Originally published at Search Engine Journal
Keeping a stable roster of retainer-based SEO clients on your agency’s books helps keep your business sustainable and profitable. But how do you find SEO clients?
In this edition of Ask An SEO, Raghuveer in Udaipur asks:
How do I get SEO clients with a monthly retainer of $1,000? What are your best tips?
Whether the figure is $1,000, $5,000 or $20,000, it’s good to have that baseline, rock bottom figure you’ll accept for retainer-based services.
That’s just one element of who your ideal prospect is, though.
Here are a few tips to help you get SEO clients that support your agency’s values, vision, and growth mindset.
1. Work Out Your Client Personas
Who are you trying to reach, and where will you find them online?
Even if you think you know who your agency’s ideal clients are, going through a persona-building exercise can offer new insights and opportunities you may not otherwise have come up with.
Hopefully, you have some experience creating personas in your SEO work for clients.
If not, check out Adam Heitzman’s Beginner’s Guide to Buyer Personas.
2. Make Sure Your Pricing Is in Line
Again, whether the rate is $1000, $5,000 or $20,000, what you’re offering within that rate is key.
Your pricing needs to jive with client budget expectations as well as what’s already on offer in your market.
Ensure that your competitive research encompasses the options available to your ideal client in their local region, in their niche area of SEO (be it real estate, law firm SEO,
Just as importantly, your services must be profitable in order to sustain your business. It sounds obvious, yet I often see people in forums and networking groups asking how to set their rates and what they should charge.
3. Ask SEO Prospects & Clients the Right Questions
I have a rule of thumb not to take on clients who don’t understand the value of SEO.
Of course, we always have to justify and prove the value of our agency’s services.
But it can be difficult to work with clients who just don’t see the value in what you do.
If you’re constantly having to educate and prove that SEO as a whole is a worthy digital marketing practice, is that really a profitable use of your time?
Putting yourself out there in the right channels to get found is important, but asking the right questions of leads to ensure they’re a good fit for your agency is even more so.
Loren Baker shared a great resource packed with questions to not only help prospects understand the value you offer but to help you evaluate these leads, as well — you’ll find that here.
4. Be Upfront with Prospects on Your Pricing
Really think about how and when you reveal your pricing to prospects.
If there’s a baseline rate you just aren’t willing to work beneath, that’s worth mentioning early on — perhaps even before your first call.
You don’t need to get into the specifics of your packaged services in that first interaction (and maybe you prefer to flesh out the need first and do a detailed quote).
But it may be worth saying something like, “We help clients in A, B, C industries accomplish X, Y, Z with service offerings starting at $1,000 per month over six months or longer.”
Giving people a chance to opt out early if it’s clearly not a good fit can save everyone time and energy.
5. Articulate the Value of Your Offering
I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of proposals and personally find it annoying when I have to connect the dots myself between what a contractor or agency will do and what value that will deliver.
If your proposal is a laundry list of tasks, it’s time to revisit it from the perspective of the value you offer that client instead.
Perceived value converts your proposal from a line-item expense to an investment on the client’s part.
What are the outcomes you aim to produce?
What benefit does your service offer the client in real terms they can understand — and that are directly tied to their business goals?
Where will you save me money either directly or through efficiencies created by your service, and where will you generate additional revenue?
Winston Burton wrote a solid column on proving the value of SEO that can help here.
6. Make Your Availability & Ideal Client Known to Your Professional Network
No one knows the quality of your work like those who’ve worked with you before, and I would bet you have some excellent connections in your network.
Don’t be shy about letting your connections know what types of work you’re open to at present.
I get a ton of questions and inquiries from my network and never like to say, “No, we don’t do that,” even though that’s the case more often than not.
Personally, I always try to make a recommendation and point the person in the right direction.
The thing is, though, SEO is a fast-moving space. People change specializations, find their niche, expand into new areas, switch companies, and more on a regular basis.
Help your network understand which opportunities you’re best-suited for by talking openly about it. You might include a mention in your client newsletter, share on LinkedIn, and update your website and social bios with some information on who you help and how.
Don’t forget to message those who’ve referred you before, not only to share your information to them but to see how they’re doing and whether they’re taking referrals, too.
This isn’t a one-way street.
7. Get Yourself Out There
Don’t be shy. Get yourself out there… but where?
It’s important that you’re getting in front of people who are most likely to be that type of client you want in your agency’s roster.
What publications are they reading? Get a column or guest post in those.
What groups do they frequent on LinkedIn? Participate in those conversations and be helpful, not sales-y.
Where are they asking questions about SEO and looking for service providers?
Make sure that you’re not only ranking in search yourself but that your content mirrors and speaks directly to the types of clients you want to engage.
This can be challenging if you’re targeting higher value contracts than in years past or branching out into new verticals.
But you know what they say: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve already got.
Make sure your own marketing strategy is reflective of where you want to be rather than where you’re coming from.