SEO

The SEO Professional’s Winning Edge

Do a Google search for SEO Firm. SEO Professional. Local SEO Firm. SEO service. Look at those search results. Crazy competition out there. The good news: there are about a zillion businesses that need SEO and there’s plenty of work to go around BUT you do need to rise above your competitors to close the deal. A sales proposal is a pretty simple way to set yourself apart. Surprisingly (to me) the very basic step of furnishing prospects with a well written, well designed sales proposal has become obsolete. Sure, many SEO firms put a few details in writing and fire off an email. That’s not a sales proposal. And that’s not going to put you in the running against a firm that ties everything together into a nicely packaged presentation for the client, i.e., a real honest-to-goodness sales proposal!

Sales proposals don’t have to be the headache they once were.

You can find online tools and templates that simplify or even automate the process to varying degrees. Other than the sales proposal tool we recently released at the firm for which I work, I haven’t taken a close look at any of them. I’ve done enough research to know that they’re out there. Some are free, some are not and some are included in an SEO reseller program. I’m not here to review, recommend or dis any of them! Let’s save that discussion/debate for the comments and move on to the more pressing matter of the importance of writing a stellar sales proposal.

Before you begin writing your proposal, keep in mind this very daunting statistic: 90% of sales proposals fail to lead to a sale. Don’t let that be an excuse to not do it! Just know the factors that typically cause a sales proposal to fail and you’ll be fine.

IF IT DOESN’T FIT, DON’T FORCE IT

In your ambition to sell your services, it’s very easy to focus on what’s good for you instead of what’s good for the customer. That shortsighted view will result in poor customer retention–customer retention is what really grows your business. You should know the client’s business, goals and budget before you begin writing your proposal.  Most people are very skeptical when they’re considering a service they don’t fully understand or not sure they really need. Recommend only the services that you truly believe will benefit the client and get results that will make your customer want to stick with you. Let’s be honest, pay-per-click advertising is not for everyone. Same with social media.

ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?

By the time you’ve gotten to the proposal stage, you should have a sense of your client’s comfort level with the more technical aspects of online marketing. Write in language that you know your client will understand. Those of us in the online marketing business often forget that some of the most basic online marketing concepts are completely foreign to many business owners. Not everyone is familiar with basic terms like “exact match keyword” or “organic ranking.” You’ll have a tough time convincing a prospect to pay for something they don’t understand in the least.

DETAILS…BUT NOT TMI

Provide a clear and concise outline of the services you will provide. Be clear about your responsibilities and those of the client. It’s OK to let your client know that he or she does have responsibilities. Be frugal with your words, avoid TMI (too much information) and focus on what’s really important.

THE MARGIN FOR ERROR

There is no margin for error! Zero. You may have exactly 0 typos, grammatical errors, math errors or errors of any kind in your proposal. Proofread and proofread again then have someone else proofread.

LOOKS ARE EVERYTHING

Be consistent with fonts, use images, use your branding and logo, make it beautiful.

IMO, some things that do need to change in the business world are not happening fast enough. Why aren’t more of us telecommuting? Working flex hours? Bringing our kids or dogs to work? Alright, maybe not the dogs/kids but I think we can all agree that some business practices really do need to adapt to life in the 21st century. (Perhaps that will be the topic of my next blog.) But, while we’re slow to modernize some business practices, we’re quick to give up on some of the time-tested things, like sales proposals (and outstanding customer service, personal interaction with clients, being able to talk to a real person instead of an automated voicemail system…sorry, just spent 30 minutes pressing 4 for more options and never getting a good option or a real person!) that do lead to business success. Write that sales proposal!

 

 The SEO Professional’s Winning Edge
Ellen Gipko is a content marketing specialist at HubShout, a US based white label SEO reseller, website reseller and web marketing firm with offices in Falls Church, VA (Washington, DC Metro) and Rochester, NY. HubShout’s full service web marketing program includes SEO, PPC, social media, email marketing, website development, customer review service, lead and sales tracking and reporting services.

