Whether you work in-house or take on several clients, there are going to be projects that make you cringe and projects that feel good to work one. A lot of this depends on the project manager and/or client.
Here are some things to look out for when deciding if a project is for you:
Enthusiasm. When a client is enthusiastic about driving traffic to their web site and all the possibilities that can occur because of that traffic, it general means that they get it. They understand not only why their web site is important but also why search marketing is important to the success of that web site. They understand that their web site is an extremely important marketing tool and a good web site can mean a successful business.
Flexibility. Here’s a huge, gigantic red flag for you – “I want to increase my organic search ranking, but I don’t want you to touch anything on my site. It’s perfect the way it is.” Well unless you’re the best link builder out there and are trying rank for a 10-word keyphrase chances are, you’re not going to have much success. A lot of clients or project managers are super protective of their current site and aren’t willing to be flexible about the necessary changes for search marketing OR usability. If they’re not willing to budge, you won’t be able to do your job properly and that won’t end well for anyone.
Involvement. This one can go two ways. On one hand, it’s always nice when a client sits back and trusts you to complete your work timely and well. However, I like a project manager to be engaged in some of the details of the project.
For example, on a large e-commerce site that has seasonal products, it’s helpful to know when the sales cycle starts to shift from one product to another. Without historical data, a search marketer isn’t likely to know this. It’s important for the project manager to be available to answer questions that can make a big difference in a search marketing campaign.
Respect. Does the client or project manager respect you as the expert in this area? If they start pulling the “I know someone who could do this for free/cheap” card, it may be that they don’t understand the value of your expertise and knowledge. Or if they scoff at your hourly rate when they charge just as much or more for their own services. These types of clients are the ones who make excuses about not paying the full amount of their invoices or insist that the work completed didn’t meet their expectations. If you’re not seeing some respect early on, you can expect to run into trouble down the road.
Awareness. There are a lot of clients and project managers that are absolutely clueless about search marketing and some that have read a few blog posts and know all the buzz words. In the first case, you may have a hard time convincing that client why search marketing is so important. This is often the case for big companies, and an issue I faced while trying to introduce SEO to a major international brand when I worked for them in-house. They didn’t get it, didn’t want to learn and therefore they couldn’t be sold on it. These people need data, graphs, case studies and a lot of education to be convinced. So unless you’ve got the time to invest in selling to this type of client, you may want to pass and move on to your next lead.
The other person, the one who knows a thing or two, can be obnoxious with his or her “expert” opinion. You know, making sure that you’ve got all the meta keyword tags filled out. Hey, maybe we should put a bunch of words in the footer but make the text color the same as the background color. These types don’t take it well when you turn down their advice. Since maintaining a good relationship with your client is so important, this can result in a lot of awkwardness.
A good client or project manager is aware, but respects your expertise (remember that? I just talked about it).
Comfort. You’ll know early on if you’re comfortable working with someone. This is important, particularly for big projects where there will be a lot of communication. If you’re not comfortable with someone, or they’re not comfortable with you, communication will break down leading to delays and complications with the project. That’s frustrating for everyone involved so it’s important to be aware of.
While small businesses or new businesses may not be able to be overly selective in choosing their clients, the right decisions can lead to success while the wrong decisions often lead to frustration and failure. Good clients are usually great at referring good services to their friends or network, leading to more good clients and continued growth. The wrong clients can mean losing money, getting frustrated, and not getting new clients without a good referral.
Consider these things the next time you’re meeting with a potential client or project manager. Making sure they’re the right fit for you and your business leads to success for everyone.
Lyndsay Walker is the Director of Online Marketing at Canada’s Web Shop, located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is responsible for the strategy and coordination of all online marketing tactics and internal marketing efforts. Her experience includes several years of working with internationally recognized brands and some of the most competitive industries such as Internet pharmacies, payday loans and travel. Also involved in web design and development for over ten years, she brings a technical background to compliment her marketing skills.