It’s one thing starting a new SEO client and it’s another thing keeping them happy and retaining them!

This month on Old Guard vs New Blood we’ll be checking-in with 3 leading agency SEOs, exploring what it takes to manage a client’s expectations and keep them satisfied.

Kevin Gibbons from Re:signal, Gus Pelogia from TeamWork and Antonella Villani from ForwardPMX joined Dixon Jones for this episode.

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Transcript

Dixon Jones

Hello everyone, welcome to episode 15 of Old Guard versus New Blood, Majestic’s monthly webinar and podcast. Thank you very much for coming along guys. We’ve got a fantastic crowd as usual today. Three expert panelists Kevin Gibbons, Antonella Villani and Gus Pelogia. Did I pronounce that right Gus?

Gus Pelogia

Gus Pelogia. But usually that’s how most people pronounce it.

Dixon Jones

So I’m just with everybody else. So sorry about that. So guys, we’re going to be talking this week about how to keep SEO clients satisfied. So you’re all from the agency world. And before we start, what I’d love you to do is just say a little bit about yourselves. On the old guard, we’ve got me and everybody else’s young compared to me today so I’m putting Kevin on the old guard side, just because I’ve known him for 254 years. So Kevin, why don’t you go and introduce yourself first?

Kevin Gibbons

Yeah, that’s fine. I’ve definitely been around in search for a while kind of getting involved in 2003. Initially, I’ve run a couple of agencies.

Dixon Jones

So you were what, seven at the time?

Kevin Gibbons

Yeah, exactly. It’s good age to get involved. So been involved since the early days. And yeah, currently running Re:signal as a strategy based SEO agency. So, I feel like I probably am the old guard. I’m clinging on to my 30s by a matter of months, but I’m gonna make the most of it while I can.

Dixon Jones

Congratulations. Well done. sticking out as long as me and a bit. So Antonella, tell us about yourself, where do you come from? And those kind of catch phrases kind of questions.

Antonella Villani

So yeah, thanks for having me. I’m Antonella Villani. I am a SEO group leader for PMX. Been in the industry for about 10 years and at Forward for about four years. I work with very different clients mainly in the retail, travel space and international, mainly.

Dixon Jones

Okay, cool. And Gus you’ve been working with teamwork for a long time I think so definitely we’re counting you on the new guard. How long have you been at Teamwork?

Gus Pelogia

Well, today is my second day at Teamwork. But I’ve been in the SEO world for around nine years now. Over the last five years, I was on the agency side. Now back to in-house. So hope to help everybody to find some ideas on how to keep clients satisfied.

Dixon Jones

Amazing. And have you gone into the office yet? I see you got the T shirt already?

Gus Pelogia

Well, I haven’t been to the office and I don’t think I’ll be in a long time, I will be fully remote. So even when things are back to normal, this is going to be my office. And so I haven’t been to the office it’s gonna take a while.

Dixon Jones

You got the T shirt so that’s all we need. Congratulations. Okay. And if there’s anyone in the audience, we’re streaming on Facebook, we’re streaming on YouTube. Probably streaming on Twitter here now. In the background, I’ve got my producer David. David, is there anything I’ve missed out so far that I needed to talk about?

David Bain

No, not at all everything going smoothly. So that’s great to hear.

Dixon Jones

This is the first, that’s jolly good. So I’ve got a new band how to keep SEO clients satisfied. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been agency side. I used to run an agency way back in the 90s. But not since then. And I’ve got to say one of the reasons I moved tool side was the stress of running an agency is I didn’t find it easy. I found it quite hard. So I’m going to be very interested to hear what you guys got to say about keeping clients satisfied, SEO clients satisfied, sometimes it can be quite demanding. Sometimes they can seem to switch off and you can’t talk to them at all. So before we dive into some of those ideas, and some of those thoughts and some of those tips, if people haven’t got time to stay here for the whole lesson, or hold the whole podcast, maybe you can give them one tip of how you keep SEO clients satisfied. Antonella why don’t I start with you?

Antonella Villani

So the easy thing is delivered results. As you know that normally keeps clients happy. Besides that, sometimes even if things go well, sometimes clients can be still maybe unsatisfied. So I think for me, for us, it’s very important to listen to client’s expectations, what they need and really listen to what they need to sort of to progress within that company and making sure that they’ve got all the tools that they need.

Dixon Jones

Cool. Kevin, same question to you, one great tip right at the top of the program.

Kevin Gibbons

I think alignment is a big one. It’s understanding what their goals are internally. And not necessarily just their expectations of you but understanding we’ve had clients where we’ve known to the point of what their targets are, and how they trigger a bonus, the more you can understand about them, the more chance you have of putting all of your efforts behind, smashing their goals and making them look good. And I think that’s the thing. It’s having that mentality of it’s not us against them, you’re on the same team, let’s work together. And you can’t do that if you’re being targeted on say, ranking visibility, and the targeted on revenue.

