did or if they did it right.

David: Right. I also feel that just honest heart-to-hearts with people tend to do well. And just, “Listen, business owner to business owner, it costs me money to do this. I have to pay for writers, have to pay for services, have to pay for tools. And yes, I know you’re just paying a hundred dollars a month right now. I don’t know how anybody could make that work because I know how much stuff costs. I’m very sorry because it sounds like you were taken advantage of, but this isn’t free. It isn’t free because these tools cost money, and my mortgage company does not take good intentions.” Right? And every business owner is going to understand that, and it might be okay to just say, “for now, this probably isn’t the right fit for you.” and encourage them into, like a package or maybe it’s like, “Well, as you have the budget, we do things a la carte, one at a time.” This month for them, I do Google Analytics, set that all up, set up the tracking. Now you’ve got that. Good. That’s going to last for years. Maybe later, we’re going to do a one-time project with keyword research. Maybe we’re going to limit that to five pages. Right? And I’m going to give you some suggestions about what you could do to get a little bit more out of those pages. And you’re going to implement a client. But we’re just doing a little bit at a time to help start moving the needle, but I can’t do a full-service plan for you at that rate.

Tim: Right.

David: But you might be able to provide one-off things. Right? Maybe it’s like, “Hey, I know you’re used to paying that little for each month, but what if we were just to write two blog posts a month for you?” It’s going to be more because we’re going to write good quality stuff, and as a business owner, you’re going to upcharge it for your time and not just pass it through to them. That’s a little bit, but it’s also something you know is helping them, and it’s still cost-effective within their budget. Then you can kind of stay within their sphere of influence for when they do have a budget open up for it.

Tim: Yeah.

David: But I’ve been there before, especially when I got started, and it felt like I had to say yes to everybody. There was one client that said she had never paid so much for SEO in her life, and I was not charging her my current rate.

Tricia: I was going to say you probably were a lot lower than you are now.

David: I was. I was a lot because she was one of my first clients. But it wasn’t just chump change either. Right? I wasn’t going to be rich off it, but I was going to cover my costs and make a profit. I just was very gentle and showed her all that she was getting, and as she talked to me, she realized she was getting access to who knew what they were doing and cared about her, and she went ahead and took a chance. And it paid off for her. Right? We were able to move the needle. There were other clients that I just said, “Hey, you know what? I don’t think we’re the right match.” And I’m glad I turned my back on them because I would have been miserable; I would have hated life. I wouldn’t have felt good about what I was doing because I knew I couldn’t be doing everything for them.

Tim: Yeah. I definitely am not scared to walk away from a client. Although I am somebody that has a hard time saying no. Does that work together?

Tricia: I understand. Me too.

Tim: I don’t know. But a couple of these that I have in mind as some speaking, they’re pretty ideal, the opportunity that they have I think is tremendous—just coming from where they are currently and seeing where they could go with that. I think what’s hard is trying to talk to them about something, and they have no idea what I’m saying. Even as I speak about it and tell what deliverables are and what they can expect, they just don’t understand how it works. So, I think that’s just part of the barrier for me.

David: And that’s why I always push my clients into results. They don’t really care what I do. They don’t really care that I optimize this page and that page, that I built some links and this and that. They want to know the results. And that’s why every client gets a report every month showing what the results are. And as long as I can keep the conversation in terms of that, what do they care if I wrote twenty blog posts or one if they’re getting more leads. And what do they care how much time or what things I did? They kind of don’t; they just don’t even care.

Tim: Right.

David: And that’s why that once-a-month report is so very important because it puts it in terms of that. But for someone who’s been burned, maybe you can show them, “What were they giving you? Were they giving you any sort of report once a month?”

Tim: Yeah. They have no goals or anything set up in Analytics; they just have Analytics running.  

David: Yeah. And so, if you could say, “Well, you know, that’s a real shame that they didn’t even track that.” Because you, as a philosophy, are always going to show them what they got as a result. “And that’s why working with me is going to be very different working from them because I’m not just about doing something. You paid for x commodities. Right? The commodities could be a blog post or a link, or a citation, but you’re just paying for commodities. Maybe you don’t need those commodities, but you paid for them, and you got them. That’s not what we’re doing here. We’re going to get you goals. So, one month we might put some time into the building citations. One month we write a couple of blog posts or one month we might do this or that.” But the whole purpose is to help them see that this is not a sunk cost. Sometimes people think of advertising as a sunk cost of doing business. You just have to burn the money because it’s going to do something.

Tim: Yeah.

David: But online advertising is never a sunk cost. It is always a return on investment. So, it’s a requirement, yes, you have to pay money to get something. But you will always be getting more than you spent. And I always add a caveat that it’ll take us six months to get ramped up. Right. It’s going to take us time to get ramped up. So, if you would be able to trust me for six months, at the end of the six months, if it’s not working, you will know that it’s not working. And the data will be there to show you that it’s not working.

Tim: Yeah.

David: And then you should fire me if that’s the case. But at the end of six months, you are actually starting to see some leads come in, and those leads are converting into good customers or sales or whatever their goal might be. Well, now, we’re just getting started. Right? Now we’re just starting to see the potential here. And now it’s no longer a sunk cost. It is now something you are making money off of, and that’s the whole point.

Tim: Yeah.

David: And anything you could do to pivot the conversation that way rather than it’s just a hundred dollars you have to spend every month. No. It’s a hundred dollars that makes you five hundred, or five that makes you a thousand. Right? Whatever your cost may be. And they very well could have been burned enough where it’s not going to work. It’s going to be really hard to think of. But the advantage of pivoting the client in this way is that you’re not competing with fiver with email spam. Right? You are an expert who provides a service that’s much more than just another commodity someone else does.

