How Clients Hire SEOs (And How to Make Them Hire You)
Yes, I know what you struggle with – getting hired.
You don’t have a problem with introducing yourself to new customers. But getting them to hire you is a completely different story.
No matter what you do they still seem to be picking someone else. And it’s not necessarily someone better.
There might be different reasons for that though. Perhaps they trust them more. Or the other company had better clients, worked on bigger projects than you, or simply, offered lower prices. It’s hard to guess.
But knowing the process many clients use to pick who they want to work with will certainly help. Even if it’ll only help you identify what aspects of your business you should focus on to win more clients.
How Clients Buy
A traditional buying process includes 3 major stages: awareness, evaluation and decision. What goes into each stage often differs from company to company but the 3 are pretty much constant.
In 2009, RainToday’s report entitled “How We Buy” presented findings from their research on the purchasing process used by buyers when evaluating service providers.
According to the report, during the Evaluation stage, one in which clients start to look for the experts to hire, the top 5 ways which buyers use to identify and learn more about professional service providers are:
- Referrals from Colleagues
- Referrals from Other Service Providers
- Personal Recognition or Awareness
- In Person Contact
- Presentation at a Conference or Event
RainToday concluded that the best way to raise awareness about yourself and make a lasting impression on the prospect is to actually deliver some service to them. This however doesn’t mean working for free. It rather means making a lasting and memorable impression, be it through previous work or sharing your expertise in a non-sales setting (like a conference delivery, seminar or with content).
In the last stage, Decision, a customer must select the final company to hire. According to Forrester Research however, only 35% of decisions involving vendor selection are made. Therefore, there is huge expectation from companies to make into the final selection. And the best way to do it is by delivering on the most common factors customers use to pick the company they want to work with.
Factors Clients Use To Make A Buying Decision
1. Track Record
For clients, a track record means an ability to gauge the company they are considering to hire, verify their claims and if they indeed worked on campaigns similar to what the client is looking for.
In SEO, since you can’t release a lot of the data that would prove your successes in the field, a track record could simply mean a list of your current and past clients along with their contact details.
2. Personal Awareness
The second most common way, according to RainToday, buyers identify service providers is personal awareness of the provider or their brand. In other words, customers prefer to hire someone whose name they have heard before.
But you don’t have to be a recognised global SEO leader to gain that recognition. Having at least some expert status however, be it in your region or in the industry you specialise in certainly helps.
Clients you have worked with provide your prospects with a reference on who you are, what type of customers you want to work with and also, send a clear signal whether to hire you or not. Small clients might feel intimidated to contact an agency servicing large corporations only. Similarly, corporate buyers might refrain from hiring an agency dealing with smaller firms.
How you work is an equally important factor in a clients hiring decision as who you work with. Your policies, terms and conditions, processes etc. tell the customer what type of company are you and indicate how a potential relationship might develop. If they feel that your processes don’t meet what they are looking for, they will pick somewhere else.
We’ve talked about price a lot recently here on this blog (check out my articles about pricing models and strategies). And you should know by now what a strong indicator of your market positioning it is. Price is also an indicator of perceived quality. Many customers view a cheaper product or service as of inferior quality.
How to Use This Knowledge to Your Advantage
Knowing what criteria your potential customers use when selecting the final vendor will help you to determine what areas of your business you should improve.
Perhaps you don’t enjoy a strong brand awareness in your region, or you are only starting out. You may want to focus your marketing efforts on improving it. Speak at local conferences, write a column in a local paper and become active in your local chamber of commerce.
If you don’t have it yet, consider developing a referral strategy. Contrary to a common belief, referrals don’t happen by themselves. You need to be proactive to ensure a steady flow of referrals. Check out this post, and this one to get you started. Or read The Referral Engine by John Jantsch.
Specialise. Another important factor is your specialisation. Too many consultants try to work within every industry and with every client. This creates a situation in which you gain no in-depth expertise of any particular market. Not to mention losing an opportunity to gain recognition in it.
Consider specialising and building your credibility within your area or industry. You will be able to become more skilled and deliver a much higher quality work while standing out from the competition.
Lastly, use price to position yourself in the market and indicate what clients you want to work with. This will save you a lot of time dealing with buyers who would never become clients.
Creative commons photo by Flazingo Photos / Flickr