And so how do you get alignment as closely as possible and then work backwards into a hierarchy or KPIs.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Might come back to the KPIs a little bit later. Gus, any tip for me?

Gus Pelogia

Cool. On top of what Antonella and Kevin already said, deliver your reports on time. And make sure that you have some good deals there, it’s aligned with the stuff that they want. And so even if you don’t have the full answer yet but here’s the plan how we’re going to overcome something, reports on time and a report that matters for the client.

Dixon Jones

Okay, cool. All right. So some good ideas in there. If there’s anyone out there on YouTube, or Facebook that wants to ask questions, please feel free. David in the background will be taking those and we’ll try and get some of those on. If you’re not on the live session, then sorry about that. But hopefully, a question or two will come in, but I wanted to dive in a little bit, and start by saying, is keeping your clients happy in part about getting the right kinds in the first place? I mean, do different agencies have a different profile of client that suits them? Or do you find that the client is put on your plate that could be from anywhere and then you have to align your goals as you suggest? Kevin, do you have a particular type of client that you’d like to have without alienating the clients don’t fit into that mold?

Kevin Gibbons

Yeah, I do all of our new bids. And I feel like I project a hell of a lot more new bids inquiries, and I do proceed with. And I think that’s really important, because you need to know like our model really, is to work with a small group of typically kind of medium to large brands. And it’s not to be an agency that works with a large volume of say, 40, 50 plus clients, where we’re more kind of a sweet spot of 12 to 15. So I think, for us, and I’m not saying that’s the right model, it’s just the one that we’ve picked. And I think for us understanding what’s our sweet spot, who are the clients we can work with, and everything that we do from the new best stage through to working together, and the strategy and execution is all about what’s the opportunity for growth?

And if there’s no opportunity for growth, the answer is that stop talking, you should be looking at another channel or is just having an honesty. So I think, in the early stages, it’s really important to set up what does that success look like, don’t just give them expectations that when you’re a contract, you’ve got to be able to deliver on it, I don’t think it’s any benefit to the agency to have a client that you can’t deliver on, because that’s going to be hard work for the agency, and you’ll end up getting fired. So let’s set up in the early stages what success looks like, and form a strategy that can help you to hit those targets. And yes, not everything that’s gonna go 100% to plan but at least there’s an opportunity there that you can work backwards from.

Dixon Jones

Okay, so Gus, any choice of client? Or you get them put on your plate, or you’re only in day two, so you don’t have to answer that question.

Gus Pelogia

No, I think I can talk a lot about the… I just moved in-house now, but I had all of those years in the agency side. So I think normally, the filtering that we will do is in terms of those are our fees. So even before we start putting proposals together, if the client would be a fit or not. And then as the next stage, we’re going to discuss what is success for them, what we can do and kind of put a plan based on what they’re paying. And also just find who in the team is a fit for a certain type of client. So if it’s going to be very heavy on technical, we have someone that loves this kind of stuff. So you can direct your team as well to get the best person for job.

Dixon Jones

Antonella any other things to add in there?

Antonella Villani

I am very lucky. I love that. With my clients, I’ve got same sorts of great selection and get on work well with them personally as well, which obviously helps but-

Dixon Jones

You said at the start as well that you’re in the travel vertical and well, hard vertical right now.

Antonella Villani

Retail and a bit of travel, yeah.

Dixon Jones

So you are already sell filtered by vertical anyway. Because your agency inside your agency?

Antonella Villani

Yeah, absolutely. And, yeah, besides that, I love a challenge. So if there is, I don’t know, a difficult client, or somebody that doesn’t really might be too demanding, I am always sort of happy to try to turn them around.

Dixon Jones

So I think out of that everyone, I heard a lot about defining success and aligning goals and stuff from the team here. So, how often does that not happen? I mean, the KPIs that you say that you take at the start, when you’re starting to agree those KPIs, how often is it that the client’s KPIs, if the clients got any KPIs, or any ideas or KPIs, how often are they completely unrealistic as a place to start? Who wants to jump in?

Antonella Villani

I can. Okay, so yeah, I think it does happen quite a lot. By sort of educating the client, that something that can be sort of overcome, I believe a lot into sort of education, spending time with the client, training them and getting to understand more about what is realistic within SEO specifically.

Dixon Jones

Okay, anyone else? I had one client once, where my job was to be number one for the Phrase World Cup betting, and I only made number three by the deadline. Did I take on an unrealistic goal 20 years ago?

