A majority of my clients have been with me for 2+ years which leads me to believe two things. One, I am somewhat pleasant to talk to/work with. Two, my clients are experiencing success with the campaigns I have laid out for them.
I promise I will not use this space to toot my own horn but from time to time it’s important to assess why you are spending time (money) with a search marketing firm. Many people become overwhelmed by all the online opportunities out there, or worse, forget to check in on their existing marketing expenses. To make sure you are on top of your game, ask yourself these three questions before heading into a review with an SEM professional.
1.       Is the Internet where I really want to grow my customer base?
I will be honest; the Internet is not for everyone. For each individual looking to find a qualified plumber/landscaper/birthday clown, there are dozens more interested in downloading the newest top 40 single or other unmentionable songs and videos. It is not to say that reputation managementonline should be ignored; rather, the web may not be the best place to foster relationships with potential and returning customers.

For example, my uncle is an attorney who specializes in wealth & estate management. He lives and works in one of the nicest parts of Orange County, so suffice to say that the clients he works with fall into the highest of tax brackets. When I told him he should consider growing his web presence, he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Listen. If a potential client doesn’t live within 10 miles of my office, is worth less than eight figures, and is not referred to me by a friend or colleague, I wouldn’t waste my breath talking to them.” I don’t tell you this story because my uncle is a cold or shallow man (quite the contrary in fact), but because his time is not well spent fielding leads from those perusing the web looking for help.
2.       Does my website truly reflect my service offering?
Throughout my career, I have optimized and marketed sites across dozens of industries. The number one issue facing business owners online is the sadly common case of online identity crisis. A lawyer in San Diego, who may love to surf and spends far too many billable hours in a wetsuit, may have a sound bite of the Beach Boys on his website set to repeat. While that does express his personal taste for music and the surfing lifestyle, he may turn off those looking for an ardent professional.
Perhaps your PR firm has built a reputation locally for being the best at product placement in print advertising. It’s too bad though, that your services pages have a measly paragraph discussing product placement and your case studies reflect campaigns focusing on your achievements in branding.
If your core offering(s) is/are not strongly and immediately identifiable, thoroughly explained and meticulously documented (via testimonials, case studies, etc.) then you are going to have a tough time acquiring more leads even at the top of page 1.
3.       Am I utilizing every resource afforded to me?
So I may have got ahead of myself when I said I wasn’t going to toot my own horn but many times, clients get so caught up in what is perceived as important that they forgot to ask the very person (me!) they are paying to stay on top these kind of things. I am in no way saying that clients don’t come to me with points or ideas I have never thought of, it happens all the time! All that I am saying is don’t be afraid to ask your SEM professional some candid questions from time to time.
Some of my clients utilize our services strictly for link building; others hire us to build out and maintain extensive websites. But just because we are contracted for a specific set of deliverables doesn’t mean we don’t have all kinds of great ideas just waiting to be shared. Try this out; next time you go into a meeting just ask, “Drew (or insert your SEM’s name here), if it were up to you and you were in my position, how would you be doing things?” You should be looking for two things in a response.

The first is that they should become excited about hearing this question and being able to candidly share some insight with you. If they return a blank stare with a suggestion to “Increase your monthly spend!” you should probably start questioning their commitment to the campaign.
Secondly, they should fire some questions right back at you. If they immediately talk about the latest and greatest product fresh from their development team, they probably are looking for an upsell. Instead, look for them to gauge your comfort level with a change in direction or a re-allocation of resources before whipping out the freshest bottle of snake oil.

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