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Win the Right Search Marketing Clients

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Now that you're back from the long, relaxing four-week holiday in the Caribbean that all new search marketing firms take before New Year's ... Oh, you were working? Well then, you're in the right place.

Now that we've looked at the basic steps in starting up your own search marketing firm, let's address your marketplace with a view toward winning the clients that fit your business.

Search marketing isn't restricted by geographic boundaries or by industry, although some practitioners do specialize. What's the key factor that distinguishes clients? Size is an excellent gauge to measure which types of companies will fit your business development needs.

I'll break these down into the following groups: start-ups and small businesses, mid-sized businesses, and large organizations.

Many new search marketing firms target start-ups and small businesses as their market segment of choice. They do this because it's quick and easy to make sales. While this isn't necessarily a wise move, it may be the only move.

Working with other small businesses may be the only way you can start growing your business. My company worked exclusively with small businesses and start-ups for about two years.

Managing Your Own Expectations

As the owner of a new business, you have to be realistic. Even if you're well-funded, not having a track record is going to affect the type of client you can attract.

It will certainly help if you have staff members with a strong industry reputation, but there's no quick way around the "new business" hurdles. In many ways, growing your business with start-up and small business clients is usually hampered by their lack of understanding of search, as well as unrealistic budgets and, in some cases, expectations.

These business owners have been busy establishing and growing their business. Along the way they've heard that search is something they must do.

Perhaps they've received e-mails telling them how easy it is. They begin to shop around and find that quotes range from affordable to unbelievably expensive.

Companies 'guarantee' results at the affordable level. However, when prices become higher, there are no guarantees. They must be wondering, "How can this be?"

Investing Your Time and Your Clients' Money

As many of us in the industry know -- an effective search marketing campaign requires a serious investment. There's no getting around this.

Unfortunately, many smaller companies don't have a realistic budget.

A budget that seems tiny for an agency to manage for a SEM (define) campaign can be a fortune to a small business or start-up. Clients, regardless of size, expect a lot in return for this investment.

Matching Client Needs with Appropriate Services

You may be able to cater to this market segment by communicating closely with them and setting realistic expectations. You can employ specific tactics rather than a comprehensive service.

One example would be using only a local SEO (define) strategy for a local business. As long as your client is clear that they'll only rank for "Denver chiropractor" and not "chiropractor," then you may be able to work with a limited budget. Of course, if the client has a product or service they want to promote nationally or worldwide, this isn't a realistic option.

From a search marketer's point of view, there are also the additional challenges of ranking a relatively new site. These challenges include Google's aging filter and lack of quality links.

A new site is just plain hard to rank -- especially in competitive arenas. Many established search marketers will not touch sites that haven't been around for at least a couple of years.

There is the real prospect that some of your clients will not be around in a year's time. According to the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, more than 80 percent of new businesses fail each year. It's been my personal experience that the same statistic applies to online companies.

Next week I'll look at the pros and cons of targeting mid-sized companies and large organizations -- so you can stay in the 20 percent of businesses that succeed.


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