Kevin Gibbons

I think we’ve all been there with that. There’s different things that you learn in terms of the KPIs that you agree to, we had some performance models in the past, based on rankings. Actually, some of them have worked quite well. But it feels like in hindsight, maybe that was a bit of a fluke. I always say, from the agency side, if I’m speaking to a prospect, I either need a target or I need a budget. And I feel like if you can have a target, and you can make that whatever you like, be 500% growth. And if we think there’s an opportunity to do it, then we’ll tell them what it takes to do that, you might cost a lot of money.

And likewise, if they’ve got a budget, we can tell them what we think we can achieve within that budget. I think you just need to set some boundaries around what is realistic, and obviously you can then put some forecasting together and you can look at a prospective landscape and try to be reasonable and realistic about it. But yeah, I think it’s that bringing together of, “Okay, what are your objectives from a business perspective?” And then bear in mind that SEO is a channel you do want to see short term results, but I think most people these days at least, are kind of more willing to understand this is a long term sustainable channel that you’re trying to build. Yeah, kind of medium to long term not so much. The quick wins that I feel like everyone wants it in the past, people still want that. But I think they’re more realistic in their expectations.

Dixon Jones

I think maybe you’ve just got more mature clients.

Kevin Gibbons

I actually think we learn from the past, yeah, when you asked that question, I was like, in my head, I don’t feel like we’ve had any shockers for a while. Maybe that means that there’s one that’s long overdue. I don’t know. But no, generally I feel like people are more realistic versus if you get back a few years back.

Dixon Jones

So Gus when you were on the agency side, what did the clients look for mostly?

Gus Pelogia

Yeah. I think I moved away from looking at that. That’s a nice to have and if you can tell a story around that to say we are getting the leads that he wants, we’re not getting it. But look how close we are getting with the better rankings or something like that, we use that. But that’s not what makes the money, I think it’s very important to set those boundaries from the start as well. So your work or with a goal, this is the amount of leads or sales that I want, or this is the budget that I have, and then you start building based on that.

Because you don’t want to have that conversation after two months, and you know that you’re going to have a conversation that’s going to be really tough and the client finally leave, and we have to find a new client, or maybe you’ve hired someone, so rather just be upfront and avoid that awkward conversation in a very short time.

Dixon Jones

So Mark Scully is I think watching on YouTube and analysis. What are the immediate red flags when you’ve got a potential client, and they’re getting in touch? Have you in the past missed any red flags at the beginning, but then ended up having to walk away later, but after you’ve done the deal, basically, from clients? So what are those signs?

Gus Pelogia

I can start here. I had one, just a few days before I left or a couple of weeks before we were working on a pitch. And this client, we had a call and we discussed the proposal and at the end of the call, they were “Oh, can we also have a proposal on this on this on this.” And so they asked for another two more channels, and they wanted more details on how some things will be done. They didn’t show up for the call. Initially, I think they show up one hour late or so.

I don’t if they will become a client or not. But at that stage, you already know that if even if at that stage that we are first meeting, they’re not showing up, and they’re asking for a lot more things before they kick off any work, that’s already a sign that there’s going to be someone that is difficult to deal. And sometimes you have another clients that pay the same fee. But it’s more reasonable to work with, so we kind of tried to balance there.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Kevin and Antonella, any anything to add on to that? No? Okay.

Kevin Gibbons

I’ve got one thing to add, which is we’ve built a pre-qualification scorecard. And the way that that works is we’ve just learned from the past of the people that we work well with our brands that we work well with, and that there’s a number of different things that would be factored into that. One thing that I think, I wouldn’t say we wouldn’t enter, if this was the case, but RFPs generally are, I’ve seen quite a lot of very broad RFPs, where people are just shopping around and yes, they will choose someone, but if you’re on a short list of 10 agencies, generally it’s not a good time investment with the agency. I would say on our side, unless we know someone, and they’re coming to us for a compelling reason.

And a lot of what the clients that we work with, and again, because we have a relatively selective client base, that typically people that have heard of us before, we might have met them at a conference event or online, I guess these days, but I think knowing those people definitely helps a number of the red flags, sometimes. And again, agencies can make this work. We’ve made it work in the past. But we found from experience, the more owner manager based businesses where it’s the owner manager that owns that relationship with the agency, I found typically hasn’t ended as well as if it’s a marketing manager or if it’s marketing director with their own budget to spend, the owner managers are spending out of their back pocket. And quite often, they’re the ones that wants immediate results. They want to jump on a call in 10 minutes to discuss everything. And I feel like it messes with our structure of how we get the best results for clients. So, again, there’s exceptions to every rule, but in general, I feel like that helps us to pre-qualify and understand are they a good fit?

