You may have noticed that no one buys mere goods or services these days, they buy the experience.
When I attend my gym, the company isn't just worried about providing me with decent equipment and classes; it wants to ensure my experience is as good as it could be.
From the entrance, I am bombarded with positive marketing campaigns; happy, healthy receptionists; smoothie stands; and uplifting pop music. The rowing machine almost seems an afterthought.
It is the same everywhere. Go for a haircut and you get a massage and a latte. Businesses recognise that it isn't just the end product people care about, they want a package. That doesn't mean just extras, although of course they help customers feel cared for, the entire interaction needs to be positive.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a weird one. The end product is entirely measurable, the benefits are easy to see. Has the client's visibility increased? Have visitor numbers risen? Are those visitors relevant and are they carrying out the hoped-for action once they hit the site? These are simple to monitor.
Yet, corporate clients also like to receive the experience, the package, to feel cared for. So what can we in the SEO industry do to achieve that? Here are my ideas, feel free to add your own in the comments if you think I have missed anything.
Be a person
It is so easy in the online marketing sector to never meet your clients but simply email. Perhaps the occasional chat on the phone might be in order but it is all too easy to allow communications to become functional and minimal.
Be a person to your clients. If it is at all possible, go and see them once you've won their business, get to know their names and interests, send them a Christmas card.
It is not hard, it does not cost a great deal but it makes for a much stronger working relationship.
Give them your number. Tell them you are always pleased to hear from them or to answer any questions they may have and encourage them to pick up the phone whenever they need to.
This will make your clients feel more connected, more able to approach you with concerns and questions and less likely to puzzle or fume in silence.
Don't forget, if you are a client's contact and you go incommunicado for whatever reason, holiday, parental leave, conferences, whatever, it is important to let them know and give them an alternative contact name. Few things will upset a client as much as not receiving a response.
Be at a decent location
Now, if you're raising an eyebrow at this one, bear with me. Most businesses have an office but some SEO start-ups are operating out of the developer's spare room. SEOptimise is lucky enough to have offices at the Oxford Science Park, but not everyone has reached that point in their business development.
If you lack an office, or if your building is in some less-than-attractive area, it may be prudent to make use of a virtual office. This means you can have a city-centre address but even more importantly, a receptionist service.
Most virtual offices will be able to rent you a meeting room at your virtual location, so you can meet your clients at the more impressive address and enhance their experience this way. Cynical perhaps, but definitely a sensible option for some smaller companies and one-man-bands.
Companies invest a great deal of money in their search campaigns and it is reassuring to know they have entrusted that cash with a professional who really knows their stuff.
By blogging, speaking at conferences if possible and providing guest articles, an SEO professional can develop a reputation. It may take time and planning to create such articles but it adds to your clients' overall SEO experience and also makes you more of a personable individual.
I hardly need to add but it is important to remember that all of the above is mere window dressing. It is important but it is an important extra, not the service itself.
The ultimate thing that determines the SEO experience is the success of the campaign. It doesn't matter how easy you are to contact, how authoritative and where your office is located if the service you deliver is less than expected.
It is important not to lose sight of that when considering enhancing the overall package your SEO company offers.