Now that you've decided to start your own search marketing agency, let's cover some basic principles necessary for success.
The main stumbling block for many people? A lack of organizational skills. To succeed in business you need to be able to schedule work and time for your clients, organize your employee's time, and produce results according to a structured timeframe.
If you don't get organized, you'll quickly be overwhelmed. To get organized, set up processes and procedures. Invest in a project management system.
Wait. Don't let technophobia scare you away.
Google Didn't Invent the Notebook
Try this. Write everything down in a notebook. In ink. That's right. A good old-fashioned 20th century notebook with a paper-and-pen hard drive. This way you have a record of all your meetings, your clients' expectations, your staff's holiday schedules, etc.
Does it sound too simple? It works for me.
If you're a great search practitioner, salesman, or marketer, and completely disorganized, then your first investment should be hiring a great administrative person.
What system works for you? I've already received some great tips and advice from my readers I'll be sharing in the future.
Sell Yourself and Your Business
No business can survive without making sales. In search marketing, sales don't always evolve quickly. The lead time can be long, especially if you're dealing with larger organizations.
Develop a healthy pipeline of leads. Track, follow up, and close the sales. If you can't close the deal -- and don't be embarrassed to admit it -- you need to find a salesperson who can. If you can't find someone to do this, chances are you won't survive in a competitive environment such as search.
It's hard to find people who can sell and who also have a good understanding of search. Plus, the protracted length of time it can take to get SEO (define) results can be a huge stumbling block for some sales staff.
Let's face it: not everyone can sell a concept. Take sales seriously. Winning deals will make or break your business.
Business Development and Sales
With the evolution of social media (define) and social search, we keep telling our clients: "You have to take part in the conversation and network."
As a business leader you need to be comfortable networking. Get out there and meet people. Attend search conferences. Pitch panel ideas. Don't give up. You won't be selected for every conference every time.
Make presentations and speak at business functions as often as your schedule permits. For free.
Help people take notice of your brand. If you're uncomfortable doing this, it'll be hard to develop new leads. Business development leads to sales.
Take advantage of all the online opportunities to network. For example, join your local AMA and any other local organization where you feel you can be in front of your target market.
Oh and did I mention, write? Blogs can build a niche audience. Columns for global publications can build a global audience. Decide what's right for your business.
Delegation is a hard concept for new business owners to get their heads around, especially in the arena of search marketing. If you're making the move from consulting, you may be used to doing all client-related tasks. However, as your business grows, you can't do all the jobs alone.
At some point, you have to hand over tasks and then walk away from them. Comfort in this area comes with making the right hiring decisions. If you have the right staff, it's easy to delegate.
Let the sales staff, the content writer, and the SEO team do their jobs. It's what you pay them to do. Concentrate on leading the company.
As a business leader (this may sound obvious) you need to lead. Not all CEOs do. Your employees are looking for someone to blaze the trail so that they can succeed at their job. If there's no effective leadership in place, then the company will be a rudderless ship -- going around in circles with no direction.
To help find your way, sign up for some leadership classes in your area. Also, look for mentors among your networking acquaintances. The more leadership skills you can develop, the better it will be for your business.
These are some of the most important attributes you'll need to grow your search marketing business. If you really know yourself, your skills, and your shortcomings, then you'll have an idea of whether you have what it takes to make it happen.
If deep down you know you lack certain attributes, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the end of your dreams. You can search for a business partner who complements your skills with their own areas of expertise. The goal is to develop all the attributes and skills you can so your business can grow.
Next week we'll explore how to determine your target market and win your first clients.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!