Often I've been on the phone with a company's owner or marketing department discussing a promotion and was ready to launch into a project when I heard the inevitable phrase: “Can you give us some specifics on what you're going to do?” Rightfully, there is a significant gap between understanding you need something and understanding what you need. Rarely is this gap more prevalent than in the area of Internet Marketing.
An owner or executive may well understand that adding more traffic to their website is a positive thing, but the how and the what may well be missing. This isn't their fault; they're “big picture” people who need to focus their energies on making a company run. They're not less knowledgeable because of this gap. I for one don't know anything about accounting; this doesn't make me less intelligent than a CFO, it's just that I have knowledge in a different area. To be good at what they do, they have to take the same approach.
Before we get into how to explain the various areas of Internet Marketing to your prospective employer (or the decision maker at a company you're pitching your services to) let's discuss what they want to know. When I first started my own company I had the instinct to “prove I was smart.” When asked what I would do, I made a crucial error: I bombarded the owner or executive with huge amounts of data and outlined every facet of what I was proposing. Can you spot the problem? If not, there are two...
Problem One: Why Do We Need You?
Problem one with my early approach was that in my efforts to prove myself I basically handed over a template of what I was recommending. Whether that's enough for them to go on or not is irrelevant; it was too often enough to believe they had enough to go on. The worst part was that if they tried to go it alone, if the outline didn't produce the rankings they were targeting, the management wouldn't assume it had been implemented wrong or that there were parts left out. No, they'd assume that the recommendations themselves were wrong. Either way, I'd lose a client.
Problem Two: Executives Don't Care
The second problem with my early efforts was due to a lack of understanding about what executives do and don't care about. It wasn't until my own company grew and I learned how quickly I had to make decisions and the sheer volume of them that I realized that what executives and managers want is to gain an understanding of what areas will be covered, why they're important, how they will impact the bottom line, and how success will be measured. That's it. There are exceptions to this rule and some may ask for further details. When this happens...
How To Hold On To Information
This leads us nicely to the question, “If I'm asked how I would complete a project, how do I not give away the farm?” There are two angles I've found to be successful, and both rely on understanding the person asking.
The first reply relies on the person you're speaking with not having an in-house marketing team and being too busy to want to hunt around. If you're dealing with the direct owner of a multi-million dollar company who's difficult to get in touch with because they're constantly managing their own business and doesn't have an SEO department, you can be far more open then if you're dealing with a VP of Marketing for a company with a 20-person marketing staff.
In the event that you can be open, you still need to respect their time and schedule and simply outline in broad terms the specific areas that need to be looked at. Always include statements such as, “In the early stages we'll be analyzing your competitors to find out what they're doing in the area of (fill in the blank).” Basically, give them information on all the basics: “We need to redevelop and enhance the relevant followers on our Facebook page,” and/or “We need to redevelop your site's internal linking structure to better promote the key pages.”
You don't have to give away the farm with competitor backlink reports and a full breakdown of your onsite work. If they want that, I'd recommend offering a paid review — the cost of which you'll deduct from your services should you be hired. Since you'll have to do that work anyway, it's a win-win. Even if you don't get the final contract, you will get a paycheck and they'll learn to value your time. After all, if you don't, why should they?
The second way to deal with requests for more information comes into play when you are dealing with a company with a marketing department or people you believe may think they can do it themselves to save money (read: small business owners with more time than money). In this event, you need to understand well the role of the person you are speaking with in order to put things into terms they can understand.
For example, let's say you're speaking with the owner of a web design company. In this case, I would use statements such as, “Just like you can't send a prospective client the design you'd do prior to them contracting with you, I can't do all the work required to get your full promotion built out prior to being contracted to work on it. Like design, this is a very complicated process that requires hours and sometimes days of research to build out a promotion properly, but I can discuss the core areas that need to be addressed and where they need to get to.”
If the prospect was in the area of natural health, I would respond with a reply more tailored to their niche, such as, “As you develop products that can be reproduced in an inferior way (a compliment of their product is always a nice touch to show understanding of their field), I'm sure you can understand that professionals like us can't give away our formula. What I can tell you in advance is…” (Outline what areas need to be addressed and how you know this without listing off the specifics of what you'd do to fix them, just the outcome).
Writing The Proposal
So you're now sending out proposals and responding in ways that should (if done right) improve your conversion rates. This article has assumed that the proposals you're sending are good to begin with. If you're not even getting to the point where you're having a chance to talk to decision makers, you'll want to stay tuned for next month's article on how to write an Internet Marketing proposal that wins contracts.
Dave Davies is the CEO of Beanstalk Internet Marketing. Dave has been working as an SEO since 1999 and started Beanstalk in 2004. He writes and speaks regularly on the subject of Internet Marketing and hosts a weekly radio show on WebmasterRadio.fm. Add him on Google+ for more up-to-date tips and information on SEO and Internet Marketing.