It can be frustrating when a client holds you up from finishing a project. Here’s how to get them on board.
David: Alright, Dave asked… What was the question you just thought of?
Dave: Oh, so my question I thought of this morning is, and I think you guys may have talked about this before, but what is the best approach to talk to your client when they’re not doing what they need to do? Now, I don’t know if there’s a specific way to do it. I can give you some context, if you want, about the questions, if that would help.
David: Yeah, specific context would be great.
Dave: Alright. So, there are two things that have happened recently. One is, you remember we did a bunch of research around the category pages for the site, right? And I was like, oh my gosh, it’s brilliant. I recorded a video form explaining the whole process. I met with one of the people. And I’m like, “I need final approval before we’re going to switch our strategy to this. Okay, because this is what we recommend.” And the one lady says, “Yeah, yeah, we need to do it. I’m just getting approval from others.” Two weeks later. Okay. So that’s one thing. And the other thing is we’ve agreed from the beginning that they have got to review the blog posts that we do for them to add different terms that they are more familiar with. You know, they need to be the expert. Right? And they’re doing some reviewing, but they’re not completing it and telling me it’s good to go. I’m also asking them to provide images, which we don’t have to have, but… To me, and I never actually talked to the person about this, but it’s like, just take your iPhone and go to the factory floor, or on a Monday, once a week, and just take a few pics. And it’s just not happening. So, we get kind of stalled. The problem that I don’t want to have happen is we’re stalled on all this stuff, and then Google knows we’re not updating things.
David: Yeah. And under those circumstances, at best, you’re going to be flat.
David: But sometimes, you’ll slip, and the client’s like, “What the heck? I’m paying you for SEO, and the traffic is slipping!” In reality, the client is the hold back.
Dave: Yeah. So, my plan is just to say, “Let’s have an honest conversation, and this is kind of what we’re facing and what I need from you guys.” And just see what they can do. Because I know what their response will be. It’s like, “You know, you’re right. You’re absolutely right.” Because we’ve had this conversation before a little bit. Alright, we need to do this. But then they don’t follow up. Right?
David: So, let me ask without getting too specific in the special stuff. Is this a client with which you already have an SEO retainer? And this text falls within that? This isn’t like, I’d like to do this, and I’d like to charge you more to do this?
Dave: Correct. Yeah.
David: Okay. Yes. So, this is the place in which I live. Right, because if we’re going to do quality stuff, I want client input. Because they’re truly the experts, and I don’t want to publish something that makes them look bad. Especially if their audience is knowledgeable, and if my writers aren’t as knowledgeable, it could make the company or the client look less credible. So, I need the client to review things. So, there are a couple of things that I do on a regular basis to help. One is that the monthly report is so important because you can see if traffic is stagnating. Or, hey, you’re getting good profit off this. We can get more. And so put it in terms of ROI and then effort to ROI and kind of bait them into that’s why we’re doing this, and we have to do more to get there. Right? SEO isn’t free. We have to put time and effort into it. Right? I know you’re already doing that, but I find that when I finally get clients to look at our report, especially if the reports are underperforming. That’s when I can light the fire because they can see the implications. But that’s probably not helping you because I know you’re already doing that.
Dave: Yeah. So, for some context, the way we do it, we do a monthly report with some of this stuff in it. And we have a meeting with them, and we talk about our action items, and it’s pointed out to them what they need to do and all that kind of stuff. And then, yeah, they promise that they’re going to do it. The thing is, maybe what I can do that might work better is to say, “Look, guys, if we don’t do this stuff now, I’m concerned that in another two months or three months, you’re going to see the drop-off, right? And by the time you feel it, it’s going to take two or three months to get it back up.”
David: And that is absolutely accurate. Right? And I would stand behind that professionally to say, yeah, you’re exactly right. That’s exactly what you would expect. The other thing I do to prevent this is when I write, and some of this is Captain Hindsight’s suggestions, so it’s not as helpful to you, Dave. But I always write in my proposal you have to participate for this to succeed, right? Yeah, there are some people who will do it all for you. But if we’re doing quality work, we can’t completely do it all for you. I just want to set expectations. The challenge is people hire us because they don’t have time, and so they hope to outsource this and move on to other things. But in reality, I do need input. Now, despite those two factors that I do for all clients, I still run into clients that take forever to approve things. And so, if I identify a troubled client in terms of I’m not moving forward because they are their own barrier, I probably have had several heart-to-hearts of, “I need to get this approved.” And a lot of, “yeah, I’m sorry. I’ll get this next week.” And I’ve had that many times. After a couple of rounds of that, the next conversation is, “I’m going to switch our process. Okay, I’m going to give it to you, and if I don’t hear anything in two weeks, it’s going live. The good news is, if it’s wrong and it’s live, we can fix it really quickly. And it’s just content. It’s just words most of the time.” And so, that does light fires under people because they know it’s going to go live, and they have a specific deadline rather than an indefinite one. We can’t move forward with this until you approve it. Then, it’s a game of chicken, right? If they wait two weeks, and it’s time to publish, and they haven’t gotten back to me, on the day I publish, I send them the link with it live and say, “Hey, it’s live.” And sometimes that means they drop everything and look at it. Right? But I just have to rely on the competence of my writers to be able to say, I think my writer’s got it 90 to 95% correct. So, it’s not going to be too bad. Typically, I don’t hire cheap writers and stuff like that.
