Times are tough.
In times like these, clients tend to focus on the value proposition. "Throw it at the wall, see if it sticks" is not a phrase you hear a lot in recessions.
Instead, your customers will tend to have their eyes transfixed on your value proposition. "How does this spend make me better off?"
Whilst we may think search marketing services are essential, the spend on search services typically comes out of marketing budgets, and marketing budgets tend to be the first thing companies cut when things get tight.
So, they might need more convincing that usual.
If you weren't doing so already, it can be a good time to go over your proposals and pitch, and look to emphasize, and add to the value proposition you offer.
A few points to consider....
1. Address Genuine Needs
Address the need a client has, which may be different than the need they articulate.
This may seem obvious, but often people aren't quite sure exactly why they need search marketing, or they may have wrong ideas about it. Their genuine business need may be buried. You need to tease this out.
To do so, listen. Hard.
One common mistake people who are "fixers" - seos tend to be fixers - can make is that they'll go through the motions of listening, but really they're just waiting for an opportunity to launch into their solution.
A client will tell you a lot, and perhaps cover a lot of angles you hadn't thought of, if you let them talk long enough. They will like the fact you are interested in them and their problems, and it will make your eventual solution sound more considered and tailor-made.
Because it will be.
If you don't solve a genuine problem, your relationship is more likely to be a short one. Services that don't solve genuine business problems are more likely to get cut.
Look for ways you can enhance your offering.
Look to solve genuine problems in closely related fields. For example, a client may lack a content strategy. They may want to publish content regularly, but haven't got around to doing so. You could enhance your offering by incorporating this work in your offer, reasoning that it dovetails nicely with your SEO strategy, thus killing two birds with one stone.
This can also get you on-going work, if pitched right, and may involve little more than hiring the services of a copywriter.
3. Establish Feedback Mechanisms
Feedback is important.
Not only does it give you added insight into what the client is thinking, it also offers you the opportunity to demonstrate your value proposition in action.
You said you would do X, you do X, then show them you've done X. This helps build trust.
Clients will often elaborate, if given the opportunity, which can give you more ideas on how to "Go Beyond", and how to "Address Their Real Needs".
4. Look At Jobs As Partnerships
If you've ever bought services, you know that selecting a service provider can be a pain. It is time consuming, and there is risk involved. A wrong choice can lead to opportunity cost, and having to repeat the process all over again.
No one wants that. People want partnerships with their suppliers. They want someone on their side.
Once you've landed a client, try to see them as a business partner. This is certainly how they will view you if they like you. They are unlikely to go back out to the market unless they are disastisfied, so try to make their business, your business.
Take the approach that you will boost your own business by building theirs.
5. Every Job Is An Opportunity To Build Hybrid Skills & Knowledge
Let's say you have a travel client.
Learn everything you can about the travel industry. Press the client for information. Research and understand the wider industry, not just the search marketing opportunity within that industry.
One of the golden things about being a consultant is that you get to look inside people's businesses. This information is valuable and difficult to obtain by other means, yet you're getting paid to learn it. You're learning about real business issues, who's-who, and the language of the industry.
You then become more valuable to any other travel-related client as you're now "a travel guy". You can pitch convincing to them, because you speak their language, understand their problems, and you've got industry history.
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