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Linkarati

New Client Management - #LinkaratiChat with Bill Sebald

Cory Collins | November 17, 2015

Managing clients is one of the most difficult tasks SEOs face.

Onboarding new clients is a critical period, often defining the entire relationship, or at the very least setting a foundation.

So how do you manage new clients? How do you set proper expectations? What are red flags that signal trouble? What processes should you have in place? Can you graciously let a client go?

Managing clients is one of the most difficult tasks SEOs face.

Onboarding new clients is a critical period, often defining the entire relationship, or at the very least setting a foundation.

So how do you manage new clients? How do you set proper expectations? What are red flags that signal trouble? What processes should you have in place? Can you graciously let a client go?

These were questions we posed in our latest #LinkaratiChat, featuring the wonderful Bill Sebald of Greenlane SEO.

Bill wrote one of my favorite posts to date on the importance of avoiding certain clients, and as the founder of a well-respected SEO agency he has plenty of insight to share about new client management.

Let's get into the breakdown of the chat, shall we?

Question One: What is your process for onboarding new clients?

No point in tiptoeing around the issue, right? Our first question right out of the gate asked what processes our participants used to onboard new clients. 

Bill led the chat.

The first step in onboarding a new client is understanding their needs and setting proper goals, expectations, and KPIs.

Don't forget to establish a timeline, either. 

...or ensure the campaign scope and goals are realistic.

During this onboarding process, keep an eye out for red flags.

Question Two: How do you qualify a prospective client? What's a definite red flag?

Not every client will be a perfect fit for your organization.

Sometimes another organzation will fit better — sometimes the client needs further education. Whatever the issue, it's important for agencies to ensure they understand the goals and expectations of a new client during the onboarding process. Otherwise, neither party will be happy. 

Here are some red flags we discussed in our chat. 

Communication is key. It should be a relationship betwen the client and agency — if there's not mutual respect and communication, it's easy for a project to end poorly.  

Question Three: How do you amicably cut ties with a client if they're not a good fit?

Work at an agency long enough and you'll have a prospective client who just isn't a good fit. Could be their needs, expectations, budget, goals — for one reason or another, you can't meet their needs. 

What do you do in such a situation? Be honest — it's all you can do. 

Be polite, professional, and human. Our job as SEOs is to help sites, companies, and ultimately people in search. If the client isn't a good fit, be honest and upfront. Help them as much as you're able — it's your job. But don't promise more than you can deliver, and be clear when you're not able to meet their expectations. 

Question Four: What is the biggest challenge in launching a new project? What's the most common mistake you see?

The project is underway and you've begun a new campaign. What are common mistakes made? How can you avoid these mistakes?

Again, setting proper goals and expectations stands out.

Hitting the ground running is a common expectation in SEO campaigns. Everyone wants to deliver as much value as possible, as early as possible.

Don't let that lead you into mistakes, though. SEO by its very nature needs to be a strategic endeavor, with analysis, research, and review. 

Question Five: When do you know a client is a good fit fo your organization? What's the "aha" moment?

Enough doom and gloom! Let's talk positives: when do you know a client is a good fit?

When a true partnership develops. When you're invested into doing the best possible work for their organization, and they respect your opinion, work, and recommendations.

Mutual respect. 

Question Six: What onboarding tips do you have for new organization or independent SEOs?

What can you do to improve the onboarding process? How do you develop a stronger relationship with a new client? How do you establish trust?

It all starts with a firm understanding of the client's businesss. The better you understand their product, their beliefs, their audience, and their values, the better you'll be able to deliver.

And that's a wrap!

Huge thanks to Bill Sebald for taking the time to chat with us as our featured guest! And huge thanks to everyone who participated — we had a lovely discussion, which I truly enjoyed and learned from. 

Thank you all so much — see you at the next chat!

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About The Author

Cory Collins

Cory Collins is the Managing Editor of Linkarati and the Content Marketing Manager for Page One Power. Cory is a writer, runner, link builder, SEO strategist, and beer enthusiast. Cory lives with his dogs and wife in Pullman, WA.

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