The ideal business relationship is one in which both parties to a transaction gain something greater in value than what a healthy service-provider/client relationship is key to sustained positive results for both parties. In the SEO industry, there are many opportunities for a lot that can disrupt this all-important relationship. Constant changes by Google that can affect the how’s and what’s of the work being done, taboo on the word “guarantee,” a wide knowledge gap between client and business on the work being performed, and a number of other factors, can all lead to difficulty in maintaining these high quality relationships. Here, I’ll explain 5 keys to building and maintaining healthy, high quality relationships with all of your clients as an SEO firm.
From both the client and business standpoint, thinking win/win is crucial. If at any time in any relationship, business or not, one or both people involved are thinking selfishly with only their best interests in mind, things will crumble. If you haven’t had the chance to read Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People yet, you should. Covey’s “abundance mentality” explains that once both parties of any agreement come to realize that there is more then enough to go around for everyone to be successful, great things can happen. So it is in the SEO/client relationship. As an SEO firm strives to help their client win through high quality time and effort, and the client helps the SEO firm by providing quality information, details, and feedback; great things can happen. There truly is an abundance of greatness to be had by all, sometimes you just have to shift your thinking a bit to see it.
Build a Partnership
Too often in this relationship, the client can become nothing more than a deposited check at the beginning of the month for the SEO, and the SEO can become a robot that sends automated reports each month for the client. A relationship like this will more often than not drag on and on until it curls up and dies, leaving behind it a boring and ineffective life of mediocrity. This is not okay. Both sides must learn to see the other as a partner in their end goals and ambitions, and treat one another as such. An SEO must become fully invested in the clients plan for success, and find every avenue that they can to help their client achieve their plan. This type of commitment and respect cannot be faked; it is either there or it’s not. Once both parties begin to respect each other as partners of a shared goal, great things will happen.
Gandhi said, “truth never damages a cause that is just.” SEO’s should live and die by these words. No partnership can prosper and grow in the murky waters of dishonesty. In order to build a long lasting partnership with clients, SEO’s must become open books; always ready and willing to share exactly what work is being done and what results are being seen. There are many ways to do this. One way, and the most important one, is to ensure that all clients are receiving detailed monthly reports each and every month. These reports should detail not only all of the work that has been done the previous month, but also the results that came from that work as well as an outlook on work to be done in the upcoming month. They create a window that the clients can look through to see exactly what is going on with their SEO campaign, and the client will learn to appreciate these reports and the transparency that they bring. Through the great monthly reports full of mind blowing advances and growth, and also the not so great ones, partnerships of trust and confidence will be born.
Create Open Lines of Communication
Another way to create transparency in these partnerships is to ensure that there are plenty of open lines of communication, and that both parties feel comfortable using them freely. These lines of communication can be customized from partnership to partnership depending on communication preferences, but what’s important is that once these lines of communication are chosen, they are used. I prefer to talk on the phone, while my business partner would much rather converse via email; neither way is the “right way”, all that matters is that we both know that the lines are open. Project management software like Basecamp can be great tools in providing open lines of communication, but again the exact form of communication is not what’s important. Whether a client prefers to talk on the phone, email, text message, Skype, or use morse code it doesn’t matter, as long as everyone involved is in the loop of what’s going on, and communication flows freely.
Know When to Say No
At the end of the day not all partnerships are destined for greatness and not every relationship can be a win/win. In times where it is obvious that things aren’t going to work out for the best for everyone involved, both the client and SEO must learn to say no. Some might look at this and say, “well chat kind of growth strategy is that, turning down business?” To them I say, it is better to create partnerships with unlimited potential for prosperity, than to force oneself into a one-sided business relationship with no hope for success at the end of the day, just to make a few bucks. Sometimes the client just might not have the budget to afford an SEO’s services, rather then take the money knowing that the client will fall through the cracks as the “bottom feeder” client, just say no. In other instances a client might be looking for a service that a firm doesn’t have the team in place to provide the quality results the client deserves, rather then take the clients money and try to make something work, just say no and give the a good reference. Learning to say no will help create only relationships that are worth having, and a healthy environment of prosperity will be the result.
What are some ways that you’ve seen successful partnerships form between SEO firms and clients?
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