Dixon Jones

That’s interesting that RFP thing is probably a double edged sword, though, isn’t it? Because an RFP, if somebody is putting a proper RFP out there, the chances are there’s bigger business to be had at the end of the game, or am I naive in thinking that? I mean, and Antonella you’re big agency so, I would imagine you’re working with RFPs quite a lot.

Antonella Villani

Yeah. I think the sort of, as I think Kevin mentioned before as well as, the big partner selection is there an opportunity to grow here and yeah is the opportunity to give them performance make them happy. So maybe you can add other channels or other parts of SEO as well. So yeah, I think that’s a very important pre-qualification.

Dixon Jones

So I mean, on the idea of setting up alignments and get setting up the right KPIs, I remember having this conversation years back around the same sorts of lines of, how do you charge for your services? And KPIs was, well, we don’t really want to charge on rankings we want to charge on what you mentioned Gus tracking leads, but what are the challenges, particularly with organic? I found, and I don’t know if things have changed, that plenty of people, everyone’s happy to sit there and say, “Yes, I’ll pay based on leads or tracking leads or whatever,” but they can’t track with them things.

Basically, the leads come from the website, they’ve got no idea which ones came from PPC, no idea which one’s going from social, no idea, certainly, which ones came from organic. And certainly not which keyword started the whole query. So is it realistic to set up KPIs that are based on sales or leads, or are things change on the tracking score?

Gus Pelogia

I think tracking can always get complicated. There’s a GDPR, or the cookie is just being triggered later, and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, you kind of need to pick something as a source of truth. And choose that as your go to, I think the fee won’t actually change on our end. And if you’re using the same, you can still show progress or decrease so that’s kind of usually how we go.

Dixon Jones

Okay, so basically, whatever is here today, whatever you choose, make sure that, see if there’s progress from that point. So whether it’s visitors or whether it’s leads, or whether it’s rankings being able to show progress over time. Yeah?

Gus Pelogia

Exactly. Yeah.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Kevin add anything on that this tracking problem. Do you find that on a regular basis? Or do you go hell for leather to stop that being an issue?

Antonella Villani

I think maybe on the B2B side of clients that say way more your current issue than maybe on retail, when normally they got that their tracking sorted. But yeah, in terms of KPIs, I think it’s quite important to have a mix of KPIs because for instance, if you just look at sessions might be at a brand increase, a brand interest increase or decrease that might sort of influence that quite majorly. Or maybe shopping is now everywhere CTRs for a SEO might be going down as well. So I think having a mix of different KPIs will help definitely understand the progress as Gus was saying.

Dixon Jones

I think that’s probably a good idea for the customer, isn’t it? Because if they just force you down one KPI or if you disagree one KPI, most KPIs are quite easy to manipulate. If it’s visitors to the website, well, hey, I can get a whole load of people for fiverr.com to click on the site every day. Or if it’s just ranking or whatever, then I can just manipulate some long tail keywords and say, “Here’s some top 10s.” I guess, a balanced scorecard of KPIs is probably a sensible thing to do. Would you agree or would you rather Kevin focus on one or two specific ideas?

Kevin Gibbons

Yeah, we’ve actually implemented a hierarchy KPI says because not all KPIs are equal. If you give me a choice of do I want rankings, technical issue, fixes, links, traffic or revenue, I’d normally choose revenue, and I feel like our clients would normally choose revenue. And maybe there’s a reason to choose another KPI and that’s up to them and it’s within their right to do so. But if you’ve got a hierarchy, you can say this is our main target. Equally, a lot of our clients are in e-commerce, we’ve definitely had clients before where we’ve pushed them and they’ve said, “Our targets are traffic or revenue,” and we’ve said, “Okay, well which one’s most important?” Because we can get you lots of traffic if you want a top of funnel awareness going into the blog, and that might be something that actually prioritize and really like, or we can make you a ton of money if we prioritize by value and talk about products and in that case, and in most cases, it comes down to money.

And so then we’ve got those prioritized kind of KPIs behind what we’re doing and we can say, “The number one main goal is let’s increase organic revenue.” There might be things that you look to filter in or out, maybe brand versus non brands, homepage versus non homepage, traffic, etc. You can get more granular with this stuff. But I feel like picking one main goal, and then having a hierarchy to say, “Okay, well, that’s proved that we’re working towards this. And we are improving kind of visibility, we are improving traffic, but ultimately, it’s for a reason that we’re improving revenue.” And if revenues going in the right direction, I’m pretty confident we’ll retain our clients. So that’s the main thing.

Dixon Jones

That falls in quite well with the concept of OKRs, which sort of objectives and key results kind of approach because you can sort of hierarchy things and say, “Right, our objective is this. And we will achieve that if we have done this, this and this, and this, and these, these can then be some other person’s objectives.” But, essentially, you’ve mapped all the objectives and said if everybody does what’s settled then, that we would expect to get to this objective at the other end or hope to anyways.

