Module 16 – Dealing with clients
Alrighty. Dealing with clients. This is certainly an area of importance. I’ve worked with so many different business owners and they’re all unique in their own way.
Some clients are great other clients are horrible. I’ve experienced just about everything there is to experience, in terms of dealing with clients. So I want to share my thoughts with you, on just a few key areas about what you need to be mindful of when you start your business and you do start getting clients on board.
Okay, first slide. Educating clients. This is so important. As I said in the previous video, there’s so much misinformation on the web about SEO. And it’s interesting, you go to any SEO forum and you’ll see actual people that do SEO, arguing about the way in which SEO should be done.
So it’s no surprise that business owners are utterly confused about how SEO works and how to get a return investment and what should be done as part of SEO, as well as pricing as well. So one thing that I am really big on, educating your clients. Okay? The more they understand about what’s going on, the easier your job will be. Because they won’t be breaking your balls every day, sending you silly emails and making phone calls and having unrealistic expectations.
When you educate clients about, “Hey look, this is what needs to be done. This is how long it’s going to take and this is how much it’s going to cost.” And these are all the things I talk about, when I pitch for the project. When you do these things and you educate the client, then it calms them down a bit and it gets them out of this whole, “Oh, why is this taking so long?” Or “Why is it so expensive and what are you actually doing?” And, “Is what you’re doing safe?”
So the more that client understands the actual process and what is actually involved and all the moving parts involved within an SEO campaign, and one that’s done right. The easier it’s going to be on everyone. Now, one thing that you don’t want to get bogged down, you certainly don’t want to get bogged down providing ongoing SEO training to clients.
There’s a fine line here between educating clients and helping them out, in terms of understanding what’s going on, and spending hours with them showing them the ins and outs of SEO. You don’t want to take it to that extent. But certainly when you sign a client up and they start working with you, they should have at least some understanding of what they’re getting into. They shouldn’t just be signing up, throwing money at you and having absolutely no idea about what’s going on.
Okay next slide, setting expectations. This is a big one. And again, I think due to all of the misinformation on the web about how much SEO costs and how easy it is to hit the front page of Google by next Saturday afternoon, and all this sort of nonsense. Leads clients to having completely unrealistic expectations. And there’s a couple of key areas that I want to talk about in particular. Firstly, let’s start on the, on the left here and work our way around anticlockwise. Let’s talk about timeframes.
One thing that I’ve found is that most people, most business owners have a real misunderstanding about how long SEO takes. And this is always a question I get. I get two questions every single time and pick up the phone, how much is this going to cost and how long is it going to take?
Now when you … and this comes back to educating the client, when you start talking about timeframes, it can be really difficult to know with absolute certainty as to how long an SEO campaigns going to take. And let’s face it, most SEO campaigns are ongoing because the client will just keep coming back and saying, “Oh, can we do this? Can we add these terms here? Our competitors are doing that. We’re expanding the business, we’ve got to assist the website. Can you look at that?”
So as for how long an SEO campaign takes, that’s anyone’s best guess. Usually, and this comes down to experience. Usually I can take a look over a client’s site, have a look at their competitors and look at things like the amount of pages they’ve got, what sort of terms they’re currently performing for, the amount of traffic they’re getting. And look at that in comparison to say one of their competitors who’s well established. And I can say, “Alright, look-”
Plus I need to factor in the amount of work that needs to be done in order for my client to be competitive. I can usually put some sort of estimate together and say, “Look, you’re going to be looking at 12 months, 18 months before you’re in a place of being competitive.” Now one thing that’s very, very important about when you start talking about time frames, and I do this all the time, I always overcompensate or overestimate how long it’s going to take. I never ever tell a client, “Oh yeah, we can get first page rankings here in three months.” Unless I know it’s pretty damn likely.
But I’m certainly not going to get on a call with a client where I’m pitching for the job as part of my sales presentation and say to the client, “Oh look, we’ll be doing really well in four months.” Just to get them to sign up because I can tell you right now, four months we’ll come around, they’ll remember exactly what you said and they’ll be saying, “John, we’ve been at it for fourth months and you said we’ll be getting results by now. What’s going on?” You don’t want to have those uncomfortable conversations.
