Because professional search engine optimization (SEO) is a relatively new field, many key decision makers are not aware that it exists. Or they simply believe that it cannot work in their industries or with the existing marketing mix.
This is not because those decision makers are ineffective or backward thinking but because in most companies marketing efforts are focused on activities that have already been proven effective. (Think direct mail, print advertising, tradeshows.)
Very often, the people who first recognize the potential benefits of professional SEO are not the key decision makers. They are the people on the front lines of the organization—the ones who deal with prospects and customers every day. However, proposing professional SEO as a new marketing initiative to the people higher in the chain of command can be a frustrating process, very often leading to disenchantment and a general sense that the marketing decision maker doesn't "get it." The real problem, however, may lie in a flawed approach.
But, first, a word of caution: Think about your company's culture. If your company does not have a history of trying anything new, you may be better off spending your energies elsewhere. Professional SEO as an addition to your marketing mix can be a hard sell, no matter how convincing the argument, to a company that is still relying on computers that were cutting edge during the Reagan administration.
Talk the talk
Your motivation for suggesting professional SEO may not necessarily inspire your marketing decision maker to immediately add it to your company's marketing mix. What will? Most marketing execs have a hot-button issue, and they are rarely shy about sharing it.
Is he or she concerned with increasing overall revenue? Is he or she always discussing cutting marketing costs? Does he or she talk about reducing the cost per lead? Does he or she always espouse the value of improving your brand recognition?
For each of these scenarios (and others), there are specific studies on SEO that will support your recommendation. If you approach your marketing decision maker without keeping the issues most important to him or her in mind, you diminish your chances for success.
Use the competition
Few things seem to motivate companies as much as the action (or sometimes the inaction) of the competition. With professional SEO, there are two potential scenarios—either some of your competitors have added it to the marketing mix effectively, or none of them have.
If they have, it is fairly easy to demonstrate by taking your marketing manager through a few key phrase searches on any major search engine and showing him or her that your hated enemy figures prominently in the results. Alternatively, if your known competitors have clearly not embraced the channel, it is just as easy to show a few searches on keyphrases demonstrating that you can (for now) have a competitive advantage.
Such keyphrase searches can also turn up additional competitors—lean, forward-thinking companies that are embracing new marketing tactics. This eye-opening experience can also encourage a decision maker to act.
Use potential vendors
Talk to some established professional SEO firms before approaching your company with the suggestion that they consider adding SEO to the marketing mix. A good SEO firm has encountered all of the objections that you are likely to face and should be able to help you with your approach by compiling relevant stats and offering compelling case studies.
If a firm is unwilling, or unable, to help you to make a presentation to your marketing decision maker in way that directly speaks to her or him, look elsewhere. Asking for this type of assistance can both help you to sell to your company and also help you in the early stages of the all-important vendor selection process.
Offer a plan
Piquing the interest of the decision maker is only the first step. You should be prepared to offer a clear project description, including the price ranges of your proposed professional SEO vendors, how long it will take to see results and, most importantly, how success will be measured. This is another area where your potential vendors should be more than willing to help—good firms will collect extensive data at the outset to measure success, and will be able to clearly articulate what "success" will look like.
* * *
As many companies are discovering, professional SEO is an incredibly powerful and cost-effective addition to the existing marketing mix. It is a sure bet, however, that the marketing decision makers of many of the companies now embracing professional SEO did not come up with the idea independently. The truth is this: Some underpaid visionary in their organizations brought it to their attention first!
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