When you offer digital marketing services like SEO, PR, content marketing, or others, it can be hard to sell your real value. If you look at it through your client’s eyes, you’ll realize they may feel like they’re paying a high price for limited results.
We all know most digital services take months or even years to show big results, and that’s because there’s an entire process involved. And the process doesn’t stop after your client starts getting more web traffic, leads, or conversions.
If they stop using your agency’s service, they’ll eventually stop seeing results.
That’s not a hard conversation to have, though– if they’ve seen the fruits of your labor, you’ll likely be able to convince them to retain your services.
But what if they haven’t seen the results, yet? What if they feel like they’re paying for nothing?
I’ve been in that situation before. I’ve worked in inbound marketing for quite a long time now, and I know firsthand that results take time. Not all of my clients immediately saw the value in what I did, but most understood it once the leads started coming in.
It can be hard to sell the value of something your clients don’t immediately understand. If they don’t know what you do, how you do it, how it works, or why it matters, they’ll remain skeptical.
One thing most of my clients were never skeptical about, however, were my reputation services. Business owners and decision makers understand why their online reputation is important, and they almost all have at least a big-picture-grasp on the important factors– reviews, social media, and other digital word-of-mouth platforms.
Reputation management services were actually requested by my clients, which is one of the reasons I started RevenueJump. It’s an easier sell than inbound marketing, SEO, or content marketing.
But it also doesn’t move the needle in the same way those other digital disciplines do.
Reputation management is an easier sell because the typical business decision maker understands what it does and what it entails.
With other services, you may not be so lucky.
If you educate your clients on what it is you do, and why it matters, you’ll have a much easier time selling your own value. A fancy report at the end of the month isn’t enough– they have to understand the numbers on the report and why they matter.
When you educate your clients, they’ll understand your prices. They’ll also understand why you’re qualified to charge those prices. And, if all goes well, they’ll trust that they’re paying a fair price and you’re earning your monthly payment.
I enjoyed this post from Lauren Hooker, who breaks client education down into five steps:
1. Set and manage their expectations
2. Explain your decision-making process
3. Speak in plain language, avoid jargon whenever possible
4. Make your educational materials (blog posts, videos, white papers, etc.) easily accessible
5. Ask if they have any questions
If Lauren’s five steps have at all piqued your interest, I encourage you to click over to her post. It’s a short and enlightening read, and she follows all of her own advice with the way she presents it.
I want to touch some more on managing expectations. If your clients don’t quite understand what you do, and they expect a certain result, the outcome can be disastrous. I’ve had it happen before, and I’m sure you’ve had it happen, too.
Setting expectations is vital when you offer any digital service.
This is how Michelle Brammer puts it:
“The goal is to set the client’s expectations yourself. Without the right knowledge of what you offer and how you work, they may have unrealistic expectations you’ll never reach. If you walk them through your own expectations and educate them on how your process works, you’ll have a hand in building their expectations of you.
Many clients expect too much from us. Your goal is to level their expectations into something more realistic and manageable.
On the opposite end, their expectations may be low. Perhaps they’re achieving lackluster performance while doing their own [digital marketing results], and you show that you can triple their results by taking a little control. This way, you manage their public image and build expectations for them that are closer to what you can deliver.”
Setting expectations goes hand in hand with your own process. Every agency is different, so I can’t get too specific here. Make sure you use regular language when you describe what you do, and don’t over-explain to the point of intimidating your client.
But do make sure they know you’re not just taking shots in the dark– and make sure they know how your process will benefit them.
Then your value, even if you take time to deliver results (and you will), won’t be such a mystery in their eyes.
It’s also in your best interest to let them know what you can’t do for them. Be honest. No one can help your client rank on the first page of Google within two months, not even you.
Let them know what you do, how you do it, why it matters, and what they can expect.
And then move on to the hard part.
Barren vs. Bountiful
Showing your process and setting expectations are essential, but you also need to show your clients something concrete. Something that makes them trust that your services will help them meet their goals.
It’s called research.