Kevin Gibbons

Exactly. So you reflect that with the team and their objectives. And then everyone’s aligned.

Dixon Jones

So Paul Carey is saying, “How often do you communicate or do you recommend communicating with the clients? And should you use email or catch up calls? How do you keep them satisfied?” He also says, “Good luck, Gus in Teamwork,” says Paul Carey, how often do you recommend communicating with clients and how? I’ll send that over to your Gus since he named you in the question.

Gus Pelogia

Cool. So I try to have at least one catch up a month, and to have a call, usually, first week of the month, you send reports and I have that book ready for the second week. It’s always on the same day. So it’s always in the calendar, they know it’s coming up. And so if there’s only that moment, at least one moment where you have some face to face contact with the client, I tried to use or I started using a project management to Teamwork, or any of the other ones out there. I think that’s very good for long conversations and things where a lot of people are involved.

Dixon Jones

I think it’s fair for you to plug Teamwork today, you’re allowed to do that.

Gus Pelogia

Cool, you can use any other project management too, by the way not just about my company. But for me, it really helped a lot heavier pm to, especially because at some point, I started working as a client lead or an account manager. So I had to understand what someone in petition was doing or what someone in the content department was doing. And if you’re just trying to get all of those tasks by email, it can get lost at some point.

Dixon Jones

Antonella, Kevin, once a week, once a month, once in a blue moon?

Antonella Villani

that’s a hard one. But regularity, I think it’s very important, whether it’s weekly by weekly. Depends very much on commercial size of the account, this type of the amount of streaming works as well that are going on, how many sorts of internal stakeholders you might be communicating with, et cetera. But if there’s gonna suggest it, I think if you do use would use for most of our clients, Asana, which helps sort of streamline a lot, what needs to be communicated via email or via call. So that way, you can just keep the calls to the most sorts of important or top line conversations. And, yeah, keep it clean or live in the details to something like Asana or Teamwork.

Dixon Jones

Kevin.

Kevin Gibbons

Yeah, I think similar for us. To a certain extent, sometimes our clients dictate the communication. So how do they want to be communicated with. Some people like to jump on a call to talk for an issue others prefer just to deal with over email? I think as a general way of working, we probably have a weekly call where we go through kind of quick updates, and it’s just a very commercial scheduled recurring meeting just to have a bit of a guidance of just catching up and understanding what’s going on. There might be weeks where we skip a call, because we’re just working together or holidays, but absolutely would look at things monthly. One of the big things we brought in I think really helps as we have QBRs, and as of course, the business reviews, and what we found from those is that that helps from our side. So actually, my involvement from the client perspective is typically in the new bees and maybe forming a strategy phase, and then in QBR, so I can go back and say, “Okay, well, this was the goal that we set at the start. How are we doing?”

And on the client side, it’s similar, you might have a marketing director or a CMO that’s involved in choosing you as an agency, and they want to oversee and understand what’s going on, but they don’t necessarily want to be in the day to day or even the monthly meetings.

Dixon Jones

So let’s dig into that QBR a little bit more then, is that a reflective thing internally? Are you looking at the account internally? Or is that something jointly done with the client?

Kevin Gibbons

Oh no, it’s jointly with a client. But there’s a prep stage internally, where my involvement is sometimes to kind of challenge and support the team and just say, “Let’s bring it back to this is what we said we would do. Where are we? What’s on track? How’s the performance go? What earnings? What do we need to do more of?” and even coming up with new ideas.

Dixon Jones

I love that you say challenge and support. They sound like opposites to me.

Kevin Gibbons

Yeah, I mean, it depends on what the situation is. In general, I would like to say, “This is great, go for it.” But if it’s not great, then I would also like to say, “Let’s fix it.” And I’ve definitely been involved in both sides of that. And the other point I was going to add is, sometimes agencies get fired for doing what they said they would do. And what I mean by that is you need to come up with new ideas. And you need to say, actually, this is something that’s going on right now that’s happening in industry, or we’ve seen this happen with our clients and we think we should try this. And we’re in a very competitive space, there’s tons of agencies out there. And I know that there’s a lot of agencies pitch in for our clients. And if they’re going to them and saying, “This is what’s happening with color vitals, or any anything else,” just like this is an idea that you can be sometimes as an agency too rigid, and say this is a 12 month project plan. Let’s follow it to the letter. And I feel like having the QBR is a good place to say these are the big things that are happening right now. These are the trends that we haven’t necessarily fought off before. But let’s try it.

And let’s take maybe a certain percentage of that budget as more experimentation to keep pushing forward. And clients, I think if you come to them every month with no ideas, they’ll get annoyed. But I think if you come to them every quarter with new ideas, they really appreciate that you’re thinking about them and you’re applying kind of new concepts within the context of what you’re doing to try and grow, learn and improve.

