How “Big Box” SEOs are Stealing Your Clients

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In last week’s article, Competing against the “Big Box” SEOs, I said that, faced with declining revenue, traditional media outlets are adding digital to their offering. This means that some of your best clients are likely being approached by their radio, Yellow Pages, or newspaper rep—perhaps someone they’ve purchased advertising from for years—and being offered the very services you provide. Or ones you don’t.

Add companies like Reach Local and Yodle into the mix, and you’re up against some highly-experienced sales people who know how to prospect and close business. That’s not to say there’s no more room for the individual freelancer. But in the same manner that WalMart and Home Depot have displaced the neighborhood merchant and local hardware store, the same threat looms for the local freelancer.

So what tactics do these companies employ that makes them so successful? For starters, they no longer position themselves as “web design” companies because—let’s face it—businesses need more than that to succeed online today. So why are you still hanging onto that label?

No, most have evolved into some type of web or digital marketing agency, which includes both organic and paid search, display advertising, social media, and even reputation management. This means there’s always something to offer a potential client, regardless of whether he’s a beginning, intermediate, or super-savvy web marketer.

Armed with a full quiver, these reps will approach your clients by looking for a “hole” in their marketing armor. They won’t bother discussing how their h1’s and title tags aren’t properly optimized. Instead, they’ll zero in on something more basic, like how their website isn’t mobile-friendly, or that they don’t appear in the local search results and how those impact their bottom line.

When used properly, this becomes a powerful prospecting tool; and by far, the most effective tactic a “Big Box” SEO rep will employ is hunter-style prospecting.

What’s Hunter-Style Prospecting?

You’d think that today’s enlightened digital agency would rely exclusively on search and social media to find clients. While they most certainly do employ these methods, the standard fare for their sales teams are cold-calling and cold-canvassing.

If you think these methods are ineffective and “old school,” you’d be wrong. Traditional media reps have used both successfully for years, and the “enlightened” digital agency has followed suit. You see, these companies understand one important demographic regarding the typical SMB—that they’re extremely time-strapped. In fact, a recent survey revealed that the average business owner works more than 50 hours a week and sleeps less than seven hours a night.

This means that after a 10-hour day of scheduling service calls, maintaining his trucks, paying the bills, making sure his shop meets OSHA regulations, struggling to complying with the new health care laws, worrying about cash flow and wondering if he’ll make this week’s payroll, Fred the plumber has no time or inclination to think about his advertising or whose marketing blog he ought to be reading. Nor is he likely to follow any of them on Twitter.

The Big Box SEOs know that an old school cold-call or unexpected drop-in the quickest way to get on Fred’s radar. Sure, Fred may get mad and throw the rep out. But the best sales people know that with a powerful interest-creating remark, six out of ten “Freds” will agree to an appointment.

Many of you decided to sell your services because of your technical expertise. For me, that expertise was being a good front-end web designer. After teaming up with a business partner who was a programmer, we thought we had all we needed. But we soon realized that our success or failure hinged on how well we could market and sell, not how well we could design and code.

The good news is, you can adopt the principles and practices of the Big Box SEOs. By “principles” I mean that they have a well-oiled prospecting machine that drives new business. Do you? A typical rep for one of these companies may need to close five sales a week to meet quota. Multiply that by dozens of reps, and you begin to see how much business these companies must bring in to maintain and stay profitable. You, on the other hand, may only need to close two sales a month to make a good living.

By “practices” I’m referring to the specify tactics they employ. While cold-calling and cold-canvassing are effective, you may have a different method that brings in sufficient business. So long as you have one.

Do you?

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John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

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