So if I’m looking at a client’s site and I’m thinking, “Right, this is probably going to take about eight months” I will always overestimate. And I’ll say, “Look, your probably looking at about 18 months, a year and a half for you to catch up to where your competitors are.” One thing that I’ve found very powerful, and this comes back to asking the clients who their competitors are, I’ll bring their competitors up in SEMrush, a tool like SEMrush and I’ll show them, “Look, this is how long it’s taking your competitors to get where they are.
This is why they’re doing so well in search.” And within SEMrush, you can see it a historical timeline of organic search traffic growth. So I can look and say, “Right, ABC plumbing, it’s taken them three and a half years to get where they are, just through grinding out solid content and doing all of these other things.
So it’s a bit unrealistic of you to be expecting me to turn this business around, for you to be competitive with them or competing with them after three months. And this is really, really important, probably more so than anything, timeframes. Because business owners are really impatient. They want, “We’re paying $2,000 a month, we want immediate results.” It just doesn’t work that way. I’ve turned quite a few people away, that come to me, that have had just completely unrealistic expectations. Even after trying to educate them about how long it’s likely to take.
So setting expectations about time frames at the very beginning is extremely important. Now, just one thing before we move on to these other points. If you overestimate and you say, “Look, you’re going to be looking at about 18 months here.” And it happens before 18 months, you start falling into place after nine months, they’re going to be doing back flips. They’re going to be over the moon saying, “Oh wow, we thought it takes so much longer. This is fantastic.” That’s a much better conversation to have than, “Why is this taking so long.”
The other thing is it puts them into that long term mindset and that’s really key with SEO because SEO takes time. Of course if you start bumping up the hours selling them more hours, you can speed it up a little bit. But setting timeframes at the very beginning of the campaign is absolutely crucial.
Okay, if we look at the next point, availability, this one here is important.
Also, you want to touch on the fact that yes, I’m going to be available to help you if you need something real quick. If you want to send me an email or a phone call. But at the same time, look, I can’t be here 24/7 for everyone, otherwise I’ll get nothing done. Just remind them. We’re going to have an end of month strategy call and on that strategy call you get to ask me everything. We’re going to cover everything in detail. So be mindful of that. Otherwise you’ll have clients up your ass, there’ll be all you, you’ll never get anything done.
Okay. The next point is rankings, and this is a big one. Setting expectations about rankings. This might sound unusual, but I don’t like to have this discussion with new prospects. I always bring the conversation back to revenue and this is about educating the client. I’m not interested in working with someone who wants to sit there Googling themselves and calling me every day saying, “Oh John, we’re in position five and today we’re in position six. What’s wrong?” I don’t want to have those discussions and this comes back to pre qualifying. I get someone like that on the phone, I do my best to educate them about the importance of revenue. I want to focus on revenue, helping you move from $10,000 a month to $100,000 a month.
I’m not going to be sitting here watching keywords bounce around one or two places and losing sleep over it. So, having that conversation on early and educating the client about the importance of focusing on what matters, getting customers and sales and making money and not rankings. If you get that discussion out of the way at the very beginning, it’s going to be incredibly valuable later on. Because that snaps them out of that whole mindset of, “Oh, we’ve got to be first page in Google” because that is just absolute nonsense.
Okay. Next point around is ROI, being able to demonstrate a return on investment. This is a conversation again, that needs to be had early on in the gig. And that’s … look, chances are if you’re paying me $2,000 a month, we’re doing the minimum amount of hours, your selling red widgets there, $3,000 each or $500 each, or whatever that might be. It’s likely that you won’t see a return investment for the first four or five months. Then we’d probably be at break even. And then from there forward, we might start saving some money.
But it’s really important that you understand that the first five or six months of this campaign are going to be painful. It’s just the nature of the beast. There’s no shortcuts are easy ways to the top. Again, this is really important because you don’t want to be having uncountable phone calls with people saying, “Ah, we’re paying all this money and we’re not seeing a return on investment.” You need to make them aware that it’s going to take time and it’s going to cost some money. But if they stick with it long term, they’re gonna make their money back 10 fold month in, month out.
Okay. Then the next point that I’ve got marked here is workload. And clients need to have a really good understanding of the amount of work that’s involved. And a really quick and easy way of demonstrating this is pushing one of their competitors through SEMrush, using any one of the tools that I mentioned in the previous slide. A tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, and throwing that at them and saying, “Listen, you have a 12 page website. You haven’t done anything with this site in seven years.