Dixon Jones

Okay, so Mark’s got an excellent question, which was, I’ve got another question I’m burning to ask. But I’m going to jump in with Mark’s question. How do you set boundaries with clients going? It’s an excellent question. Some tend to forget, you’re not a full time member of the team and expect immediate follow ups at all times. Or, alternatively, they always want to talk with the managing director of the team or the head of the department or the person that’s got the least amount of time or should not be the one that’s necessarily at the coalface. So how do you set those boundaries? Any suggestions for listeners on that front?

Antonella Villani

I think it’s a hard one. Obviously, I think we’re pretty much all been in that situation. But I think being honest with the client and letting them know what is sort of acceptable and what is not acceptable. Yeah, it’s very important. It depends as well on the sort of situation you’re in, for instance, you’re launching a new website, you migrate to a new website, I think, to a certain extent that immediate communication is expected. But then when going back to this sort of day to day work, I think it’s totally fair for us to let them know that this is not urgent. Let’s pick this up on Monday or…

Dixon Jones

Okay. Kevin or Gus.

Gus Pelogia

Sure, I think, normally, I just tried to put like expectations on maybe if they’re asking too many things, just to tell them, this is how long this thing’s gonna take. And I always tried to put follow up dates on things. So if I say, we’re going to deliver this by next Friday, I try to give some more time so the team actually has time to do things. Usually, at the start if you’re kind of getting to know the client who you try to measure how hard it’s going to be or how demanding they are going to be and try to line do they pay a certain amount of money so they can be this demanding or try to look back at are they requesting too much, maybe they’re not, maybe we’re just not delivering on time or maybe they’re allowed to because of the size of the business or things like that, but usually if it’s something really big, that I know is going to take a lot of time I try to explain to them, “Look, this is week of work, we can’t deliver before this, if we deliver before, it might not be good.”

So the clients that are very demanding, if they know that there’s a risk, that what are you going to do is not going to be right and you’re telling them, it’s gonna take a bit more time? Usually there’s a bit of a battle. But we’ll find a middle term there.

Dixon Jones

Do you use time trackers Gus? Do you track your time?

Gus Pelogia

Yes.

Dixon Jones

You do? Okay, so you track your time, so you can tell if you’re over quoting for a customer? Or if you’re spending too much time on a customer?

Gus Pelogia

Yeah, definitely. We’re trying to balance the tasks. So maybe we said something would take four hours, but maybe we just took two hours to actually learn how to do that thing. So I try to balance so we are charging to the value of that time.

Dixon Jones

Okay. So you don’t necessarily charge as but you do record the time, or some did an agency side. But I guess if you’re to the other two as well and I don’t want to get away from that from the rest of the question, but if you are tracking time, it becomes easier to have that conversation with the customer. But I know that not everybody tracks time. Kevin and Antonella, do you guys track time?

Kevin Gibbons

We do. Yeah. And I think as a general rule, we try to set expectations over deliverables of what are we going to deliver that month. But if a client comes with a new question, when you ask that question, my initial reaction was to set up a premium rate phone number that keeps our questions short, I’m kind of joking. But I think, actually, the answer to that is I think project managers and account managers are really underrated within agencies. And sometimes the client doesn’t always see the value. And sometimes the agency doesn’t always see the value. But when you take them out, that’s where the scope creep happens. And I think, if you’ve got our model is to pair a project manager alongside a subject matter expert, typically an SEO strategist. And if that type of request comes up, it’s then the project manager’s job to say, “Yes, we can look at that. However, this is what we’re working on right now. Would you like us to stop doing that and do this, or we could look at that. But we think it’s going to take X amount of time, which would be quoted at this, in addition, so either delays what you’re doing, or there’ll be an additional charge.”

And to bring back to the seniority point, one thing you can do, and in general, I don’t really like to go too granular over pricing, but you could have a teared right card. So, if they want to speak to a senior director as opposed to a more junior exec, they absolutely can. But there’s a different price and a rate behind that level of seniority. And it’s the balance between you give the client what they want, but you don’t get to push too far that this doesn’t make sense for the agency as well. So I think there’s different ways to set those boundaries. I think initially, you might say, if it’s a quick job, yeah, sure, let’s just do it. But there’s a certain level where you don’t want to be petty about things. But there’s also a certain level where you do have to draw the line and say, “Actually, this is going to have an impact of what we’re doing and how much time we have scheduled for you.”

Antonella Villani

Yeah, and I think as well, yeah, as we said before, using tools that Asana or any other project management tools really helps to highlight the dependencies as well, between tasks, as Kevin was saying, okay, we can do this, but we’re gonna have to push this back by a month or three weeks, or whatever that is. So yeah, as long as the project manager person, the tools as well help a lot to have that communication.

