By most traditional standards, I’m a terrible salesman. If you gave me a “thing” to sell, I’d be way more concerned with making sure everyone was happy with the outcome of the transaction than trying to “win” the sale. I wouldn’t last one day under Alec Baldwin’s rule.
Fortunately, as a digital marketing agency, our job isn’t to sell timeshares; it’s to identify the perfect mix of digital marketing services to help solve companies’ problems, and then deliver on that solution.
Unfortunately, there is a tendency in our industry to turn everything into a productized offering, with lots of agencies fighting to offer the lowest possible price. That leads to a lot of this:
“Monthly SEO management from $500/mo.!”
“Monthly PPC packages starting as low as $300!”
“Products” like that are exhausting, unsustainable, and not what’s best for most companies. People might come to you asking for PPC or SEO, but what they really want is more leads, more sales, or a better return on their marketing spend. They have a problem, and they’re coming to you for a solution.
With that in mind, here are four ways that you can start positioning yourself as a solution provider, not a product seller:
1. Ask about their business.
In order to prescribe the best digital solution for a prospective client, it’s important that you actually understand their business. The best way to do this is by asking questions… lots and lots of questions.
What are their overall business goals? Who are their ideal customers? What experience do they have with digital marketing? What struggles have they had? Who are the key stakeholders in their company?
To make sure we fully understand each prospect’s business, we ask all of those questions (and many more) before we even begin talking about our own company. It catches some people off guard, but they always appreciate the genuine interest in their company.
2. Invest in preliminary research.
Long before we have any sort of agreement in place, our team performs valuable preliminary research for our prospects. This can include keyword research, social audience research, an initial SEO audit, and really anything else that will help us determine the right mix of services for each prospect. It can be time-intensive, which stings when we don’t get the work, but it sets the tone for a great relationship with the client.
Whenever possible, we try to get access to their existing accounts (AdWords, Google Analytics, etc.). On the PPC side, we run their accounts through our in-depth PPC Audit, identifying areas where the incumbent agency or in-house team may have missed some opportunities. Similarly, our SEO team uses all available data to determine where the greatest opportunities may exist.
After performing this research, we sometimes conclude that we simply aren’t a great fit for what the prospect needs. Maybe the current agency is already employing sound PPC and SEO tactics; maybe the average Cost Per Click in their industry makes PPC prohibitively expensive for their current marketing budget; maybe they need another service altogether.
Whether you get the business or not, this preliminary research phase is also an ideal time to bring in the team members who might ultimately work on the account. Your analysts and account managers will appreciate being involved in the process, and the client will feel a stronger connection to your agency.
3. Diversify your service offerings.
If you only provide one service – SEO or PPC, for instance – you have no choice but to recommend that service. Frankly, that service largely becomes the product that you are trying to sell.
Now, diversifying your services doesn’t mean trying to do everything. At Workshop Digital, we’ve steadily expanded our capabilities within the digital marketing realm, but we have no interest in web design/development, traditional marketing, etc. As new trends emerge in the industry, consider expanding your team’s skill set in order to provide the best possible solution for your clients.
If you’re a single-service shop, and have no interest in changing that any time soon, consider lining up some referral partners. By referring them the business now, there is a much better chance that they will return the favor somewhere down the line. Plus, most importantly, you’re doing the right thing for the prospect.
4. Learn to say no.
Turning down work can be incredibly difficult, especially if you work for a small agency. When someone is willing to pay you for work that you can fulfill, it’s nearly impossible to say no.
However, passing on new business can be one of the most important things you’ll ever do. If you take on work that isn’t a good fit for your team, it often leads to strained relationships, internally and externally. Unhappy employees may start to get restless, and unhappy clients may start to say unflattering things about you to their network. By sniffing these situations out during the preliminary research phase, you avoid this stress entirely.
When we come back with the recommendation not to work with us, prospects are almost always incredibly appreciative. We’ve even received referrals for additional work from people who have simply been impressed with our transparency during the research process.
So, don’t be afraid to walk away if someone isn’t a great fit; it typically leads to better opportunities down the road.
Checking off these boxes helps you position your business as a solution instead of a replaceable product, which ensures a more stable, trusting client relationship in the long run.