Attaining and maintaining client satisfaction is clearly important in any business. However, because Internet Marketing and Consultation is so poorly understood by many, it presents a challenge for those providing services such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Sponsored Search, Social Media Optimization and Conversion Optimization as we do here at Optimum7. Another key hurdle is dealing with one of the painful truths about SEO … it takes time. The time-frame is not days or weeks, but months, to truly evaluate the progress, or lack thereof, of SEO. Here we will discuss the clear and successful ways that Optimum7 has dealt with the great deal of misinformation and misconceptions that become apparent with our very first phone call from a prospective client.
Tell Them the Facts, Just the Facts
There can be no good outcome by not being completely straight as to the obstacles that every one faces online when it comes to ranking well on Google et al and driving business from search engine clicks. “Selling” in the traditional sense that most people think of, runs contrary to what you really need to do. It comes down to “telling people what they need to know … which often may well not be what they want to hear.” I already mentioned that SEO takes time; it is also expensive and people just need to know that, particularly as there are a lot of SEOs out there saying blatantly false things about guarantees and low monthly costs … you just can’t be one of them if you are serious about developing clients and not just a revolving door of sales.
Client satisfaction comes initially from prospect trust and that can only be achieved through “telling it like it is.”
When the Prospect becomes a Client
Ok, now you have a new client which of course is terrific! Psychology is important, particularly in the first hours and days after someone new to the company has just made a significant initial first payment. It is critically important to do the right things now to start building trust and confidence. After all, they have no firm understanding yet of what to expect and when. Here are some confidence building measures we take immediately upon receiving a new Internet Marketing agreement:
- Initial email to the new client providing them access to our PMM (Project Management Module). We are inviting the client in to our house now without delay. The new client is informed of what the PMM is for and now understands that this will be the hub for all project communications, uploads and downloads, questions, comments, etc. They are also informed that within 24 hours they will be receiving our Execution Plan and Schedule.
- Execution Plan & Schedule – this provides the new client with an outline with plenty of detail that creates a roadmap of what we will be doing and when we will be doing it. This is critical for a new client to receive early-on, documentation confirming that we have things under control and that the client can see for themselves how the project will unfold.
- Ongoing Processes – if you are talking Internet Marketing Services and Consultation, you have dozens of ongoing steps and techniques which also need to be documented in the Execution Plan. While these won’t have specific dates, they have a pace to them that the new client will value in knowing that when we begin these ongoing strategies, we have reached a kind of “cruising altitude” that we will be operating from.
- Client Input and Response – whether we are working on keyword research, content topic research and strategies or competition, client input needs to be welcomed as valuable in the process. Further client questions and concerns inevitably arise and the response to those posts is a wonderful opportunity to further gain the trust and confidence of the client. The promptness of the response and the quality of the response are the main factors. Answering the question is basic; but going beyond that to provide explanation and expanding on the answer to provide the right perspective as it relates to our mutual goals engenders all of the right attributes towards growing a truly satisfied client and customer base.
- Reports – reports are nice but they need to (1) be understandable to the client, not just the Team and (2) clearly demonstrate through data, charts and graphs, trending, etc how exactly are we doing so far. Every business needs to be accountable and reports do that; but you need to do more with reports. The reports should be the monthly reminder / refresher course as to what exactly the client is paying you for. Never assume that a client necessarily gets it. I recently was speaking to one of our clients and it was apparent to me that he actually didn’t get it. It was only after we shared screens and reviewed the reports that it sunk in. To explain, until I “took him by the hand” and showed him a trending graph showing clear growth in organic visitors over a period of the past few months and that the specific graph was clearly limited to only those visitors that could have come to the site through our processes, did he actually understand the real value of our work. Without this information, without this type of interaction, we could have lost the client only due to lack of understanding. Now he is so much more enthusiastic about Optimum7. Big Difference!
- The Client Must Never Wait – it is unacceptable for me if one of our clients needs to remind us of something; whether it’s a response to a question, a technical issue, a previous commitment we made … it is only acceptable that we (Optimum7) is waiting for the client. Client Satisfaction comes from their peace of mind that Optimum7 is on the ball; so clients must never have to wait until they feel the need to remind us.
- Knowing the Bottom Line – if you are an SEO Company, don’t think that you will have a growing client base by just getting rankings and driving traffic … that’s only 50% of the strategy. If, at the end of 12 months, you’ve just killed it with traffic but the actual new business coming from the site is deemed to not have increased or even be profitable, you will lose that client i.e. your services will not be renewed. Accountability for bottom line results in SEO means Conversion Optimization including split-testing and ultimately increasing the percentage of visitors that actually fill that form out or buy something or signup for the seminar. In essence, you have take the full view here of real business performance which goes way beyond driving traffic, no matter how exciting that may be.
- How You Get Paid – if you are providing Internet Marketing Services and you are being paid the exact same fee(s) regardless of your results, you are missing an opportunity to truly bond with your clients. Sharing the opportunity risk through a solid Pay for Performance model for compensation can go a long way towards cementing a long term client relationship. Just as monthly reports serve to remind the client as to what it is they are paying for, the monthly invoice that also includes the data behind the compensation … compensation that they would not have to pay in the absence of these results … provides great trust and goodwill and clearly lends itself to long term client satisfaction.
There are additional steps you may need to take depending on the needs of a client. The fact is that not everyone reads their monthly reports. Some clients need the phone call from time to time simply because they are more comfortable with a live voice while others are exactly the opposite, always preferring email and electronics to communicate. Others may want a monthly update by conference call with me and / or their Account Manager. One of our clients prefers texting above all.
The key is to communicate. Know what the client prefers and do everything you can to accommodate them and keep them in their comfort zone.
In essence, Client Satisfaction comes down to some basic qualities:
- Demonstration of Expertise
- Commitment to Individual Results
- Walking the Walk
As CEO, there is one last but very important factor that you should definitely keep in mind. The President / CEO, aside from all the executive responsibilities, needs to be the “client advocate” within the company. In other words, being the last word as to meeting the goals and objectives of our work on behalf of the client; insuring that we are doing all that we can to get the maximum result. After all, you have a formal agreement with a client and you want to be the voice of that client in our internal staff and other team meetings that maintain the client-oriented perspective throughout the company.
Client Satisfaction is earned.