Experience is the one barrier to entry that everyone thinks they have in the bag, yet so few seem to be able to really execute. Strategy is how you’re going to gain new clients and market yourself, as well as how you’re going to keep client retention rates up.
It’s a tough SEO market, especially in larger cities. There is a lot of competition out there, including large advertising conglomerates, other SEO firms, independent consultants, black hat companies and overseas companies that have a price advantage, and the increasing trend of companies taking their SEO efforts in-house.
Despite all of this competition, there is certainly work to vie for. The popularity of digital marketing is growing much faster than all of your competition combined can rack up clientele, and for those skilled enough at marketing themselves, there is plenty of work to go around. Since you’re a new firm with (presumably) very little money, you’re going to need to put your alleged inbound marketing skills to the test.
While we’re on the topic of your alleged skills, the next half of strategy is retaining the clients that you have landed. There are pages and pages written about customer retention strategies, but at the end of the day it all boils down to your ability to get results.
If you are making money for your clients, you can bet they’re going to keep paying you. If your services are a losing proposition, you’re going to run through clients fast, develop a bad reputation in the industry, and never see the kind of growth that established, reputable companies enjoy.
Strategy was probably the barrier to entry that I was most excited for, and certainly the one that proved to be the biggest challenge. Obviously, marketing is something that interests me deeply. It was the focus of my studies in college, the focal point of every real job I had ever had, and the subject of hours upon hours of independent study via books, websites, blogs, and forums.
I had the knowledge I needed and the passion to put that knowledge to work. Not all of it was smooth sailing, however. I had zero sales experience, no formal process for obtaining leads and converting them into paying customers, and no internal processes developed to execute and scale client work such as on-site optimization and link building.
Business development strategy is something that I continue to learn about, and although acquiring work has certainly been an uphill battle, my results thus far have been encouraging. The best advice I can give is to get yourself organized as quickly as possible and take it a day at a time. If you try to do everything at once, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and spread yourself too thin.
Instead, break down your strategy into bite-size, actionable steps, and try to make progress each and every day towards your overall goals. In time, the processes you need to repeat for each sales lead or for each new client will start to develop themselves. Once you’ve been through the whole process for a handful of clients, you can start to formalize it and consider how you might scale the strategies you have developed.
This post is part of a series that analyzes those barriers to entry for starting an SEO consulting firm. Check out the other posts in this series: