Although we're in the business of marketing, there are many different things to consider when writing your own marketing plan. This week I'll continue my exploration of different ways to market your search engine agency, such as networking, referrals, and partnering.
Networking and Referrals
I've found that network leads and referrals are some of the best leads out there. There's nothing better than a recommendation from an established client or a networking client to make a prospect feel comfortable about contacting you. They can give real world examples as to how you have helped them without the prospect being faced with the pressure of involvement in the sales process.
For search marketers business networking can be done at the local level, in local search groups, your local AMA group and other groups where potential clients congregate. If you're aiming for small business, there are many small business networking groups, such as BNI, and we have ASBA in Arizona.
Partnering with another agency to sell your services while they're selling their own seems logical. This may seem like a marriage made in heaven. However, it's more like the rocky road to divorce!
Often the agencies just don't get search. They want to add search to their services but often are way off base with their pricing. They also require a lot of education and handholding.
Agencies also tend to leave things to the last minute, so you'll often find yourself working in a last minute panic. Examples of potential partners include marketing agencies, ad agencies, PR agencies, and Web designers.
We no longer actively offer an agency partner program as it didn't work out for us. My feeling after a few failed attempts is that agencies will simply not outsource if they can get their hands on a decent budget. Many of the agencies that contacted us were asking us to work with budgets that we would never consider working with directly.
I could write a whole article on the subject of working with agencies -- and it may not make pretty reading! If you're a small or growing search marketing company, then proceed with caution. The time and effort that agencies will require from you may be better spent working on your own business leads.
For some SEMs (define) this can be tough, as many in this field are technical geniuses who aren't necessarily big on the face to face interaction. It's not within everybody's comfort level.
However, if you're the leader of the company and you feel this way, then you'll need to take steps to change and step out of your comfort zone. Being Irish, I don't have too many problems with this -- I kissed the Blarney Stone years ago!
One of the most successful networking groups that I've been involved with is the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO). Networking with my fellow professionals in this group has taught me so much. I'm much more confident and knowledgeable about the industry.
This helps me when talking to new business prospects. I found that joining SEMPO in itself was not nearly as useful as just rolling up my sleeves and getting involved. They have numerous committees and they're always looking for volunteers.
I see a lot of local search marketing networking groups, and you should check out your local area for opportunities on your doorstep. Set up your Facebook, Naymz, and Linkedin profiles and search for other members with SEO (define) and SEM in their profile.
Set up your own blog. Yeah I know they're like belly buttons -- everyone has one now. This will help you market your name and also take a great spot in the Google results.
While you're at it, Google your name. If the number two result is your MySpace account that talks about how drunk you got on New Year's Eve, remove it. Remember, prospects will do a search for your name, so keep your online reputation clean and professional.
Be a Knowledge Leader
Being perceived as a knowledge leader can help you develop business leads. It raises your profile throughout the industry and leads are attracted to you and your business.
To become established as a knowledge leader it goes without saying that you should have some unique input and ideas related to search marketing. Unique, though, isn't enough. You must spread your expertise.
It's useful to contribute to search related forums and blogs and also write articles on your specialty. From this comes the possibility of becoming a speaker at search conferences and other related conferences.
Getting the Right Mix
The truth is that you need to be active in most, if not all, of the above methods of marketing your business. You need to develop a marketing mix that will reach the target audience you're after.
Once you've developed it, the goal is to continually streamline your mix until it's focused and provides your business with the types of leads that ensure continued success.
In this column, I've looked at different ways to market your search marketing agency using both traditional and online marketing, networking, referrals, and partnering as well as ways to market yourself as a subject matter expert. In my next column, I'll look at the lifeblood of every business -- sales.
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