Having been working in Internet Marketing for over a decade now, I have learned a lot about what makes for a successful Internet marketing campaign.  Some of my fellow marketers might immediately think of success as:  good SEO, well-executed paid search, conversions, high ROAS, brand-building, etc, etc.  Check, check and check. Yes, those are all good and important things. But there is something that can, and often does, scuttle good results – the relationshipbetween client and agency/consultant.  I like to think of an engagement with a client as a marriage of sorts, because there are strong parallels between what goes into a successful or a unsuccessful marriage and a successful or unsuccessful client engagement.

Here’s my logic, based on experience:

  • Success between a client and agency is a partnership. We, as an agency, cannot do everything. We cannot solve every problem that arises, some have to be done on the client’s end. Further, we are almost never experts in our clients business type – try and write content about a technical subject you know nothing about…  That’s just one example of what I mean.
  • Uncovering and understanding your client’s limitations/pain points.  All businesses have limitations and pain points, be it budget, bandwidth, tech, cultural, or all four – and there are more.  And, the problem is, these are almost never fully identified in the ‘dating/winning the business phase.  For example, you may come to discover, two months in, that your client doesn’t respond to emails well and so projects are bogged down, or that they have no technical bandwidth in the company, or are operating a website on a terrible old CMS, etc, etc. Even with a careful vetting process, you are going to run into problems.  These limitations will get in the way of you doing your job which leads to the results you were hired to deliver!
  • Expect some level of client dysfunction. Related to the last point is the fact that not all clients are themselves top-flight professionally run companies.  Most of us agencies and consultants will have mostly small to medium sized businesses as clients. We won’t all be working with Sony, Nike, Apple and the like.  That means things will not always go as planned, nor projects completed on your schedule.
  • Be willing to monitor and fix your own dysfunction. No agency is perfect?  Treason!  If we can accept it as an axiom that most small to medium-sized businesses have some level of dysfunction, which also defines the size of most agencies, then we can all improve.
  • Getting your client(s) to understand  the value of your work and recommended changes and strategy. There’s a quote in the movie ‘The Matrix’ that I like to use, “You can’t see past the choices you don’t understand.” Our clients often do not understand what we do, and why we do it.  And, if they don’t understand the choice, they may not make it. This means that they may not get on board with new suggestions and strategies. Client: Why should I spend $XXX on a Ratings/Reviews platform?  Why do you need me to come up with Goal values for Google Analytics?  And, what the heck is retargeting?
  • Establishing trust. This is a cousin to the last point.  If your client, or important client team members don’t trust you, they will question everything, and you’ll spend your time and their money educating them to what should be a ‘par’ level of knowledge for a modern business owner.  Further, a lack of trust will make it much harder to get buy-in on the choices they don’t understand.
  • Good relationships require good communication. Like any relationship or partnership, timely and frequent communications is required.  This also means, occasionally, asking for feedback on your work, or providing feedback/constructive criticism to your client’s ‘work.’ Also, we have seen many missed opportunities by clients because they wouldn’t return calls and we spend too much time tracking them down vs producing for them. The latter statement could also go under, Expect some level of client dysfunction.
  • The importance of maintaining a happy mood. All things work better when the mood is good, when clients like you and your team.  This is kind of like the old saying, “A happy wife is a happy life!”  Be conscious of how you communicate with your client and their team – stay respectful, stay positive, stay friendly. Stay on your client’s good side.
  • Establishing expectations in the beginning. This goes both ways. Offer your client clear and honest expectations of what they can expect. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions and set expectations on them, right from the start!

The bottom line is, you might be the best at what you do, or you might have a great team.  This does not mean you will produce great results for a client.  They have to be on board with what you are doing and why you are doing it.  They need to be involved in the process from beginning to end. They need to trust and like you and your team. You will need to communicate lots of details. You will have to overcome obstacles, and learn to sort out personal issues amicably.  Achieving excellent results in Internet Marketing is a journey and you’ll need a partner.

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