During that time, your competitors, ABC Plumbing, have been grinding out content. They’ve got a 30,000 page site. They’re getting 10,000 visits a month, you’ve done nothing. You’ve got a 12 page website and you’re getting 10 visits a month, and this is why. This is where you are. This is where your competitors are. This is the amount of work that needs to be done, in order for you to be competitive.”
Once they see that and they understand that, and this all falls into place once you start doing your end of month strategy calls and putting your work summary sheets together and everything else. Once they see that, they then step back and go, “Oh shit, there is an enormous amount of work here to be done.” But you’ve got to have that conversation early on in the game. And probably less to a lesser extent than some of these other points, but certainly that workload will come into play as you work your way through the campaign.
Okay, next slide, honesty and transparency. This is a big one for me. I’m not interested in trying to be sneaky or sleazy, or mislead people into signing up with me. I’m completely honest. I’m very straightforward and sometimes brutally honest with people. I tell them, “Look, your website is a mess. This thing’s never going to work” or “This is going to take two years for you to be competitive, because you’ve done nothing for the last 10 years.”
A lot of those conversations, look, it’s always hard to hear for business owners. But they always thank me later on. I’ve got so many clients that have said, “Look John, like when we first spoke on the phone, it was really hard to hear what you had to say. But I’m so glad that I listened to your advice and took you on board, because you’ve turned this business around big time.” And let’s face it, they probably been on the phone to five other SEO agencies before they call you. That have said, “Yeah, we can turn this business around. We can get you first page in Google, sign up now. Give us your credit card details. We’ll be first page in Google by next Tuesday, and it’s only gonna cost $200 a month.” They have that discussion then they call me and I say, it’s $2,500 a month and it’s going to take you 12 months. That’s the cold hard truth about what is usually involved in making this work.
So honesty and transparency. Honesty, big time has played a huge part in why my business has done so well. Because I’m just upfront and brutally honest with a person. There’s no point in fucking around, because they’re going to find out otherwise. They’re gonna find out anyway, if you’re misleading them or doing something sneaky. So always just be completely honest and upfront and transparent with your clients.
Okay. Next point is SEO is a joint effort, and this is something that I make my clients well aware of before we start work. Working together. They know their business better than anyone, so it’s really important for them to understand that they need to meet me halfway. I’m not an expert on plumbing. I’m not an expert on trademarks.
I’m not an expert on medical equipment. It’s up to them to meet me halfway and get me the information that I need, in order for me to be able to do my job. It can be really, really difficult working with clients who have this mindset that they’re just going to throw money at me once a month and I’m going to wave a magic wand and everything’s going to be fantastic. All of my campaigns, my clients are heavily involved, especially when it comes to content. So, ensuring that the client understands that before you start and that they need to meet you halfway is absolutely vital.
Okay. Long term relationships. This is a big one. You’re not going to be able to turn anyone’s business around overnight. So it’s really important that you have this discussion early on. And it’s a recurring theme. It’s one that definitely, it doesn’t seem to want to go away. Even as hard as I try and educate clients, every now and then something will get said along the lines of, “You know, we’re six months into this, John. We were really keen on seeing some results.”
I don’t like to fuck around with people that only want to dabble a little bit, do a little bit of SEO here and there. Stop, start, they want overnight results. I’m just not interested in dealing with those people. There had been a couple of cases where I’ve just been brutally honest with existing clients and said, “Well hey, you’re not happy? Cancel out. Go and do some ad words or something.” “Oh, no, no, no, no. That’s not what we meant.”
I’m only interested in long term relationships with my clients and any of my clients have been working with me for three or four years. Because they understand the value that I’m providing. They can see that they’re putting a dollar in, they’re pulling the lever and they’re getting three or four dollars out. And let’s face it, once you’re in that position, why would they go anywhere else?
Okay, providing assistance. This is one that I kind of touched on already to some extent. But you’ve gotta be really careful. This comes back to protecting your time and focusing on what you should be doing. And trying to stay right away from shit that you shouldn’t be doing. Because I get all sorts of silly requests. I got an email the other day from a client, “John, I think I’ve got a virus on my computer. What should I do?” I mean, I could’ve spent fucking an hour on the phone with that client. That’s not … I’m here to help you get customers and do SEO. I’m not IT support.
