Stay Away From These Two Not So Ideal Internet Marketing & SEO Clients

The Ideal Internet Marketing & SEO Client

You might already know who your ideal clients are. If so, that’s great! Most people in the SEO and Internet marketing industry tend to believe that the bigger the client, the better. However, I disagree. I think the ideal clients fall somewhere in between small businesses with little to no marketing budgets and enterprise companies that understand and invest heavily in online lead generation services.

To find your perfect client, I think it’s important to understand the types of clients you should avoid. I’ve worked with hundreds of companies, and my worst client experiences are working with businesses at both ends of the spectrum I described above.  I highly recommend you avoid them if you can.

The 2 Types Of Clients To Avoid & How To Spot Them

Small Companies

I’m concerned for small businesses who have little to no marketing budget or an understanding of how online marketing works and the benefits. They are in an awkward position because they know they need to build a presence online, yet they don’t have enough money to pay a good consultant or company, and they don’t have the time or skills to handle their marketing.

As marketing technology improves, hopefully, smaller businesses can use these platforms to generate some online leads without breaking the bank. Until then, I recommend you avoid working with small businesses because:

  1. They tend to be high maintenance, wanting a comparable service level to higher paying clients.
  2. Although they might say they understand that some services, like SEO, are long-term investments, that take time to see results (i.e. compared to using paid advertising for example), when months go by without a return and they are strapped for cash, this might put a strain on the relationship. They might begin to think your services aren’t useful.
  3. Connected to reason #2, because they don’t have a big marketing budget or a thorough understanding of how certain services work, it’s difficult to know if they will be a long-term client. One month their business might be doing great, and they’re making their payments. Another month, they might be having cash flow problems and need to stop their campaign.

Working with really small businesses no longer makes sense for me as the costs outweigh the benefits. I only take on small businesses if:

  • I know I can get them results with ease. This means little of my time will be taken in actual work, and I’ll be able to get my clients leads quickly. Because my clients will have a steady stream of leads, they become low maintenance clients.
    • To determine if I can quickly get results, I analyze two areas, specifically for SEO: the competitive landscape and my client’s site.
      • When analyzing the competition, I’m mainly concerned with link authority. If my potential client is ranking low on page #1  or page #2 in Google, but they have the same or better link authority (i.e. domain authority) than their competitors, this is a potential sign that with a few ‘quick fixes’ and backlinks I might be able to get them ranking higher quickly.
      • When looking at their website, I check for on-page areas that have a marked affect on a site’s performance that are not optimized. For example, by just improving the title tags of clients who have a high domain authority, I’ve been able to push them to page #1 in a matter of days.
  • The small business provides intangible benefits. Perhaps a potential small business client has an outstanding product or service that I feel will grow into a huge deal. Or, maybe the business owner is a good person to know with a lot of great connections, which can lead to fruitful relationships.

Hence, when considering small business opportunities, qualifying them as good leads is important. If you’re just starting out and you’re willing to put in the time, then I think working with small businesses is fine. You might encounter small businesses who are very easy to work with, but generally, I recommend avoiding them if possible.

How To Spot Them

Determining whether a potential client has the budget to afford your services is pretty straightforward. Mention how much your services cost and if they balk at your pricing this might mean they won’t be a good fit. Also, find out if they’ve worked with other companies and if they have, determine how much these companies charge for their services. A potential client that has been paying $299 to $599 a month for services most likely is a small business that will find it hard to afford your services. Consider the industry of your potential clients, too. For example, I’ve never met a photographer willing to pay more than $750 a month for SEO services.

Knowing whether a small business client will be a handful is a little more difficult, but still possible. I pay attention to all my sales conversations with prospects, and if they continually ask about all the deliverables included, reporting, and if they request weekly calls or meetings, I raise the red flag. This might be okay when dealing with larger businesses, but not for $500 per month small business clients.

Large, Enterprise Companies

Big clients with established brands are great social proof. Having a few in your client roster highlights your status and credibility, but unless you have a large team and very high-profit margins, working with them can be a nightmare.

