Filtering Bad Leads & Filtering Information

Lets say you sell SEO services and want to aim for the high end of the market.

keyword modifiers and/or ad copy:

  • high end

  • complex
  • corporate
  • fortune 500
  • custom
  • bespoke (I love that word)
  • search brand management

negative ad trigger keywords:

  • - cheap

  • - outsource (maybe some testing might be needed on this one...depends on their meaning when they type outsource
  • - India
  • - free
  • - discount
  • - budget
  • - wholesale
  • - economic
  • - low cost
  • - cost
  • - price

Create content designed around being relevant to search queries likely to be performed by desired clients. Best XYZ. Top rated XYZ. Award winning reliable XYZ.

Offer a free or low priced information product to point beginners at. Perhaps get their information in exchange for giving it away, but sometimes it is even better just to give away good value without expecting anything in return.

Make sure you qualify as a GAP and Yahoo! Ambassador and throw those logos on your site.

Cheap Blowhards:
As soon as you realize a lead is a blowhard make it a goal to be off the phone in less than a minute. If via email tell them that you would have no problem answering their questions if they would pay for the consultation time upfront.

Proxy for Search Ad Spend:
Some industries are web only, and thus may not spend much money on traditional offline marketing, but if a lead is in a field that tells normally spends big offline, and they tell you they have no offline budget than they may also have limited or next to no online budget.

Anyone who has excuses about how poor they are or how the search engines are destroying their business typically falls into one of the following groups:

  • a person down on their luck who can't focus beyond the past

  • a person unwilling to change, stuck with a legacy business model
  • a person too lazy to try to build any real value
  • a person trying to waste your time making you earn far less than you are worth

Proxy for Their Opinion of Value:
If some told you they just hired someone from India and were rather happy but...

You may as well avoid that lead. Their perceived value bar is likely too low and/or their expectations are probably too high.

If they got burned in the past they may be afraid to invest enough to be able to afford useful services.

Some leads that generally can not afford to competing in marketplaces where the SEO is the only thing that makes it a possibility whine to the SEO about their business being destroyed if things ever slow. Keep in mind that in many of these instances the SEO did create that business opportunity and build those businesses for diminishing scraps as the marketplace and algorithms advance.

List your prices (I am surprised by how few SEOs do this):

Justifying Your Price:
If the client is exceptionally concerned about how much you make per hour one of the following conditions is probably happening:

  • you are selling to the wrong person

  • you are selling the wrong stuff
  • you have not adequately prequalified them

The amount of time it takes you to do something is irrelevant to how much value you create. For example, on a one hour consult yesterday in a single minute I saved my client over double what the hour long phone call cost.

Peter D pointed at a story about a $10,000 hour recently. Earlier this year I think I had a million dollar minute, but that idea still won't launch for a few months. I sure hope that goes well ;)

If You Suck at Pricing (I Generally do):
If you tend to under-price your services try to bring on a partner who is more business savvy, or created automated income streams that help sell themselves without requiring you to negotiate prices.

I recently took on a trusted friend as a partner for some large scale client work. The details of that million dollar minute were told to a friend because he is much better at executing on ideas of that scale than I am. As a minority stake holder I will likely make more off the idea than I would have if I developed it myself.

Recommend other companies:
That makes you look both reliable AND exceptionally selective. Rand does it.

Customer forms...just ask questions. Good ones. And lots of them!
Have a long customer form on your site that really allows you to learn the client's business. If they take an hour and a half to fill out an inquiry form then the odds are pretty good they are not a cheap ass or tire kicker.

Plus asking questions helps build trust and makes them realize how many things you consider when you provide your services.

I created one for a friend's PPC services, but I have yet to see many of these in the SEO industry. If you wanted to know how to a great customer inquiry form check out the questionnaire on Clear Left. Their customer inquiry form would be a fantastic model for any company selling web development or marketing services.

Say You are Not Available:
Some people have emailed me dozens of time because being unavailable made them more attracted to wanting to hire me. Some of the leads were so appealing that I couldn't say no.

Email Overload:
I am getting exceptionally behind on emails, so my advice probably lacks credibility here, but if it is not personalized delete it.

If it is personalized, but the same person keeps asking you questions that could easily be answered by a search engine politely remind them that search engines exist by answering their questions with a link to a relevant search query.

Use an email program that lets you mark and store messages by priority level.

If you get asked the same question many times create content on the topic so you can answer the question once and have the answer there for many people.

Always time to chat with your best friends, but if you sell a cheap product to someone and they want your email to chat for an hour a day for free cut that stuff off right away. It doesn't scale.

If people want to chat to sell you stuff without having met you beforehand tell them you are not interested and never will be. And you have to go now.

Sometimes it helps to subscribe to keywords and cut out a few channels. Or, use Google toolbar buttons and just subscribe to your 15 - 20 favorite blogs.

Read through your favorite channels maybe a few times a day. Read through the other ones much more rarely.

Overall Selling Theory:
I won't pretend that I know everything about selling high end client services, but I think some of these tips would be useful to anyone new to the market who wanted to set up shop selling SEO services.

Published: April 10, 2006 by Aaron Wall in marketing


April 10, 2006 - 8:03pm

We put our minimum pricing up on our contact form and it has filtered out a lot of tire kickers.

It's funny to see you recommned adding the "not available" info. We did that recently because we're really not available...

People still call and a few are exactly what you describe, "too good to pass up".

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