This most recent weekend I had the chance to go ice fishing with a group of friends. We went to Fish Lake in Central Utah and it was great experience, considering it was my first time out on the ice. I have been fishing on many occasions in the past, as it has been a hobby of mine since I was young, but have never been ice fishing. While reeling in the biggest catch of the day (as you can see from the picture the fishing this round wasn’t great), I started thinking that often times business owners are looking to catch the big one, but in the process forget the many existing clients that have kept them going back to the lakes, and often times kept “food on the table”. I thought about this on several occasions throughout the morning, and on the drive home, and it has inspired me to post today on what SEOs need to do to provide good customer service to their clients, thus keeping them as clients. Step One: Set the Right Expectations You’re sitting in a meeting with a potential SEO client and they ask you the question: So how long is it going to take for us to get 500 unique visitors a day to our website from the SEO work you’ll be doing for us? For some SEO’s the response is something like, “You’ll start seeing traffic the minute we sign and I walk out the door.” The problem with that is this sets the wrong expectations for your work from the client. Any good SEO knows that it’s going to take time to see results, especially if you’re doing SEO on a new website, and you should be up-front and clear with your client about this fact right from the start. This gives them the right expectations and will limit the phone calls you receive at day 45 with questions like, “How come we are not #1 at Google for X keyword yet?” Depending on many factors you might be able to tell them that you might be able to see a top 10 ranking in 90 days or 180 days, or longer, but most importantly you need to let your potential client know that SEO takes a lot of skilled work and time to see results, and they need to be willing to commit a budget and time to see those results. The reality for you is that if they are not willing to sign an agreement with you knowing that is what it will take, you probably should let that potential client go elsewhere as they will probably end up unhappy, just like you will be with the business relationship. Step Two: Stay in Touch Ok, this is a big one and it’s real simple to accomplish most of the time…I know I’m not perfect at it, but I try to be; answer your phone when your client calls and reply to their emails! I really believe that in most cases, if your client can reach you when they have a question or need and you can reply to them quickly you’ll be able to hang on to your clients for a much longer time than the other guys. In a meeting with a potential client last Friday morning he said speaking of his current SEO company (I’m paraphrasing of course), “The owner always called me back before I became a paying client, now he never replies to my emails or answers my phone calls…I can only reach my 20 year-old doesn’t-know-anything account rep, and he takes forever to get back to me as well.” This, among other factors, is one of the big reasons he is looking for new help. Make a commitment to your clients that you’ll get back to them ASAP. This could mean calling them back as soon as you get their message, or simply getting back to their email saying, “Hey, got your email. I’ll get back to you in the next 2 days.” Sometimes you simply can’t have the conversation at that time because you are in the middle of something else, but if you just get back to them quickly to schedule something later, it goes a long way. Step Three: Be Respectful and Listen to your Client I know it’s frustrating to explain to your client what a backlink is for the 10th time, or why you need them to post to their blog on a regular basis for the 15th time, but be respectful and realize that the requests you are making of them are probably things they are doing and learning for the first time. Go the extra mile to make sure they understand what it is you are trying to do for them and don’t ever be rude to them no matter what. There are very few reasons why you ever want to burn a bridge. Also listen to their questions and requests and do your best to answer those questions and do what is asked of you as long as it is reasonably within the terms of your agreement with them. Going the extra mile can do wonders for a business. Step Four: Get Down to Business You can’t expect to keep a client happy if you are not fulfilling your commitments to them. If you do step one properly, and you work hard, you should be able to reach the goals you agreed to reach for them and with them. Show your clients rankings reports and help them understand their analytics so they can see that the work you are doing for them is paying off. This is of course the biggest step in the process…the step where you come through for them as a client of yours and they see an ROI on their investement with you. Step Five: Deal with Concerns and Mistakes Head On The reality is that everyone makes mistakes and clients have concerns at times about their investement in SEO. If a client of yours is late on something you need, or is setting your project back, address it in the proper manner. Don’t wait until they are pointing the finger at you, or you at them. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Follow up and push on through. Now if you simply made a mistake and didn’t complete something, forgot something, or simply messed up, deal with it head on. My suggestion, apologize for it and suggest a solution to the problem. Hopefully your client will understand the mistakes happen and that at least you are working hard to resolve the matter quickly and effectively. Step Six: Build a Real-Life Relationship This could be called a bonus step, but I’ll just list it as step six. Building a real-life relationship means that you see your client in person on a regular basis if possible. Don’t be afraid to look them in the eye and shake their hand. I really think that taking a client to lunch, or going to a marketing meeting of theirs when invited is important. Your ability to work through problems and build value for your organization will increase significantly when you get to know your client face-to-face. Now this isn’t possible in all situations, and sometimes it simply doesn’t make sense, but I suggest that you make this a standard practice for your clients if it fits the bill. Well there you have it, my suggestions on how to keep your clients happy, all while catching the next big one as well. I hope this post has provided some helpful insights for you as the reader and honestly, I hope that the next time I go ice fishing I’ll have better luck reeling in something a bit bigger than a 6″ Perch!