So you need to be very careful of where you draw the line. Yes, if it’s something that I can jump in and get done in two minutes, then I’ll do it. Even still two minutes, five times a day adds up. 10 minutes to get to the end of the week. Fuck, I’ve wasted three hours this month mucking around doing all this other nonsense. So provide assistance, keep it within reason. You don’t want to be telling your clients to get lost, if it’s something that you can jump in and get done quickly.
But make sure you stay aware of it, because you can waste an enormous amount of time. When you’ve got 20 clients all yelling at you, “Help, help, help” it’s never a good thing. And let’s face it, you don’t want to have an end of month strategy call and have a client say, “Oh John, it was quiet this month. We didn’t get many calls.” Well no doubt because I spent all my time fucking around, changing photos on your website.
So that’s what you need to be mindful of. And this comes back to his accessibility. Making sure that clients understand we’ve got dedicated time here to have a chat, end of month strategy calls. I’ve worked with clients that want to call me five, six times a day and it’s a fucking nightmare. Probably one of the worst clients I ever dealt with was calling me probably once every two hours, and I ended up getting rid of him. We didn’t even finish the first month.
So, don’t put up with any of that sort of nonsense. Just remind clients, be firm but fair. Say, “Listen, you can either pay me $200 an hour to talk about doing this or I can just get it done. It’s going to cost you the same amount of money either the way.” Usually when you word it like that, it puts a stop to it. Just be clear with clients and say, “Look, I’m here to help, but I can’t be fucking on the phone all day long, helping you with all this other stuff. It’s not what I’ve been hired to do.”
Okay, keeping clients informed. This is a big one. Because as I said earlier, a lot of the time you’ll be dealing with clients that have been with other SEO agencies and they always say, and I hear this all the time, “Oh John, we paid them $800 a month.” And I always ask them, “What were they doing for that?” “Oh, we’ve got no idea. We never used to hear from him.”
So keeping clients informed is very important. And again, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to jump on the phone and call them every afternoon and say, “This is what I’ve done and this is where things are at.” Remember you have end of month strategy calls for those, which we’ll get into shortly. But keeping clients informed is a great way to keep clients on board.
They appreciate the fact that you get in touch, even if there’s a problem. Just letting you know, a quick email, just letting you know that we’ve got that sorted. I do like to check in with clients, where I feel like they might be getting a little bit twitchy. I’ll just send a quick update in an email. “I’m just letting you know that we’re looking at this plugin, there seems to be a problem. I’ll keep you updated.”
Dealing with difficult clients, we’ve kind of already covered this to some extent. But I will say this don’t put up with bullshit. It just amazes me how many coaching clients I’ve had that have said, “I’ve got this client, he just keeps bothering me all the time” or “he’s undone all my work” or “his web guy won’t let me log in and they withholding logins and …”
You’ve just got to get rid of these people. Don’t be afraid to say, “Okay look, this isn’t working. I think it might be best for you to find someone else.” If I find myself with a client that’s stressing me out and I’m not enjoying the work. And I’m going to bed thinking about their campaign and I’m waking up thinking about their campaign. And I’m looking at my phone waiting for the next call or the email to come in, they’re clients that you have to get rid off. Because it’s just not worth it, regardless of how much money they’re paying. It’s not worth the stress.
Another issue that you’ll come into, that will definitely come into play once you start building a client base and working with clients, are the clients that obsess over rankings. These are the clients that email you once a week and say, “Oh, we were in position 12 on Tuesday and today we’re in position 15. Like what’s wrong? Is there something wrong? Do we need to fix something?” Or they’ll sit there Googling themselves, or they’ll Google their competitors. And it is just such a waste of fucking time.
Again, I’m not interested in working with people that want to obsess over rankings. And this is a discussion that I have early on in the game and I educate the client when I do my sales pitch and presentation. I say, “Look, it’s pointless being on the first page of Google if the phone’s not ringing or you’re not selling shit.”
And I see that all the time.
And this is when it comes back to conversions, where I point out how their site is ineffective, why it’s broken and not not working. Even for clients that have good rankings, it’s because you’d sites not build with conversions in mind. So it’s really important that you don’t waste time with fucking people that want to jump on the phone once a day and complain about rankings, rankings, rankings, rankings. You can waste an enormous amount of time fucking around with clients that want to obsess about ranking.
