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December 10, 2013

3 Client Communication Tactics That Keep Everyone on the Same Page

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A couple weeks ago I found myself in a Twitter chat (#SEOChat) discussing amongst my peers SEO mistakes and the lessons we’ve taken away from our wrong turns.

Client-communication-Small-Square

Want happy clients? Make regular communication a part of your relationship.

The Q&A session was pretty straight forward: what is one SEO blunder you’re willing to fess up to; what happened as a result of the blunder; what did you learn from the blunder; etc.

It was interesting hearing everyone’s tales of sweet sorrow, but what I found really interesting was the prominent overarching theme that became clear as everyone shared the lessons they learned from their blunders and the actions they were taking to make sure their mistakes weren’t repeated.

As it turns out, the SEOs in the chat didn’t need a bunch of different solutions to solve a bunch of different problems; they just needed one common solution — improved communication.

Inspired by this chat, I decided to have a chat about client communication with some members of the Bruce Clay, Inc. team. My biggest takeaway from these conversations? A reminder that regular and up-front communication is essential, but you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to do it right

Here are three communication tactics we implement at Bruce Clay, Inc. that you might find easy to apply and useful in your own work.

 

3 Actions That Keep the Lines of Communication Flowing

1) Educate clients early

You can’t be with your clients 100% of the time. So, how do you make sure their internal teams are making decisions that positively contribute to your optimization efforts, rather than hurt them?

We’ve found that education is truly the key to keeping clients and their internal teams consistently working with us, rather than against us.

Informally I call this the “it’s better to have a bunch of people on the same page working together, than a bunch of people cancelling each other’s efforts out because no one is talking and one person doesn’t know what is going on” proactive client education strategy.

At Bruce Clay, Inc. we get the education process started right away at the on-set of our client relationships by requiring that all new clients attend our SEO training. At the training our clients learn about the fundamentals of SEO, the realities of Google penalties, the difference between white- and black-hat techniques, and — critically — what we consider to be “major” website changes and when they should consult us before diving into a redirect or other big amendment head first.

If you want to do a multi-day training like this to onboard your clients, all you need is a projector and a meeting room or other space that will fit your client’s internal online marketing representatives.

If you don’t have the capacity to onboard clients with multi-day training programs, creating a brief educational YouTube video could be a smaller scale option. If a video isn’t really your style, a thorough PDF report could work, or — if you really want to wear the minimum flair — you could simply ask your client to invite anyone who works on their website to your initial client meeting and get in an hour of education that way.

How much time you take to educate and “on-board” your new clients will depend on your needs, and theirs. Whatever route you take, just remember that the big-picture point is to get everyone on the same page so that your client’s internal teams know what initiatives you should be involved with so they’re working with rather than against you.

2) Ask your clients about their plans and goals beyond ROI

There is incredible value in getting to know the burning desires and long-term plans of your clients beyond ROI and KPIs. What kind of a company do they want to be? In a perfect world with no limitations, what do they want to accomplish?

In addition to helping you build trust and a deeper ingrained loyalty with your clients, asking your clients about their plans below the surface level is also a great way to uncover and redirect potential problems before they become problems. Like — for instance — say your fictitious client AwesomeCookies tells you they’ve always wanted to redirect their current AwesomeCookies.net website to AwesomeCookies.com if it ever becomes available. Knowing this big-picture plan ahead of time means you can warn AwesomeCookies about the dangers of carelessly 301-redirecting a website to a newly acquired URL, which could prevent them from doing it on their own and give you time to make sure there aren’t any penalties attached to their dream redirect.

3) Make light interactions a part of your regular routine

This doesn’t have to be a big to-do, and you shouldn’t charge your clients for this kind of regular communication.

This type of communication can be as brief or verbose as the scenario dictates, but for the most part what we’re recommending is just short, regular emails that keep you, the project, and your services at the top of the client’s mind. The idea is to make sure your clients feel like you are truly an indispensable go-to source that helps them stay at the forefront of the industry, and — perhaps more importantly — for them to feel like you are accessible and like they have your full support.

Keeping clients up to date on changes to industry best practices as they happen can also make communicating optimization recommendations a lot easier, big picture, since you won’t have to explain so much of the why backstory in so much detail if they are already up to speed.

