To obtain a good cash flow, SEO agencies and freelancers need to have a consistent stream of clients who not only pay well but also pay on time. If your business fails to obtain a sufficiently stable client stream, then you will also lose your cash flow. If that happens, a lot of bad things will start to happen to your business.
So how does one obtain clients? This is done by ensuring that your business receives a consistent volume of leads or inquiries from parties interested in your services. The practice of obtaining these leads is most often referred to as lead generation.
Lead generation is often one of the more challenging things a new SEO agency has to deal with. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably only have a limited advertising budget and barely have the time to do search engine optimization for your own website. But while lead generation can be challenging and potentially expensive for new agencies, there are, nonetheless, plenty of opportunities for developing your lead generation efforts that will only require perseverance, sincerity, and a bit of luck.
We managed to grow SearchWorks from a small startup of just five people into a fairly large and highly respected agency using the lead generation ideas below. The great thing about some of these methods is that you can gradually put less work into them as time goes on. Hopefully, you can use our hard-earned experiences in SEO lead generation to sustainably grow your own SEO business as well.
Referrals / Word of Mouth
Referrals are probably the least cash-intensive lead generation channel for SEO agencies. However, to get a good volume of referrals, you need to develop good word of mouth from your current and past clients, former bosses, former coworkers, as well as industry colleagues. If you’re able to successfully explain what an SEO does to your friends and family, they can also potentially refer you to some qualified leads. If these contacts have a positive opinion of you and your abilities, they may eventually recommend you to paying clients who need the kind of SEO services that you could deliver.
Here at SearchWorks, relationships with former coworkers, old bosses, and past clients are especially important to us. In many cases, we’ve already earned their trust years before we even started the agency, which made it easy for them to choose us for small contracts when we went into the SEO business for ourselves. If you’re still only planning to start an SEO agency or go freelance, it’s probably a good idea to start building your network and your reputation as an SEO professional before you do.
Thought leadership involves expressing ideas in a way that makes it apparent that you understand what you are talking about. This goes hand in hand with referrals and can be used to gain a dedicated following outside of your immediate network.
In SearchWorks, our vlogging, hosting of SEO events and conferences, and day-to-day interactions with fellow SEO enthusiasts on social media and other fora could be considered attempts at thought leadership — even though we do not always think of them that way.
The trick to thought leadership — if you could call it that — is to not be concerned about the leads or the cash flow it will bring your business. If you try to establish thought leadership for those reasons, it will never work because your motivations and credibility will always be suspect. Rather, we find that it was much better to use our authority to share our hard-earned knowledge and experience for the benefit of others.
In any case, we’ve found thought leadership to be a source of very high-quality leads. If you’re invited to speak about SEO at an event or conference, chances are very high that you already have some traction in your industry. This, in turn, means that there may be some well-connected high-value leads there listening to what you have to say. Here in the Philippines, high-value clients will rarely use a search engine to look up SEO services. Rather they will use events to scout for potential service providers because they can be sure that whoever is speaking probably has credibility.
While thought leadership requires a lot of dedication, the potential payoff can be immense. And if you’re generous, approachable, and truly find digital marketing to be a fascinating field, chances are you’ll become a thought leader before you even realize it happened.
Client Relationship Development
We aim to maintain great relationships with clients for several reasons. First, satisfied clients are more likely to extend their engagements, which is great news for cash flow. Second, delivering good service and client satisfaction takes the pressure off our lead generation efforts, as we’re utilizing the leads that do come our way more efficiently.
The great thing about successfully growing your client’s business is that it raises the possibility of them expanding their SEO requirements, diversifying, or spinning off a new business. In those cases, because it’s already proven itself, your agency is likely to be the first choice to assist the client in these new endeavors. If they have business partners or other service providers for those ventures, their endorsement of your agency will likely help your further expand your network of high-value referrals.
White Label Partnerships
In a white label partnership, your agency will essentially be a subcontractor for another digital marketing agency that engages with the client. While there are exceptions, the digital marketing agency you’re partnered with will get most or all of the credit for your SEO work.
If you do a great job, chances are they may want to work with you again or refer you to their other partners. In this way, white label partnerships can be a way for your business to expand its network and develop a steady stream of engagements.
This practice is controversial in the SEO community for obvious reasons. However, from our perspective, the digital agencies that we engage with for white label partnerships are just like any other client. So long as the conditions are right, we’re willing to work with other agencies under these arrangements.
Other Marketing Channels
As SEO professionals, we should also have working knowledge of how to leverage other digital marketing channels. Diversifying and developing your lead generation channels will allow you to expand your reach and make it easier to attract qualified leads.
However, unless you have a big agency, you’re probably going to have to choose just a few channels to develop. What the right channels are will differ according to your circumstances and specialization.
For instance, while SearchWorks does actively compete for local SEO search terms, we only do this for specific keywords, as other much larger Philippine SEO agencies have had years to consolidate their lead for the choicest search terms. Because of this, we are more likely to put resources into referrals, content marketing, PPC, and social media advertising, depending on the situation.
This isn’t to say our approach is going to be the best one for you. Other SEO agencies with different specializations and target markets have had success with such strategies as cold-calling and email marketing. Others have even benefitted from more traditional marketing channels. You can test different things to find a comfortable yet productive mix of channels that match your expertise and help you meet your lead generation goals.
Hopefully, these lead generation ideas will help your SEO agency or freelance practice gain the cash flow it needs to further thrive and develop.
If there’s one lesson you should take away from all of this, it’s that while getting new leads is important, the quality of the leads matters more than the quantity. Some popular lead generation strategies like social media ads and cold calling can help you rack up an extremely high number of leads. However, as many as these leads are, they are unlikely to be as valuable as the leads that you get from direct referrals, thought leadership, or delighting clients by effectively growing their business.
In our experience, prioritizing these methods has not only helped us lower our lead generation costs but has also led to longer, more fruitful client engagements that have helped stabilize the agency’s finances. The beauty of these approaches is that they tend to be self-reinforcing. So long as we keep helping the wider SEO community and keep delivering good results for our clients, more high-quality leads just naturally follow.
If you want to learn more about SEO best practices, digital marketing, or how we grew SearchWorks.PH into the most respected SEO company in the Philippines, feel free to contact our team.