Dave: Yeah. It’s like the changes that they do, there are like half a dozen mark out, correcting some terms and, you know, and just little minor things. So, I love that advice. So, I’m going to adopt that. I’m going to basically say, “Look, here’s why we’re going to do this. We’re going to start when I give you the potential for a change in strategy. But if I give you a potential change in strategy over the next couple of weeks or three weeks, you have two weeks to review it and give me feedback. Otherwise, it’s going to go live, and we’re going to switch.
Dave: And that’s a better approach than just sitting and waiting for them.
David: Right. And I’ll add another aspect to this that I’ve found helpful. I don’t build websites, but I work with partners who do for one of my clients. And so, we worked really hard on this new website launch. It was time to reveal it. I had been talking with the director of communication, but the partners of the firm had to approve it. Okay. I’d rather the partners of the firm approve it, right? But we approached it not in the sense of an open-ended question, like” What do you think of this?” Okay? “Without any objection, we’re going to publish this right now.” Because what I find is although I want input, sometimes when you ask for input, they feel they have to do their job and find something worth editing. In reality, they don’t really care about this word choice. They’re trying to prove their value by editing. And if you release them from the question and say, “Alright, we’re going to publish this.” Now they can say, “no, you’re not going to publish this.” Okay. What would you like to change? But it’s kind of like if you ask them, they feel like they have to come up with something to justify their job, their expertise, their position. But if you’re confident that it’s good, then sometimes it’s not about asking permission. It’s about how you ask it in terms of, we’re going to tell you we’re going to publish this. And what we did was we went to the partners, and our communications director was like, “Oh, they’re going to take two months to approve this. This is going to be terrible.” I said, “Hold up. We’re just going to ask them the right way.” And we said, here’s the website. We’ve worked really hard on it. We’re really confident this is going to be a very successful website, and with your final okay, we’re ready to launch right now. And the partner said, “Why are you waiting on us? Launch it.” And we were like, whoa. We had to cover our mouths because we were so surprised because we were ready for two months of edits before we launched. In this case, they were lawyers. So, they were like wanting to check everything. But it was all in how we asked it. And because they didn’t really want to take the time to review it, they wanted an out. But if you ask them to approve it, they’re going to review it. They’re going to go through it with a tough, fine-tooth comb, and they’re going to find errors that probably don’t matter too much. But especially if there are lawyers, that’s their job, right? So, we asked, in a way, it wasn’t so much of, “Tell us what you think” as much as, “Here it is. We’re presenting it to you without objection. We’re going to launch this.”
Dave: Okay. So, I’m drawing my little three-step approach. So, I liked that, David. That’s good. So basically, what it is, you give them a two-week warning. And then, do you want to give them a second warning? Like a couple of days beforehand?
David: No, because usually, I’m resorting to the two weeks after we’ve already had this problem with them.
David: And they’ve acknowledged to me that they’re the problem.
Dave: Yes. So, what I’m wondering is, with this, I’m almost saying give them a two-day warning because when they have a two-week warning, they’re thinking, okay, I’ve got two weeks to do it, and I’m going to go look at it. And then, it’s out of their mind. They really want to look at it. That’s why I’m thinking, you know, maybe a two-day warning is good.
David: You can try that. But my fear in doing that, and I’ve seen this before, is that when you give them a two-day warning, then they’re like, “Okay, I’ll get this to you tomorrow.” And now you’re in this weird position of, okay, that was tomorrow, two days ago. They’ve told you they’re giving you the review. It’s been three days that you haven’t received that review yet. Now you’re in this ambiguity of…
Dave: No, I know the ambiguity is in that two-day warning. It’s a reminder you have two days, and we’re publishing it on this particular day. So, there really isn’t any ambiguity.
David: Well, I wouldn’t call it a warning to them either, just from a positioning perspective. Warning sounds like something is going to go wrong.
Dave: Yeah, I have to work on the…
David: …positively, “We can’t wait to launch this, and we’re going to launch it in two days.”
Dave: Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. It’s not like, “You haven’t looked at this in 12 days. You’ve got two days left. Come on.”
David: Yeah, exactly. So, “Hey, per our last email, we said we’re going to launch this in two weeks, and we can’t wait to launch it. We’re going to launch it in two days. Unless you have anything else to add?”
Dave: Yeah, I really want to light a fire under them. I really want them to review it.
