Business development is a very difficult role. Not only in B2B sales, more specifically – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). I’ve personally worked in numerous sales roles in the past including real estate and travel, but SEO is by far one of the most difficult products/services to sell. The main reasons SEO is difficult to sell is because:

SEO is intangible – A product or service that is unable to be touched or doesn’t have a physical presence (Services Marketing).
SEO is a credence service – A good with qualities that cannot be known or observed by the consumer/client after the service is complete.

What is SEO? Most businesses know they need it, or they’ve heard about it, but many marketing managers or small business owners don’t really understand what it is, how it works, what’s involved!

SEO is all about improving your business’ online visibility within the search engine results page (SERPs). This isn’t an easy medium to achieve stellar results in a short period of time. I constantly have clients ask me “how long will it take and how much will it cost to get to the top of Google?” It’s not a question that can be answered within seconds, if at all! It requires a high level of analysis of the website content and structure, the product or service industry, competitors in that industry/niche, previous SEO history (if any) and first and foremost – the keywords! This requires an ongoing process and a tailored strategy.

What we want to achieve with the SEO strategy is capturing new potential customers in the earlier stages of their consumer decision making process:

  1. Problem Recognition
  2. Information Search
  3. Evaluation of Alternatives
  4. Purchase
  5. Post Purchase Evaluation

Step 2 is where we really need to capitalise on SEO, ‘information search’. That’s exactly what it is, search for information! This is where your potential, unforeseen customer lies. They have a need, and they commence their search to find a solution for that need. If they knew who they were looking for that would service their need, they’d navigate directly to a brand. Think about it like this – If you’re looking for flights and you’re a loyal customer of Flight Centre, you would go directly to their website or search their brand name ‘Flight Centre’. If you don’t have a brand in mind, you’d search in Google using some form of relevant keyword like ‘cheap flights’ to find a possible provider. SEO is putting new customers in touch with your brand that don’t have a favourable or known brand in mind yet!

The reason why SEO is an intangible, credence service, is because there is no physical product and the client doesn’t understand what they are paying for or how it actually works. It’s similar to when you take your car to a mechanic and you receive a hefty bill. Assuming you don’t know much about the mechanical side of cars, you’re not overly sure whether that work is required or if the cost of the service is worth the quality of that service.

The important message to explain to all potential clients when discussing SEO for their business is the processes and activity undertaken by the SEO company that is required to achieve their business objectives. The key metrics in SEO is keyword rankings and visitor traffic, but there is more that can be done for a client to improve their overall SEO effectiveness. We’re heading down the digital PR path in SEO now. Improving a brand’s presence online, not only in the SERPs, but in the digital landscape and the internet in general is what’s required to generate a successful SEO campaign. This is the important message that needs to be disclosed when educating a potential new client on what SEO is and where it’s heading. Communication is crucial and reporting of activity and results should be a priority to provide clarity and justification of their marketing dollar.

I’ll discuss analysis and strategy further in my next blog post.