Tim: Yeah, strategy.

David: Right. But it’s tough. It’s a tough conversation, especially for those who have been burned and maybe starting on a project basis and in recommending which projects. We’re going to start with analytics because no matter what you do, you need to know it’s working.

Tim: Yeah.

David: Even if you’re doing it yourself.

Tricia: You’ll know how to measure it. Right?

Tim: Yeah. This one particular contractor I took over hosting a website for over a year ago. And so, it was just paying for base-level hosting and care for his WordPress website, and we eliminated some costs on the website. The original web agency had no upfront cost, it was just sign up for our monthly plan, and we’ll build your website and we’ll SEO your website for an ongoing undetermined amount of time. When he finally talked to me two years ago, he was still paying like eight hundred dollars a month for his website – and this was like six years in. Then he got it knocked down to pay just for the hosting and some other SEO services, for a year for like three or four hundred bucks. And then last year, I finally got him on my plan, charging him seventy-nine dollars a month because it’s a static WordPress website. There are no content updates. So, I back it up once a month and do all updates; nothing changes about it.

Tricia: I’ll bet that other company was upset to lose that eight hundred a month. They probably weren’t doing anything for it.

Tim: Yeah. They’re real friendly with each other, my client and the former agency. The former agency I worked with them on transferring everything, and they’re really nice to work with. But you know, he keeps going back to the same well, you know, this other company was only charging this. But he has trouble understanding what they were doing, that we can’t repeat what they were doing because he doesn’t have the contract to refer to. So, you know it’s tough. I think there’s a lot of potential there. He’s a real nice guy in my weekly networking group; that is how I met him, so he trusts me on that level. I think you’re right. Maybe just doing a few things here and there to show the potential and getting everything up to speed first, so that if we do work together on a larger scale, in a year from now, we’ll have more metrics to go off of.

Tricia: Yeah. Definitely.

David: I’ve seen agencies price themselves in many, many different ways. Some are more honest, and some others are kind of downright despicable.

Tricia: Yeah. I’ve run across some of those.

David: And the most despicable was the agency that I know had the greatest number of clients. Not the one I formally worked for, which was another one. And their whole philosophy was, we only do anything if you complain. So, they would have a big retainer, and you literally wouldn’t touch it or do anything about your site unless you’d complain to them about something. Their whole philosophy was getting more clients that wouldn’t complain. That’s really kind of despicable to me.

Tricia: Definitely.

Tim: I mean, honestly, it’s what drives me so much to offer this service. And why I’m here to learn it. Because you know, obviously, I want to make a living. And I enjoy this, but man, it makes me sick to see what happens to small business owners.

Tricia: Same here. There are some of those in the local SEO that really get me worked up. So, I completely agree. I wanted to mention something about what David was talking about, about services not being a commodity. I like what you said about that, David, about you not offering x number of blog posts in one month, or x number of citations, or backlinks, because just because you’re offering them, they could all be garbage. Not you, like the previous person, the other person. You say we’re giving you two blog posts plus twenty citations a month, plus x number of backlinks, and they could’ve been doing it, but they could’ve been garbage. They maybe could have even hurt them. So, making sure that they understand that they have to make sure they get quality work out of it too. Not just them actually saying that they’re doing these things.

David: Yeah. If you’re going to compete with commodities, it’s always a race to the bottom. There’s always a race for someone who can do it cheaper and more for cheaper. And it’s not good for the client, and it’s not good for us to provide that kind of commodity. It’s better for us to do less and get a bigger effect…

Tricia: Yeah.

David: …than do more and say, look at last we did a lot of things. One of the former agencies that I used to work for created this point system, and you get a point for every dollar you spent each month, and that point generated so much amount of work. And so, at the end of the month, they could show all the things we did for you. But whether those things were things that made a difference was not necessarily a focus. And so again, the philosophy ended up being “but we did all this stuff for you.” And sometimes clients were like, “but it’s not working.” And that’s why it’s so very important to have that conversation about this not being a sunk cost. This is a return on investment. And if you can’t quantify the return on your investment, you’re not really doing marketing.

Tricia: Yeah.

David: You are just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks. And maybe you’ll get a client now and then, but that’s not what this is. That’s not real marketing; that is wishful thinking.

Tim: Yep.

David: And, yeah, we’re going to be able to show you what you got. And I’m proud of that. I’m proud of what I’ve given for you, client. I’m proud that you’re so busy you can’t return my emails. Right? Yeah. I’m proud that you had to hire a whole division of people because you’re making too much money. Right? I’m proud that I’m a rounding error in your marketing budget at this point. These are great. These are things that I want my clients to have. I would much rather be a factor of, why would I not pay David? It’s so small compared to what I’m doing, and I’m still delivering value. Then, well, might as well paid a hundred dollars a month because…  

Tim: Yeah. Yeah. Because you got a certain number of things?

David: Yeah. I got a certain number of things, or because I paid for the SEO, magically, something must be happening.

Tim: Yeah. I was going to say I do the same thing with my branding, like when I design logos. Some people are like, I deliver three logos. Or I deliver eighteen logos for you to choose from. I don’t put a number on it. I just go into my creative process, and we’ll get through it and build upon it collaboratively and land on something you really enjoy that properly represents you. But you know, I don’t say that I’m going to deliver nine logos or something.

David: Yeah. You’re an expert. You’re not a commodity. You want to come commodity to go to ninety-nine designs and get a bunch of commodities. And surely to like one of them, at least good enough.

Tricia: Like it enough.  

Tim: Then you’ll hire somebody to turn it into something that you were really looking for. Right? I got it ninety percent of the way…

David: Yeah, exactly. These are good questions.

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