We Asked the Experts is a series designed to provide you with the most relevant insights from local search experts. Each month we’ll cover a different question and share insights from key figures in the local SEO community in an effort to help you further your knowledge and strategy.
Have any of the following ever happened to you?
- You’ve got a handful of clients, but you never or rarely have calls with them
- You do have calls with your clients but you have to send a bunch of emails before you can get them on the phone
- You share links to reports with clients, but have no idea if they’re reading them
- Your client is resistant to your input or ideas
- Your clients still won’t follow your advice and respond to customer reviews
If you’re sitting there nodding your head, then I’m afraid to say it sounds like you’ve got an unengaged client on your hands.
Don’t take it personally; unengaged clients can be a part of agency life.
Perhaps they weren’t convinced enough in the first place, or they’re just too busy and under-resourced to dedicate time to local SEO right now, maybe they thought hiring you was job done and that’s where their part of the relationship concluded.
Whatever the reason, your job as an agency or freelancer is to keep your clients engaged.
Who better to advise on keeping clients engaged and invested with local SEO work than our trusted roster of local search pros?
This issue of ‘We Asked the Experts’ sees 10 local SEO experts extend their advice on how to get and keep clients engaged.
Read on to benefit from our experts’ top tips!
We Asked the Experts: How Do You Keep Your Clients Engaged?
Laura Salter (Digital Strategist, Kick Point)
With unengaged clients, you have to simplify. Do as much work as you can without their review and approvals, and give them just one concrete action to do for you at a time instead of overwhelming them with emails or meeting requests.
Blake Denman (Founder, RicketyRoo)
A lot of reports can be really confusing to SMB owners. We created a one-page Google Data Studio report that shows what SMB owners care about, leads. Traffic and rankings don’t pay the bills; new business does. Being able to just report on how leads are doing keeps clients engaged.
If we find that we need to constantly request information from the client and they don’t respond, we send a final email putting notice that if we don’t start getting the things we need, we’ll terminate the agreement (on good terms) and move on.
Carrie Hill (Local Search Analyst & Community Manager, Sterling Sky)
Uncommunicative clients are a problem.
While we always wish to develop client partnerships, and that those clients are invested in their success as much as you are — that doesn’t always happen. I firmly believe that a strong onboarding and setup process can help with this.
If I have access and logins to everything (GMB, Yelp, directories, Analytics, Search Console, etc.), a domain-based email, access to the website, and permission to market on their behalf, I can do a lot for a client that is not communicating or providing feedback. From adding new content to the site to building/improving existing links and listings – there’s much that can be done to help their marketing.
That being said, they won’t be as successful as the clients that are dialed in, provide timely feedback, and do their assigned “homework” — but if you have all the marketing tools you can work without them if they get busy and go radio silent for a bit.
Tim Capper (Local SEO Consultant, Online Ownership)
You often get extremes with clients – some clients are on the phone or sending emails constantly and you begin to wonder when they fit their actual work in, to the other end of the scale being the unengaged clients.
To be fair, I have not encountered too many of these, but when I do they fall into a couple of types:
- You are liaising with someone or a set of people in the company that do not quite understand what you are doing or have become disinterested in their own job at the company.
- The other scenario is where you have built a level of trust with the client to act in their best interests and once a month email is enough to keep the ship headed in the right direction.
Because I have encountered both of these over the years, I actually quite enjoy the autonomy afforded by the second type of client in this regard and it is often when I can be more creative with a business. I once worked with a client that would only reply “Thanks” after the month end reports until one day nearing the end of a year I got a sentence “Many thanks, we just had our highest yearly turn over, keep it up”.
Figure out why your client is unresponsive, it may be a good thing.
Ben Fisher (Founder and VP of Marketing, Steady Demand)
We don’t see too many of these types of clients but when we do we set up a quarterly meeting to touch base, and then we will identify what they need to be educated on.
Most clients do not read or understand reports, so to touch base once in a while helps. That being said, our services are geared toward doing things for our client (like review responses) so they can go about working on the business.
My advice to others that run into this issue is to try and set expectations up front, listen to your new clients, and feel them out for how engaged they will be. If you get a feeling they will be unengaged, set up a client touch base call sooner rather than later.
Claire Carlile (Digital Marketing Consultant, Claire Carlile Marketing)
First off it’s worth considering why we need clients to be engaged and what engagement looks like in the context of your working relationship. Having a shared understanding of these things from the outset is going to be key to building the foundations for a successful ongoing relationship that keeps everyone happy — both you and the client.
In my experience, having a good level of engagement is critical to getting sh** done. As a solo consultant I can strategize and I can implement some tactics but I’ll always be working alongside internal resources to actually move the needle.
It helps to discuss these issues with a potential client before you start work — to understand the nature of their internal resource, how much time they’ll be able to spend on the project per week or month, to agree on what will be included in reporting and how these KPIs will help them measure their journey towards success, whatever that might be, and I’ll include all of these in the service level agreement.
If you have all of this in place and have that shared expectation and understanding you’ll be in a much better place to re-engage a client. You can refer them back to your original agreement and they can have a chance to comment on the reasons they’re not able to fulfill their side of the agreement. Maybe they just need a couple of months off while they juggle a project, maybe they actually forgot what it is they were supposed to be doing.
Whatever it is, you get the chance to have an open and honest conversation about the issue and hopefully, you can work something out. Good luck!
Amy Toman (SEO Analyst, Digital Law Marketing, and Local SEO Specialist, Pet Sitter SEO)
I find the best way to draw clients in is to educate them by relating to their own experiences. I connect the current need to their personal experiences. For example, to get them involved in review management, I ask them about how they search for new products. Do they read reviews? What do they look for? What means the most to them? I then bring it back to their situation. Do their reviews accurately reflect their business? Do their responses? How can they change that? By applying this method, I can usually get a client excited enough to help themselves.
Andy Simpson (Senior SEO Specialist, Digital Law Marketing)
I try and educate the client as much as possible. During my time both in the USA and in the UK I have invited clients to local Chamber events or meetups to listen to me speak to small business owners about specific areas of local SEO.
During the Q&A it’s fascinating to listen to business owners share ideas and theories on what they think they should be doing to what they actually should be doing. This has led to more engagement and an increase in trust from the client, so it’s a win-win for both of us.
Crystal Horton (Digital Account Manager, Accelerate Marketing)
What we typically do is first, try to engage with our clients through our project management software, Basecamp, with a Drift video giving an update of stats about their account and an invite to meet on Zoom.
If a response has not been made within 24 hours, we make a phone call and then send a follow-up text message. If we don’t receive a response in 24 hours we send an email with the same drift video and Zoom invitation. If we haven’t received a response in 24 hours we take it a step further and schedule an appointment and send a calendar invite.
We focus on asking what their goals are so that it’s more about them and less about us so that they will engage with us.
Niki Mosier (Head of SEO, Two Octobers)
Unengaged clients can definitely be a struggle, especially if they come back after a few months of silence and are not happy with what the results are. I think one thing that can help keep clients engaged is to give them the data that helps them do their jobs better. If they need data to take to someone above them or to help them make decisions, provide them with that data.
If it’s a matter of clients not buying into something like responding to reviews or implementing something like Schema, show them data that speaks to why this is helpful. Maybe that means implementing something temporarily in Google Tag Manager so you have some data to back up your case.
How do you handle unengaged clients? Have our experts taught you something new? Keep the conversation going in the comments!