Content Marketing, Owned Media, SEO
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You’ve got a new client. Congratulations! There’s nothing like starting off the New Year with the promise of success on the horizon.

Wait, did I say “promise”? I meant “chance”…and that’s if you’re lucky. The SEO game is a harsh, cruel tug-of-war against constantly shifting algorithms and best practices. You realize this and so does this new client—in fact, that’s probably why they hired you, because they know this business is tough and succeeding in it can be even tougher.

In fact, they may be so cognizant of this fact that it could keep them up at night…heck, it might even keep you up at night worrying if you’re meeting their expectations. All this worrying can get in the way of doing what you do best and could potentially hinder the whole campaign.

But don’t worry, because this year is starting with some good news. By putting a little extra time and consideration into managing the client’s expectations and making sure everyone is on the same page, you can give them the peace of mind to trust in your work and let you do what you do best.

Here are a few simple steps to get started.

Listen Up

It’s obvious that the first thing you should do to manage a client’s expectations is listen to them. That’s a given. But when you’re the digital marketing professional and they’re new to the trade, it’s easy to get lost in the sounds of your own sonorous advice and completely forget why these people brought you here in the first place.

Instead, zip the lip and listen to the person who just hired you to help them. Find out their needs, find out their goals, and – most importantly – find out their past. The fact of the matter is you’re now working with these people because A) They have no prior content marketing experience and are looking for help, or B) they had an SEO experience that didn’t go as expected and they’re cautiously trying their luck with your expertise. Whichever the case, hearing them out is the best way to stay ahead of their needs and to make sure this relationship starts off on the right foot.

Lay Down Some Ground Rules

Whether it’s a romantic connection, a friendship or a business arrangement, all relationships have some sort of expectations. In my experience, the most successful of those relationships pull those expectations out into the open so that there are no misunderstandings, disappointments or pointed disagreements.

When dealing with a client, one of the most important steps in managing a successful campaign is laying down the ground rules so nobody is ever left in the dark regarding what they can expect.

Some important things to cover right off the bat:

  • What they’re getting out of this: What kind of results can be expected and, just as important, what results shouldn’t be expected? Providing a service—whether it’s SEO or washing a car—isn’t just about exceeding expectations, but also understanding them.
  • How often they can expect formal reports: Are you going to have monthly meetings? Bi-weekly pow-wows? Daily catch-ups? Whatever is decided, make sure everyone is on the same page and the same schedule.
  • How you’re going to measure success: Establish key performance indicators and determine how you intend to measure them moving forward. Your client is going to have a hard time realizing how successful the campaign is if everyone has a different idea of what success looks like.
  • Who’s doing what work: Are you serving mostly as a strategic consultant while someone else handles the tactical stuff? Are you going to be plotting the strategy as well as doing the important legwork? The sooner this is established, the faster it can be accomplished.

Maintain Constant Contact

Few things can make people as nervous as radio silence does. To combat the detrimental effects it can have on a business relationship, reach out and let them know you’re thinking about them. Even if you have agreed to have a monthly status meeting, there’s never any harm in reaching out to make sure that all is well on their side of the phone.

Checking in often not only helps remind the client that you’re keeping them top of mind, but it can also keep you in the loop on events you might not have known about otherwise, such as a new hire on the team or a change in the product line.

And while email is convenient, picking up the phone or meeting in person demonstrates to the client they’re worth the extra effort.

Don’t Talk Numbers, Talk Results

Hiding behind jargon is a dangerous practice in any field, but in an industry like SEO—which is not without its share of bad apples–it’s particularly dangerous. While some industry terms like “bounce rate” and “inbound links” are very necessary, using those terms as the representatives of success can make a less-savvy client flustered.

The solution? Don’t just deliver data; deliver results, too.

For instance, instead of watching your client nod with numb acceptance while you say, “Our bounce rate has gone down 12 percent while conversions are at an all time high,” you could electrify him by saying, “Changing the homepage content kept more people on the page longer, which lead to more of them signing up for a product demo.”

Instead of saying, “We managed to score a link from a site with a domain authority of 87,” say, “The link we got from that popular website drove in over 200,000 new visitors.”

While explaining data this way may just be repackaging information in a more practical format, perception is reality. Painting a clear picture of the big wins your obtaining for them will not only put their mind at ease, but also help build trust and confidence throughout the course of the engagement.

Boosting rankings can be difficult work, but providing your clients with confidence in their marketing decisions doesn’t have to be. After all, one of the best deliverables you can hand to a client is peace of mind.

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