Dixon Jones

Okay. So Jason Cook has asked a question as well, saying, this is gonna be a barbed question of very hard to answer, but I’ll throw it in there. We’re running up against the clock already. So what’s the minimum amount of time or budget that you feel you should spend on a client to move the needle even for very small clients? Well, that’s a that’s an interesting question. And I don’t want anybody to feel that they have to have to answer that in absolute terms at all, if you don’t want to, is anyone willing to jump in? I know, you’re all gonna say it depends. It’s just written all over your faces. So I’m going to say what they would have said if they if I was guessing, I would say, well, the ForwardPMX are a big agency, so they won’t do anything for less than a couple of 1000 pounds a month. Gus I don’t know what the agency you working out before. So I don’t know so much about that.

I would say Kevin is sitting there trying to get at least four figures a month out of a client and that’s my guess. I’m I a million miles off the trip, I don’t know though. That would be my estimate. I think that I’m gonna go in and because I don’t want say it depends. I don’t like it as an answer.

But I do remember when I was back at reception I undercharged clients, we had a minimum monthly spend of 500 pounds. And that was way back. That was 10 years ago that I stopped doing that, or at least 10,12 years ago, more. And when I moved on, and the rest it got taken over by Justin who took over the business, the first thing he did was sack all of my clients because he couldn’t make any money at that. So I will put it to you that 500 pounds a month is too little. And anything above that, you’re gonna need something above that. I don’t know. Anyone want to add something a little more contextual and relevant to the 21st century

Kevin Gibbons

One option that we actually do is we’ve got a small monthly budget, actually, look at how we could maybe consolidate what would be an annual budget into more of a consultant space and we’d say let’s turn this into a shorter sprint on the basis that you get the work quicker. It’s more senior in terms of your people that you would get. However, from our side, we’re only involved say for, I don’t know, six weeks to three months, and we’ll help them we’ll set them on their way. Just sort of comments I’m not 150 pounder. I mean, you could do a phone call. But again, it’s like what value would you get from that premium rate?

Dixon Jones

150 pounds will fix your tap so compare yourself to a plumber at least.

Kevin Gibbons

Yeah, that’s the thing is understanding the value, I think for us that there’s a cutoff point. And we quite often refer maybe other agencies or freelancers that we think could do a good job on that budget. So it’s not that people can’t make it work. It’s just we’ve kind of had to carve out where we do our best work.

Antonella Villani

Recommending for a good freelancers, while it is obviously a good opportunity for very small businesses. Maybe if the client has got resources available internally, for instance, rather than writing 10 million metadata, you can train them, and that could be a fraction of the price, and then get them to do it. So that way they can keep the cost down.

Gus Pelogia

Yeah, I think for us would be something a little bit in this direction, as well. So if maybe a client doesn’t have the budget to commit to ongoing strategy, we can work on an audit plus strategy and give them a here’s a plan for you to follow, then usually sometimes it’s just initial conversation, so they can see, oh, there is value behind this, or maybe I can’t execute some of this, or I need you guys to continue. So you kind of go that’s a way to get declined. And without making that commitment, without getting the money or making them commit to money that they don’t have.

Dixon Jones

I think I used to head towards training, to getting people into training, on either training the organization or getting a group of people in and then getting on our training course, as a way of dealing with the smaller budgets, so at least they can see what the work is involved if that’s the case. So, if you go down the budget, then you could start to give people reports, but do people just read reports? Do you find clients read audit or SEO reports as a general rule?

Gus Pelogia

Not sure. Probably a very long audit, they don’t. So we always try to put together like an action register. And then you refer to the points. And that’s usually where the information is. My previous agents who have come usually will do a post audit report as well. So we can go through with the client these are the actions that you have to take, and this is why and kinda explain in lay terms why something has to be done.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Kevin, Antonella, do people read reports for a year you spend your time writing these things and then get really depressed when they didn’t even read the report and tell you off?

Antonella Villani

Well, I think yeah, sending that exact summary, as well as maybe adding some numbers too. So okay, if you do this, this is likely to happen always sort of help to pick the attention. But also what we do as well, a lot to the info will be actually try to sort of remove the barrier of maybe the client trying to speak directly with developers using I don’t know JIRA, where we raise tickets directly, and then we sort of look at the implementation report.

So I found that that’s why if we remove that sort of barrier, things get done a little bit more quickly, so it is a frustrating things I have you read that 45 pages-

Dixon Jones

An agency communicating with the dev team is always a challenge, isn’t it? Especially if they’ve outsourced a dev team as well.