How often you communicate with your client, and what is included in these communications will vary from client to client. You may discover that some clients find weekly or even daily communication essential to your working relationship, while others favor a single monthly touch base.

Talk to your clients and see what they prefer. Then, set a client communication schedule to remind yourself when it’s time to touch base with each client. This last step is especially important if you have several clients that you are managing.

Don’t Reinvent The Communication Wheel: Just Do It!

None of these client communication techniques should be considered groundbreaking or revolutionary by any means. The key takeaway here is that they should all be considered.

Communication gets you and your clients on the same page, helps keep everyone working in sync towards a common goal, and keeps client/consultant trust levels high. It’s never been a novel concept, and the trick isn’t to try to make it novel. The “trick” is not to forget about it, to work it into your regular process, and to remember to do it in a way that meets your needs and your client’s needs.

Are there ways your team could improve the way you communicate with your clients? Make a list for yourself and feel free to share your strategies with us in the comments section below.

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11 responses to “3 Client Communication Tactics That Keep Everyone on the Same Page”

  1. Aditya Khanna writes:

    Hi Chelsea,

    I am highly impressed with these communication tips. I like the idea of a meeting and educating the customer and explaining them about the minor and major website changes, SEO fundamentals. This is really important to ease the communication process.

    I would also like to set realistic expectations and would rather not enter into communications which end up in Keyword rankings. What do you think ?

  2. Theo Erwing writes:

    I find point three particularly effective. It really does make a difference, sending at least one email a week. It could be anything, updates, questions… Thanks for sharing!

  3. Jeff Moyer writes:

    This is a great article very true, communication is key when explaining SEO to clients along with it’s risks and rewards. Most clients will not have an understanding of SEO at all and you have to educate them properly on every aspect of what’s involved.

    I do regular meetings for this and also have a PDF manual I send for them to read up on things as well. I send my clients an email at least once a week often more it’s very important for trust and reassurance.

    Understanding their vision beyond the Return On Investment and Key Performance Indicators is also a great point, often overlooked. A good read thanks:)

  4. Paul lovell writes:

    I have to agree, The most important thing That I do is to educate my clients about the reports that i send them and ensure that they full understand them and they can see the benefits of there spend with you

  5. Chelsea Adams writes:

    Thanks for reading the post, Aditya! I think setting realistic expectations is critical at every stage in your relationship with your clients. You never want to over promise and under deliver. Part of the communication/education process is getting to know where your client currently stands, where the competition stands, and what you both agree would be realistic short- and long-term goals for your optimization/marketing strategy.

    If I have a client that has a big, seemingly unrealistic dream (like “be number one for [this] competitive phrase” or “boost sales by 40%”), rather than crushing their dream and saying something like “that will never happen,” I always look toward education and suggest a smaller, baby-step big dream that will help them build up to accomplishing the big dream. For instance: If the client says “I want to rank #1 for the phrase [how to start a blog]” – I would explain to them how SERPs work (search plus your world [+other factors] make search personalized so “number one” is going to be different for everyone); I would explain that [how to start a blog] is a highly competitive phrase, and then I would suggest that we try to target a more granular phrase that we can see a more immediate impact from like [start a self-hosted WordPress blog]. Finally — and this touches on your point about trying to avoid conversations that end up in focusing too much on keyword rankings — instead of aiming for “number one,” I would suggest that we aim for something more tangible, like increased click-throughs and/or traffic.

  6. Aditya Khanna writes:

    @ChelseaAdams That is exactly what i had in mind – Are you on twitter ?

  7. Chelsea Adams writes:

    Yes! I am absolutely on Twitter, Aditya :)

    My handle is: @ChelseaBeaAdams (There are a lot of “Chelsea Adams” in the world so a middle name was necessary). Looking forward to seeing you in my Tweetdeck!

  8. Aditya Khanna writes:

    :) sure.

  9. Jason writes:

    Great advice, communication is such an important part of any business. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Maciej Fita writes:

    The early communication process in my opinion is the most crucial part. The client really needs to understand the lay of the land and what goes into the SEO process so there are no surprises down the road.

  11. Chelsea Adams writes:

    I like the way you put that,, Maciej — “The client really needs to understand the lay of the land.” I think it’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive and early education — as you reiterated — really gets everyone on the same page. Thanks for reading the article!



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