Somebody wiser than us all once said, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” In the case of lead prospecting, the first impression you make is worth several thousand dollars of business in the long run. How you approach your SEO prospect for the first time is often the defining factor between converting or losing a customer.
Unfortunately, given the number of spammers, scammers and snake oil salesmen present in the SEO industry today, it is often a tough job getting an outbound lead to listen to you, let alone hire your agency. So how do you go about talking to your SEO lead for the first time? Let’s try to figure it out here.
But first things first – not all SEO leads are made alike. How you approach the prospect depends on how you acquired them as leads. There are times when the prospect fills up a form on your website, and there are times when you identify a prospect and would directly reach out to them. These are different scenarios and so require grossly different modus operandi.
Typically, there are four different kinds of SEO leads:
- Inbound SEO leads; referred by a common connection
- Inbound SEO leads; reaching out directly to you
- Outbound SEO leads potentially seeking out agencies
- Outbound SEO leads not seeking out agencies
This is by far the most effective lead generation strategy. Business owners who want to optimize their websites for Google often turn to their network for recommendations. Since the agency is often pre-qualified and vetted, the conversion rates are pretty high.
Making the first impression in this case is pretty simple. The prospect already has a favorable opinion of you, thanks to your common connection (either an existing client or an agency you have partnered with). The only thing you need to do is to not blow it.
Trick to succeed :If your communication is over email, follow the lead already set by your prospect or your connection in their inbound communication. Answer their questions as elaborately as possible. Also, be realistic – if you think you will need at least six months to show results, let them know about it in advance. It is easier to caution them in the beginning than to defend the lack of results as the months go by.
Face-to-face communication or phone calls work even better. This helps establish a personal connection between the prospect and you and this virtually seals the deal. However, a word of caution here. Unlike email communication, phone calls do not provide you with a breathing time to think and answer tough questions. Tackling tough questions is an art that takes years of expertise. But if you are just starting out, one trick to tackle this issue is by offering to take all of their questions and answer them in one stretch. Besides giving you the time to think, it also saves time and ensures that both parties do not waste time on unproductive discussions.
If you have a good online presence (either organically or through ads), then chances are you are receiving quite a few leads directly to your inbox from interested business owners and marketing managers. While this seems like a very attractive proposition, you will soon realize that it is not.
In a whopping majority of the cases, you are not the only person that the prospect reached out to. Quite often, the prospect searches Google for SEO consultants in their locality and expresses interest with at least 5-6 different agencies.
This is a tricky situation because although you have a hot lead with you, you are now fighting with at least half a dozen other SEOs for the same prospect.
Trick to succeed : The time it takes for you to reply to an inbound query is extremely critical (no, we are not talking about the automated email replies here). Set unique email alert sounds for inbound lead enquiries on your mobile phone so that you can respond to such enquiries instantly.
SEO consultants regularly discuss SEO audit results in the first email or phone call itself. This is to sound knowledgeable (and make a good first impression). That is not necessary. For one, it takes time to prepare an audit report and draft an elaborate email. This is going to mess up your first response time.
Instead, aim for an immediate response (preferably over a phone call) thanking the prospect for sending the enquiry and asking for a good time to set up an appointment. This way, you not only establish yourself as an extremely responsive company, but also give yourself sufficient time to prepare an audit report that you will need for your first meeting.
However, this alone may not be sufficient. Remember that you are fighting a handful of other SEOs for the same prospect. It may seem tempting to communicate over email or set up a Skype call to discuss the project. Unfortunately, this is the bare minimum that all the other candidates are doing too.
Wherever possible, set up a face-to-face meeting. No, the prospective client is not going to come to you. You will need to travel to their office. Nothing establishes trust like a physical handshake – and unless you deal with clients who are not in your city or the project costs don’t justify a physical meeting, make it a point to meet them face-to-face the first time.
If you have subscribed to LeadJoint, you must have a list of dozens of SEO leads from your own city or vertical. Since these are businesses that have lost search traffic, they make attractive outbound SEO leads that you need to reach out to. But unlike the earlier inbound lead scenario, you do not have fight with other SEO consultants for this prospect. You could virtually be reaching out to these businesses at the exact moment they need an SEO consultant.
Trick to succeed : Depending on the niche of the business you are reaching out to, it is pretty likely for the business owner to not check their email frequently enough. So, phone calls always work better than emails. The ideal way to reach out to such outbound SEO leads who are potentially seeking out agencies is as follows:
Use third party tools like WhoIs, the website “Contact Us” page, YellowPages and LinkedIn to identify the name and contact details of the business owner. Once you have the details with you, call them up early in the morning – preferably between 8:00 to 9:00 AM local time. One script that has worked pretty well for me goes something like this below. For this example, I am reaching out to Mr. Smith who runs a carpet cleaning business in London.
‘Hello Mr. Smith, my name is <name> and I am calling from <company name>. We have recently been working with home improvement based businesses in London and have helped companies increase revenues by as much as 48%. Can I ask you a couple of questions to see if there is a chance we could be working together?’
‘Thanks, firstly, what percent of your business comes from the internet?’
‘Thank you. My second question is do you have a team in place to help you bring more customers from your website’
According to my reports, there are close to 230 people searching for carpet cleaning related search terms on Google from your location. I also noticed that you recently dropped out from the top of Google search for the keyword ‘Carpet cleaning London’. Would you like to schedule a free consultation to discuss the exact issues that are plaguing your website and what needs to be done to fix this?’
In my experience, this script often gets a better closure rate compared to others I have tried out. For outbound SEO leads, it is important to not sound salesy, but instead focus on bringing value to the customer. This helps establish trust. Converting this prospect into a customer is the second step.
Outbound SEO leads that are not currently seeking out agencies are often a tough nut to crack if you do not have an in-house sales team who do this full-time. Because of the human resources involved, this only makes sense for large agencies with at least a handful of sales execs. Smaller agencies who try this prospects basically end up spamming since the model works on the principal of shooting the email at thousands of businesses every week and hoping for at least a fraction of them to respond affirmatively.
Trick to succeed : At the outset, it may seem like the only trick here is to cold call as many businesses as you can in your target geography and niche. But this does not have to be a numbers’ game. You can raise the conversion rate by targeting prospects based on specific criteria. For example, one factor that disctinctly creates a higher likelihood for success is the target’s propensity to spend.
You can gauge this by building a list of websites from specific niche or location that spend money on Adwords or YellowPages. These are businesses that are already spending money to acquire customers. By creating the right value proposition, it is easier to get these businesses to instead spend money on SEO.
There is more than one way to bring new clients to the business. Depending on your growth ambitions and resources at hand, you can pick the right customer acquisition strategy and focus on bringing new business from the appropriate category of leads.