Although that sounds like a disingenuous campaign slogan, let me assure you that I like to keep my political opinions to myself. C2K8 is the proper abbreviation (which I just made up) for said slogan and it stems from some hard lessons my department and I have taken to heart over the past year. Search marketing is going to change dramatically in the months ahead, with an economic downturn predicted along with the usual evolutionary nature of the profession, and increasing communication with clients is a non-negotiable goal I am implementing to get my team ready.
There’s no cookie-cutter method for managing and communicating with your clients. Some folks will only want to hear from you once a month when you deliver their 30-day ranking report. Others will want to be involved in each and every step of their search engine marketing campaign. Flexibility is important – if you try and put the square peg of a client who likes to stay informed into the round hole of one who likes you to work autonomously – you’re going to have one less client on your roster pretty darn quickly. The best strategy is to risk over communicating, if that is at all possible, because you’re far more likely to run into trouble for not being transparent enough than for providing too much information.
Communication, however, can be a double-edged sword. Beware of billing clients for frivilous work or contact. If you initiate a half-hour phone conversation about your son’s little league team, that can be a great way to forge a relationship and earn their confidence. If you then charge them for that friendly chat – not at all cool. Likewise, if you burn through 2 hours of their monthly budget preparing a report they didn’t ask for, which they don’t see value in, you’re going to have an issue again. Pick your battles and don’t waste your non-billable time, or their money, unless everyone is on the same page and feeling verbose.
Here are a few simple ways in which you can open the lines between your team and your clients without the risk of either side not making the best use of their valuable time:
1. Go to the Phones: Some people like to work predominantly via email while others prefer conducting their business over the phone. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but one is not better than the other and it is foolish to try and impose your personal preference onto your clients. That having been said, it’s hard to go wrong by picking up the phone and making an unscheduled call. Even is you get your client’s voicemail they’ll still appreciate you reaching out and checking in on them.
2. Traditional Greetings: Have you had your client for a full year? Did they recently achieve a critical keyword ranking victory or sales goal thanks to your SEO efforts? Did they get married, have a baby or move to a new city? Gift baskets, greeting cards and other simple gestures are easy to organize and worth far more in terms of goodwill than any money you’ve spent. There are many web 2.0 services which make sending gifts and keeping track of important dates a piece of
3. Welcome Them to Your World: Most SEOs have their heads buried in industry blogs for a good hour of every work day. If you don’t, your skill set is in danger of dying on the vine. When you see a search marketing-related post that applies to a specific client’s products, services or predicament – forward it to them with a short, analytical note. Not only are you finding a quick excuse to say hello, you’re letting them know that you’re “on the case” and researching ways to help them.
All the advice I can give, and the daily communication reminders I give myself, can be boiled down into one crucial word: proactivity. Find reasons to reach out to your clients – on even just a weekly basis – and you’ll quickly find that managing them, their campaigns and their expectations will be infinitely more efficient and enjoyable for you both.