Let’s take agencies who offer SEO services as an example.
If I had a client who wanted my SEO services, but was skeptical about my value, here’s the process I’d follow:
1. I’d perform a full SEO audit of their site, using Screaming Frog or another tool
2. I’d make note of anything they’re missing or anything that needs improvement, such as site speed, content, links, URL structure, meta data, titles, and anything else that’s amiss
3. Then, I’d perform the same audit on their highest-ranking competitor and put that data side-by-side in a report, highlighting the discrepancies
4. I’d perform the audit on two more sites– if the client ran a local business, I’d perform the audit on a high-ranking similar business website and a low-ranking competitor in another geographical location
5. I’d put that data in a report, too, to show that the SEO discrepancies aren’t a fluke when it comes to search engine visibility
With this in place, the client can clearly see what they’re missing and what the best-performing websites have going for them, as far as on-site SEO goes.
If you offer organic or local SEO services, you know you can fix those on-site SEO problems. Your client knows what their problems are, and they’re confident you can fix those problems.
You can show them, though research, exactly what’s causing them to lose out.
I’ll let John Tabita at SitePoint explain:
“If I’m going to educate a client about SEO or social media, it’s to show them how they’re losing money and customers to their competitors.
Fear of loss can be more powerful than hope of gain. Both appeal to the limbic “feeling” brain. But showing what the client stands to lose by not buying your product or service will convert more prospects into paying clients.”
You could do the same thing with a link audit or a content audit. You can basically modify and repeat this process with any digital service.
Show them the difference between a website that’s barren and a website that’s bountiful, and make them feel confident you can make their website bountiful. Make them trust you to deliver a bounty of traffic, leads, sales, conversions, or whatever they’re looking for.
Education vs. Marketing
Though I firmly believe that education can be an important part of marketing, I also know they’re often two separate things.
Marketing tries to influence a consumer to take a certain action. Education tries to help a person, consumer or not, find the correct solution for their problem.
In a client or potential client’s mind, nothing cements an agency’s credibility more than when an agency acknowledges that they fully understand the problem they’re trying to solve– and that their service may not be the only solution.
I recently read a Business Insider article by Mark Quinn that impressed me. Inbound marketing, the industry I come from, is all about education. But not everyone sees the marketing world through an educational lens.
From Mark Quinn:
“There’s a big difference between marketing to your customer and educating him. A lot of companies believe they’re educating their consumers because they’re elaborating upon the features, advantages, and benefits of their products. What’s relevant to the consumer, however, isn’t what the company values about its own product, but what the product can do to solve a problem for him. By using its marketing to do a lot of navel-gazing, a business shortchanges its customers by only providing them with the information it deems important.
Customers, of course, see through this. When businesses blindly assume that their prospects already have the information they need and are simply making a choice between brands, they shift from a learning-focused mindset to a competitive one. The smart consumer will opt to buy from the company that’s educated him on the issue and presented him with multiple solutions. That company’s selflessness has built trust — and its ability to teach him has bought his loyalty in the future.”
Yes, you want to prove your value and retain your clients for as long as possible. But if your service isn’t actually the best fit for their needs, you’re going to be fighting tooth and nail to prove that value for the entirety of your relationship.
It’s good to have clients, but it’s not good to have clients who keep you up at night. If you’re not a good fit, the education process will demonstrate that to both you and the client.
There are some clients who will never be a good fit for your agency, either because they’ll never see your value, or because your services won’t be valuable to them.
The client education process helps you avoid both scenarios.
When you provide a service that takes time to achieve noticeable results, you have to prove your value through education. Case studies and whitepapers are great, but you’ll also have to speak to your clients on a one-on-one basis.
You’ll have to personally address how your service will benefit them, and that takes explaining your process, setting expectations, doing real research and applying it to their business, and focusing on education instead of marketing.
If you’d like some further reading on this subject, I recommend these blog posts:
Educate Your Clients from SmallBizClub
Agencies – Educate Your Clients and Spare Everyone the Drama from Digital Relativity
Thanks for reading!