Antonella Villani

I think even though you can build that relationship, and especially if you’re president, there’s a consultant as a part of the team, but somebody with more sort of SEO experience. So I think it has worked well. Yeah, it is a challenge. We know that but it has worked well.

Kevin Gibbons

Yeah, one thing we’ve done is we set up Google Data Studio dashboards with different personas. So if you’re a CMO, all they really care about generally is how much money have they made per market. So if we can show them kind of organic revenue by territory or key markets, that’s important for them. We’ll have personas maybe for our more day to day contacts that could be around competitive metrics say house visibility going against some of the key competitors in their market, specifically four key categories that we’ve been focused on.

And then maybe more of an action based, these are the SEO issues. So stuff like pulling in Search Console to say, these are the things that need to be fixed and address for the SEO team. And then everyone can get their level of detail they can drill down. We’ve had one client before that has asked us to put one line into their, this is marketing director, one line into their report that goes and gets presented at the board. And I love that because then it’s like, “Okay, well, rather than a long report that doesn’t get read, we’ve got one line of SEO is now on the board agenda.” And if we can adapt and align ourselves with their targets, and showed us at least it opens that conversation, it might only be aligned, but it might turn that into two lines kind of further down the line if it’s on that agenda.

Dixon Jones

We’re nearly out of time, guys. So as Mark had one other question, I’m just going to ask you quickly, but I want one word answer if I may, would you ever work with a company that’s been let go, that you know has been let go by another agency? Kevin.

Kevin Gibbons

One word answer is yes. Do you want me to explain why?

Dixon Jones

I’ll let the other seats go one way answer as well. And then you can jump in given with the why. So Gus.

Gus Pelogia

I’d say yes, it’s probably in almost every position that I will be the one to choose to say these guy’s we won’t work with them.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Antonella?

Antonella Villani

Yes, because probably we wouldn’t know that they’re from another agencies. I’m going to say I didn’t know about.

Dixon Jones

So let’s hear Kevin’s anecdote, then. Because there’s got to be a good story there.

Kevin Gibbons

Not so much. It’s more, I think there’s not a good fit for everyone. So it could be good clients as bad clients. But I don’t think there’s a good client for some agencies, there’s bad ones for some agencies, and in the same way that would you hire someone with been made redundant? Absolutely, yes. Because there’s different circumstances that means that someone didn’t work out in a role. And would you hire them for your company in your situation? Yes, of course.

Provided that they’ve got through that kind of interview process. And I think it’s the same of a client that if you think they’ve got through your pre-qualification, and you think they’re a good fit, it probably wouldn’t influence my thinking too much on how they got on with another agency. If you’re new to agency, it’d be handy to have a chat with them though.

Dixon Jones

True. Okay, guys, we’re nearly out of time. Before I ask you to sort of leave your calling card. David, what’s coming up next month on, Old Guard, New Blood?

David Bain

So the next one is SEO for e-commerce and the date is Wednesday, the 5th May at 5:00 pm PST. That’s 12:00 pm EDT. And we’ve got a couple of brilliant guests booked already with Emma Russell, SEO director at Slingshot Organic and Kristina Azarenko from Marketing Syrup. If you’re on LinkedIn, you see her all over the place so she’s doing a job there marketing herself. She’s an e-commerce specialist as well. Sign up for those over at majestic.com/webinars. And of course, you can listen to the podcast as well on Apple Podcast, Spotify, all the other good platforms. So if you’re a podcast listener, make sure you search for Old Guard New Blood and you’ll find us there as well.

Dixon Jones

That’s great. So guys, thank you very much for coming in. It’s a fascinating topic and actually it could go on a lot longer. But before we go, can you just say where we can find more if anybody wants to dive in and pick your brains or not if you want to put them on a premium rate number. Where can they find you on Twitter, Linkedin, where do they go? Antonella?

Antonella Villani

So you can find me on LinkedIn

Dixon Jones

I’m sorry.

Antonella Villani

No worries. That’s the best of mispronunciation I got so I’m fine with that. So yeah, Antonella Villani on LinkedIn or you can send me an email name dot surname @ForwardPMX.com. On all the other social media as well. But yeah, LinkedIn is better for work related stuff.

Dixon Jones

Gus, where do we find you?

Gus Pelogia

You mostly going to find me on Twitter. So it’s just @pelogia.

Dixon Jones

Okay. Kevin.

Kevin Gibbons

Definitely feel free to talk to me on LinkedIn, Twitter’s @kevgibbo they’re probably the best ones. Email’s just kevin@resignal.com.

Dixon Jones

You’re good. That’s great. Guys, thank you very much for coming down and talking to us today. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. We really appreciate it. And to everyone out there in inter-web land, see you next time. Thanks very much guys. Good bye.

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