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15 thoughts on “The SEO Professional’s Winning Edge

  1. I like

    “IF IT DOESN’T FIT, DON’T FORCE IT”

    I know many people in sales don’t feel that way because they want the win at all costs. But the cost of selling the wrong product to the wrong client is that they will leave shortly thereafter. Go for long term retention rather than a quick win…

    Nice article…

    1. I definitely agree with you Adam about the wrong product for the wrong client. What’s the point in getting a client that leaves in three months because they weren’t a good fit for you and vice versa? It takes a lot of effort and time to land a new client and I’d rather spend my time working with a potential client that I know is a good fit for my company.

  2. Looks are everything. I like that. I don’t know it looks are everything, but all things being equal, a well designed and easily readable proposal will rise to the top of the stack.

    ps. there is a coding error in first paragraph:
    plenty of work to go around is linked to a URL with a mailto instead of a href :)

  3. I definitely agree with you Adam about the wrong product for the wrong client. What’s the point in getting a client that leaves in three months because they weren’t a good fit for you and vice versa? It takes a lot of effort and time to land a new client and I’d rather spend my time working with a potential client that I know is a good fit for my company.

  4. I definitely agree with you Adam about the wrong product for the wrong client. What’s the point in getting a client that leaves in three months because they weren’t a good fit for you and vice versa? It takes a lot of effort and time to land a new client and I’d rather spend my time

  5. Nice article! I like that you don’t take that scary statistic too seriously. A sales proposal is definitely not outdated–people need to do it right! Good advice.

  6. “You may have exactly 0 typos, grammatical errors, math errors or errors of any kind in your proposal. Proofread and proofread again then have someone else proofread.”

    Yes. This. A thousand times this. I realize that as a professional writer and editor, I’m biased, but it drives me crazy w hen so-called professionals think that typos and grammatical errors (and just general sloppiness) don’t matter. If you don’t care enough to make sure a proposal is perfect, why should I trust you with my business?

  7. Sales proposals are also an important part of setting realistic and appropriate expectations for what will be provided for that budget. Seeing things in writing in a well thought-out document can make all the difference in the world when you are deciding where and how to spend your money.

    1. Good point about the budget, Renee. Many conversations may take place with the prospective client before you (or they) know the actual budget. A proposal is the place to put the details in writing so the client is clear on the scope of the work you will do for them. You don’t want to start off with any misunderstandings!

  8. The presentation of a written proposal is very important, but I feel that you must also strike the balance between “selling” your services and giving away everything by putting in too much detail in writing. Never assume that the prospect is 100% honourable as, a full & detailed proposal with costs could always end up in the hands of a competitor to quote against!
    Transparency in costings and talking about the added value you bring would contribute to a sign off!

  9. Since I own a local business and I also run a local SEO agency, I always seem to err on the side of the consultant rather of the sales person; I always say things like ”If I were you” and I think I might have said at some point things like “what we did is…” Or “what worked for us was….”
    And share my own personal experiences by marketing my own local company with the potential client so that by the end of the conversation the potential client usually asks something like “well how much is this going to cost” because they are definitely interested in what I had to say because it worked for us.
    I do also like to get a little bit technical with the client but only enough to scare them a little bit into knowing that really they can’t do it themselves and they need to hire an expert; but not too technical.
    When I am talking from a technical aspect I speak slower and look for affirmations from the client. Affirmations that will tell me that they are following or are interested enough and haven’t lost my train of thought because of my technical speak. As for proposals mine are typically short and to the point sometimes even on the email, I rarely even do contracts, most of my clients sign up on a month to month basis
    I tell them basically “you can cancel at anytime because if it is not working for you, then why would you want to pay me”. However I do always set an expectation saying that this project will take at least 3 months to see some results we can show some winds within these three months but really the plan is going to take 6 to 9 months to really gain maximum effect.
    But I totally agree, if it does not fit, don’t force it.