• Losing an SEO Customer

    Posted on May 15, 2012 by in Uncategorized


    Most of what I write on here is more tailored for the Alternative Marketing customer than for firms such as mine.  I thought it might be instructive (or cathartic) to take a look at one element of the business from the other side.


    If you do the Alternative Marketing thing for long enough, it is inevitable that you are going to lose a customer.  The reasons can be endless, but most will be a variation on one of the following:

    1. Customer goes out of business
    2. Customer gets acquired
    3. Customer hires a different marketing firm (for whatever reason)
    4. Customer loses faith in SEO, the Internet or Social Media

    The first two are out of your control, no matter how good a job your were doing, although I’d like to think that in many cases good marketing should help avert the first on the list.

    Alternative Marketing is a competitive field, and much has been written about the 3rd.  I’ll write about that some day but not here.

    The 4th is a very real possibility, especially for old school clients.  I don’t mean old school companies; if there were a market for buggy whips, I’m sure some of them would be shopped for or ordered on the Internet.  I mean when the person at your customer (owner, VP of Marketing, some other exec) responsible for paying your bill grew up in business in the pre-Internet era.  Congrats on winning that person over in the first place, but be aware that there are a lot of stops along the way in keeping that customer engaged and believing until the results that you are producing are irrefutable.  If the customer loses faith in the Internet or your firm’s Internet efforts, and goes back to doing marketing the way she had been doing it for the last 40 years, consider the entirety of the client relationship, what happened and what could have been done better.

    Time Horizon – Perhaps the biggest favor that you can do yourself early in an Alternative Marketing assignment is to buy yourself enough time.  I’m sure that you know that it takes at least 3 months to start seeing results, and 6 – 12 months to see the real fruits of your efforts.  Do everything in your power as early as possible to make sure that the key person at the client believes the time line 100%.  Resist the temptation to tease the client with possible earlier positive results.

    Expectations Management – Once a time horizon has been established, lay out some ground rules so that there are no surprises and no process-oriented shortcomings.  You have to control what you can.

    • Establish clear, achievable milestones for internet traffic, community reach and engagement.  Measure results and build in a feedback loop so that if some of the things you are doing are not working, you can make changes early and on the fly.
    • Get buy-in from the whole team.  Even if the leader seems to have bought in to the process, try to ensure that the whole client Sales and Marketing team (or the whole firm in the case of smaller companies) is with the program.  Even something as simple as Linkedin participation can be a good indicator of whether they are on board.
    • Have a clear content strategy.  You need fresh content for you SEO and Social Media efforts.  Did you establish who will be blogging, who will be posting to Social Media and what other content is available – early in the process?

    Point Person – The exec that hired you is probably too busy to want to hear from you as often as you have a question, need some content or signoff on something.  Establish early in the process that another employee will be your go-to resource for all but the biggest issues, so the process doesn’t get bogged down.  If it took you months to close the deal because of large gaps waiting for a response from the exec, what makes you think that will change?  In many cases, this is a big success factor.

    Did you do a good job? – Relative to expectations, did you deliver?  If you over-promised or your efforts did not produce measureable results on the schedule indicated, you can’t really blame the client for losing faith.  Figure out what went wrong and make permanent changes in your process so that it doesn’t happen again.

    Did you learn anything? – Even if you are angry or disappointed, some of the best learning experiences are bad ones.  Get with your team and don’t forget to assess what you did well for this client.  Use those positive data points in your future marketing, and replicate those results with other clients.  Of course acknowledge what you didn’t do well, as I mentioned above.

    Keep the relationship fresh – Don’t burn that bridge.  I am a big believer in Alternative Marketing.  As such, I feel that even if a customer loses faith in the Internet today, it won’t be long until she reconsiders her lack of faith.  US companies spent over 20% of marketing budgets online in 2011, and that number is moving higher.  When your client realizes that her company needs to have an Internet presence, will your firm be the first call she makes?

    Most best practices have common threads – under promise, over deliver, measure, learn, iterate.


    If you are an Alternative Marketing client, and you agree or disagree with any of the above, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.


    Contact us for help with any Alternative Marketing issues at info@s2rsolutions.com

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