So be mindful of it. Always bring the discussion back to revenue. Again, clients that are continually annoying you for whatever reason. Some have better intentions than others. “Oh, John, I love the work that you’ve done. John, this needs attention,” or “John, when are you going to make those changes?” Again, don’t fucking put up with it. So you’re better off having fewer clients that pay you more money and letting you do your job without all the stress and bullshit of them annoying you every five minutes.
Another one, here’s another one that I’ve see a lot of and I’ve experience this to some extent, within numerous campaigns over the years. And these are the clients who want to interfere with things. Clients that want to go in and key word stuff their titles or go in and bold key words or use the keyword met a description tag. They like to think they know better because they’ve read a few blog posts over at malls. These clients are the fucking worst. Of course, before you start booting clients, you’ve got to say, “Hey look, it’s probably best that you just don’t poke around in here again.” Give them a quick heads up. But if they keep at it and you keep finding yourself having to go back and redo work or fix work that they’ve been interfering with, then get rid of them.
Here’s another one, lazy clients. Christ, these are the clients that you never hear from or they never get the photos to you. Or they don’t get content over to you in time, or they don’t get the information back that you need. Or you schedule a call and they’re always busy doing other things. These clients are just as bad as clients that want to fuck around, calling you every five minutes. They’re at the other end of the scale. That can be incredibly difficult to work with.
And this comes back to the fact that a SEO campaign should always be a joint effort. And this really comes into play when you’re working in sensitive spaces like the financial space or medical or legal, where the information needs to be accurate. And if I’ve got a client and they’re not meeting me for end of month strategy calls or a Q&A session that might be scheduled. Then fuck, it’s almost impossible to help these people.
And I find. For the most part, a lot of these business owners that are really lazy. They just want to throw money at someone like me and expect everything to be cupcakes and candy canes within a couple of months. And usually that’s never the case. And I’ve turned quite a few clients away, that I’ve been working with, that have been in that position. Because they’re doing nothing. They’re making no efforts outside of SEO. They’re not doing any sort of paid traffic. They’re not doing anything on social media. They’re not even handing out flyers or doing fridge magnets or anything. They just want to sit back, do nothing and expect me to wave a magic wand.
Here’s one of the definitely need to be aware of, and this is third party nuisances. And I’ll give you a great example of what I mean by this. You get a client on board, you need to rebuild the website. Before you actually start – or even if you don’t need to rebuild the website, you need to get in and start making changes to the website, in order to do your job. And they say something like this, “Oh John no no no, we’ve got our own web guy” or “John no you can’t make changes to the content management system, because I need to speak to the developers in Russia.”
So there becomes this fucking third party between you and the client that acts as a gateway between you being able to do your job and interact with the client. And let me tell you right now, it’s a fucking nightmare. There’s nothing worse than having to deal with some nerd who wants to tell you how to do your job. “Oh no, we need that plug in because otherwise the bowl of fruit on the homepage isn’t responsive.” When all you want to do is get in there and make a change.
I’ve been in this position more times than I care to remember. These days, I don’t put up with it. I make it clear to the client, “Listen, if this person gets in my way and I can’t do my job, then chances are this campaign’s not going to work.” “Oh shit, okay. Well what do you recommend?” I always push to gain control over the project in its entirety. So I want my web guy to do the work.
I want to be able to get in there and do the work, unobstructed. Without having to deal with some fucking clown that wants to waste my time or hold me up or not send me logins or something else of that nature. And this is definitely something you need to be mindful of. My recommend-
‘Cause it can cause all sorts of problems. I’ve worked with campaigns where a task that should have taken me two minutes, takes a week and a half. Because I end up having to go back and forth sending emails, never ending emails just to get what I need. And [inaudible 00:26:22] this person gets in your way. And when that happens, you have your end of month strategy call. You can’t jump on the call and say, “Okay, Janet, this month we did this, this, and this, and you’ve done $20,000 in sales.”
What are you going to do on an end of month strategy call? You’re going to get on, you’re going to say, “Well, we didn’t get that done because I was waiting on logins. And Bob, your web guy said that we can’t implement this, so we can’t make those changes.” So definitely be mindful of this.
My recommendation would be to always get control of the project. And make it clear at the very beginning.