It’s interesting how I hear people in the industry say that it’s easier dealing with large businesses who understand marketing and have money to spend. Enterprise companies understand marketing and have more than enough money to invest in their Internet marketing. They will spend thousands of dollars on marketing a month, but in return, they will demand a much higher level of service and attention. After working with over a dozen of household brands, I don’t feel it’s easier dealing with large companies. Here’s why:

  1. They are extremely high maintenance. The bigger the company, the more they will ask of you. They will contact you during off-hours and on the weekends.  They will want a lot of reports, calls, and meetings. When they ask for something, they will treat you as a full-time employee who needs to drop everything to fulfill their request. Does your campaign include only ten deliverables? That’s nice, they’ll ask for twenty during the campaign. Scope creep is the norm.
  2. It can take a long time to get things done. With large companies, you’ll likely have regular calls and meetings with multiple people–not only one point of contact. On these calls or at these meetings, you’ll probably be sucked into spontaneous brainstorming discussions that you don’t need to be a part of (i.e. time suck). Also, big brands will have a separate in-house IT/Web Development Department who you will coordinate to make changes on their site. Enterprise companies hardly ever give outside companies deep access to their site or server. As a result, it can take a long time to get things done because these departments may have a backlog of tasks to take care of and sometimes they don’t know how to implement any of your recommendations. Although this is out of your control, it’s difficult to show substantial progress and results if your recommendations aren’t implemented promptly.
  3. Working with them can be risky. Big brand employees usually have a sense of entitlement because they know they work for a big company and other marketing companies want them as clients. When they ask for something, they usually expect it. If you don’t provide them with what they want even if it’s out of scope, there will be other companies who promise them they will do ‘everything’ just to steal their business away from you. Moreover, if you’re not already prepared to deal with a large company, you might be placed in a tight position. If you don’t have enough employees or the right level of expertise, it’s only natural to hire more people to accommodate your big brand client. But if things don’t work out, you might end up losing money in onboarding and training costs, and you might need to let go of employees.

These days I prefer working with big brands as a consultant. I avoid many of the downsides and risks that come with working with large businesses. My company still acts as the agency of record for several international brands, but I don’t feel like bringing many more on board.

Your vision and goals might differ from mine, so if your goal is to target major brands and enterprise companies as your ideal clients, here are my recommendations:

  • Have the manpower to deal with them. This isn’t always possible and you might need to hire more team members. But this will minimize your risks and increase your chances of winning with big brand clients because you’ll already have a solid team who know how to work with one another. You won’t need to worry about hiring, onboarding, and training in addition to servicing your client.
  • Maintain premium pricing with high-profit margins. It’s likely that you’ll be asked to do much more than what is in your agreement. Make sure you already account for this by charging higher for your services. This way, you won’t have any regrets or feel frustrated when they ask you to do twenty things when you agreed on only ten.
  • Set clear expectations and a detailed scope of work. Although chances are you’ll do more work than what is on paper, knowing you have everything you agreed to outlined in a formal document will highlight how you’ve provided a lot of added value. Also, a detailed scope of work comes in handy if your client becomes unreasonable and too demanding.

How To Spot Them

How do you know if you’re dealing with a large business? Do I even need to ask? You’ll already know them or after searching for them online, you’ll quickly notice they are one of the major players in their industry.

It’s more difficult determining if working with these companies will be a handful. The first thing I do is find out who their previous or existing Internet marketing agency is. I reach out to them if I know anyone who works at the company. If you’re subscribed to my weekly sales tips, you already know how important it is to build strong relationships with other consultants and agencies. Picking up the phone or sending an email to an industry colleague who has already worked with your big brand prospect is the easiest way to know what it will be like working with them.

If your large company prospect has never really placed an emphasis on online marketing, this can be a red flag. There are still big companies out there who haven’t fully dove into the world of Internet marketing. (In fact, I’m working with a big memory card brand that brings in about $50 million a year, and they just started SEO with me three months ago. They have never done SEO.) In this situation make sure you create a detailed scope of work that you can use in case you begin to sense scope creep.

Lastly, try to get a feel for how it would be like working with them by asking about their team structure and weekly requirements or needs.

  • Who will be on the calls?
  • Who reports to whom?
  • Who has the final decision or does a group need to come to a final approval?
  • Will you be meeting with this person or group?
  • What kind of updates and reports does their team expect? They type and how often?

The answers to these questions will provide you with more food for thought in determining how high or low maintenance a prospect will be.

Do you have any comments about small business clients or enterprise clients? Where do your ideal clients fall in the spectrum? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

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