Tricia: Well, I have something that’s similar, a little bit different, though. So, I have a client that I do a monthly email for. And I was having this problem with them, and I’m like, it’s got to get out. It was to the point where I finally changed my writing in my email. And so, typically, the email goes out to their clients on a Tuesday. So, the Thursday, before I emailed them the draft. And I say, “Here’s the email. It is scheduled to be sent Tuesday morning at 9:00 AM. If you have questions or edits, please let me know.” But it’s like here it is, and this is when it’s going out. And that has worked really well because sometimes I can see that they’ve opened it. So, I see the opening. They used to reply, “Thanks so much,” and they had a question. Now they open it and don’t respond sometimes. So, okay, they’ve read it, and they haven’t said anything. So, I’m good.
Tricia: And I had that conversation with them before I started doing that. But I might even, like you said, two days… Sure. Unless this is something, a project, or a topic that you worked on in conjunction with them, and they know everything ahead of time. And then you were saying, okay, here’s the final product, and it just needs for you to see it. I might give them a couple more days.
Dave: Maybe three days. If it goes beyond that, then it’s like, there’s no urgency.
Tricia: Yeah. I get that for sure.
Dave: I’ll try it, but you guys know how that works.
David: The two-week thing worked for me, and I didn’t give him any advance notice. I didn’t give him a second warning. I’m kind of like, “Let’s be professionals here, and you should be a responsible adult. And you’ve got two weeks for this.” I would never say that to a client. But I have warned you. You’re an adult. You can manage your own schedules. You can tell me no if that’s unacceptable.
Dave: Yes, and that’s true. So, here are a couple of things to kind of challenge that a little bit. What does Nathan have to do for us in the advanced group? Does he have to remind us to put in our issues? We’ve only got two issues, and it’s, and we’re in two hours, we’re starting right. We’re all professionals, and we do a great job. It’s just that everybody’s inundated with stuff. And it happens in the other group that my business partner and I do. We do coaching with them. And some of these guys make millions of dollars a year. We’ve got one guy who is considering potentially selling his company. Then it would be like, I don’t know, many millions of dollars for what he does. So, he’s very professional. And by the way, this is the same guy who’s fully paid me to redesign his website. And we’ve been stuck for a year.
Dave: So, I think it’s just people have all good intentions to get to it. And just stuff comes up. It happens to me too.
Tricia: I have one that I’m working with, and actually, the hardest part is they’ve got so many different moving parts and people working on different things. The part that I’m doing is their Google Business Profile. They’re also in the process of launching a new website. And things keep getting backed up, and I’m like, okay, what am I doing now? Because usually all that’s done. I don’t want to start doing something and then have it be off-brand because they’re changing things. So, I’m having to figure out how to work with all the moving pieces. So, each client is different.
Dave: Yeah, well, I’ll try this. I think this will… We’ll see. We’ll see.
David: I think what’s interesting is this assumes a lot about the clients and the work you do. I know a lot of SEO companies that do not allow clients to review content. They just, you get what you get.
David: Yeah, because their whole business model is getting stuff done rather than doing the right stuff. So, you get three blog posts a month. We don’t really care if you approve it or not. We’re just publishing it. Yeah, for some people, that’s kind of what they want. Just do it for me. But the quality of that work is typically poor.
Tricia: Yeah, anybody could have written it. Don’t you want your client to be the expert? And give their expert opinions on it.
Dave: Yeah. This has got to be for the long term, right? If another company, one of their competitors, doesn’t do SEO right, and they do this kind of thing, then they’ll never exceed what our customer’s doing. So, I don’t know… We want to do it right by them.
David: Yeah. I have a client right now that we inherited after they worked with a company like this. And the blog posts were irrelevant to their business. Absolutely irrelevant.
Dave: How can they be irrelevant?
David: I should say they seemed relevant. But they were about… Let’s say, without giving away the client, steam power generation or steam engines, which is kind of like the words that are correct for what they do. But what most people think of when they think of that is very different than what our client does. And so, it looked right from a keyword perspective, but it wasn’t helpful to the client, and the client figured it out after they finally went and looked at their blog. They’re like, “What’s all this? This isn’t what we do.”
Tricia: Wow. I have one, and this has been quite a while, but literally, somebody was like throwing stuff at it, and they basically did all these posts. They had the same exact language, and they were doing it for locations. Well, the location was in Atlanta, and they were naming all these other locations to try to get it seen more. These were locations they didn’t service. First of all, if you’re going to try to do that, that’s not how you do it. Second of all, they don’t service these areas!
Dave: Right. Yeah.
David: That’s why client approval is so important. That’s why I don’t like publishing without client approval. Having them make that check of quality. If I publish about a location that they don’t serve, we’ll figure that out quickly.
SEO seems hard- you have to keep up with all the changes and weed through contradictory advice. This is frustrating and overwhelming. Curious Ants will teach you SEO while bringing your website more traffic and customers- because you’ll learn SEO while doing it.