Why agencies must be transparent with clients

Why agencies must be transparent with clients

Digital marketing is plagued with stories of poor communication. Here’s why you shouldn’t wait for clients to ask where their money is going.

Years ago, I was a legal assistant for a criminal defense law firm when my boss assigned me a new task – learning SEO. 

I asked him what SEO meant, and he responded, “Search engine optimization. I don’t trust the people I’m working with anymore and need you to learn it.” 

As I began to learn and discuss my findings with him, he explained that his website had disappeared entirely from Google’s SERPs. 

The company he had been paying to handle SEO for nearly a decade could not, or would not, tell him why it happened. 

My biggest takeaway from this other company’s neglect was not their disappointing work but how badly they responded to my boss and their poor communication skills. 

Had they been transparent and honest, my then-boss would have allowed them to fix it – and I would never have had the opportunity to learn SEO. 

However, they did not, and the course of my career changed as I dove head-first into SEO, quickly becoming a passion that fed my competitive instincts. 

Several years later, I started my own SEO company, focusing on doing things right and emphasizing transparency and communication. 

My first goal was never to hear the question, “Where is my money going?”

Transparency sets you apart

I quickly realized the biggest complaints companies hiring SEO agencies had centered on poor communication.

Some common client complaints regarding digital marketing agencies include:

  • “Every time I call, I can never speak with anyone.”
  • “It takes a long, long time for them to respond to my messages/emails.”
  • “Every time I meet with my project manager, it’s a different person.”
  • “They don’t tell me what they’re doing.”
  • “Agency asks for more money when results aren’t where anticipated.”
  • “Most solutions proposed by the agency require extra spending, regularly exceeding the monthly retainer.”
  • “There’s no exclusivity! The company I’m paying is also helping a competitor.”

Poor communication plagues many digital marketing agencies today. And it helps reinforce the idea that many digital marketers are snake oil salesmen selling an intangible service that does not guarantee any result. 

This matter provides all of us an opportunity to set ourselves apart through excellent communication. 

Let’s keep in mind that if a client has fired their previous provider and is hiring you, they were likely burned or unhappy with their previous services and may already be coming into their relationship with you a little skeptical. 

Often, doing great work in the digital marketing world is not enough, as some clients do not understand the value of your services. 

Communicate the what, when, and why of your strategy and keep clients in the loop about the results. This helps engage your clients and helps them understand the value you bring. 

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Why putting extra effort into client communications is worthwhile

A healthy relationship with clients is a beneficial result of communication, transparency and customer service. In addition to helping convey the value you're bringing, frequent communication and honesty build trust. 

When I started in this industry, I knew I did not want to be a part of the rat race, constantly chasing new clients. 

Instead, I wanted to form strong relationships with a few clients and give them the best possible service in deliverables and customer service.  

To promote absolute transparency with my clients and avoid that dreaded question about where their money is going, I create an openly shared Google Doc with each one. 

In these documents, I create a bulleted list each day of tasks done on their project/website. At any time, the client can check it for real-time updates about the work on their website. 

This practice has helped me maintain long and healthy relationships with nearly all my clients. 

I am blessed to have recognized this gap in most digital marketers' services. It has been worthwhile to leverage long-standing relationships with clients and make them feel comfortable with our work. 

With excellent customer service, you can enjoy the following benefits: 

  • Acquire and keep long-term clients by building trust.
  • Digital marketing, especially SEO, takes time. But you can make an instant, good impression with strong communication and customer service.
  • Communication at this level is rare, but it is comforting to clients and often sets you apart, leading to high-quality referrals from your existing clients.
  • Long-term relationships are more profitable for your business.
  • Good communication skills allow for a quicker connection with possible clients. If talking to a potential client, poor customer service can eliminate the possibility of working together very quickly.
  • Clients are willing to pay more when they see conversions and understand the strategy and results. Being able to communicate this succinctly raises your value.
  • It provides your business with a competitive advantage over those who are poor communicators.
  • Strategies are often far more successful when the client is involved, engaged, and providing feedback/input.

The fruits of my labor

Simply putting our heads down and working on our tasks/deliverables is what most of us SEO and digital marketers would like to spend our time on. 

Sending frequent emails to clients and updating Google Doc trackers can take a lot of extra time and certainly don't factor into the odds of your chosen marketing strategy's success. 

The level of transparency and customer service my company provides has enabled us to form long-term relationships with our clients, many of which have been with us since the first year of our company's inception. 

We currently have 25 SEO clients, of which 10 have been clients since our first year of business.  

I have built an exceptional rapport with these clients, allowing me to communicate any concerns openly just as easily as any successes. Having great communication gives you a longer leash. 

Had the agency communicated its shortcomings and mistakes with my previous employer, they would likely still be doing his SEO today. 

Let's say you've been working with someone for years and have built rapport. Suppose, for the sake of discussion, they get hit with a core algorithm update and traffic dips. In that case, your client is far more likely to understand and afford you the opportunity to right the ship rather than looking for a new provider. 

Make client communications a priority

In digital marketing, there are countless stories of poor communication and client frustration.

Complaints are abundant that money paid to digital marketers does not yield the expected results and has been a waste of investment. 

Utilizing transparency and open communication leads to happier clients and more sustained relationships – setting you apart from competitors. 

Are you not yet going out of your way to connect with your clients? If not, now is the time to do so. 

Improving customer service boosts your overall business, reputation and client experience (and results). 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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