How to Sell SEO Services to Local Businesses

Jake Sheridan
Oct 31, 2019

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If you’re running a digital marketing professional or an agency, you know the importance of growing your business by acquiring more clients. However, there’s a lot of competition that makes it difficult for you to stand out.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in the SEO world or just starting out, knowing how to sell SEO services to local businesses is a vital skill to master.

Here’s a useful guide to help you improve your sales approach.

How to Find Potential Customers

Digital marketing professionals and agencies these days face more competition than ever, and it’s leading to a big problem—all the potential clients you want to target have likely already been swamped by other pitches.

Back in 2014, Search Engine Land conducted a survey of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) on how frequently they were contacted by someone selling their SEO services.

Even back then, 35% said they were contacted at least once a day, and another 22% said they were contacted at least once a week. Digital marketing has only grown since then, so those percentages will likely be even higher now.

That means you have to be smarter with how you find and approach your prospective clients. You have to understand the minds and pain points of small business owners in your area so you don’t make the same mistakes as most agencies.

There are three approaches you can take that you can mix and match to find the best sales plan that works for you.

1. Establish yourself in as a specialist

What can really help you stand out from your competitors when you’re starting out is specializing in a niche. It can be restaurants, health-related clinics, car dealerships, B2B businesses, eCommerce stores, and so on.

If you’ve ever had any kind of experience or knowledge of a specific industry in your past, use that to your advantage! Being able to understand the ins-and-outs of a business that’s unique to one industry is a major selling point.

It also helps you understand the local business owner when you approach them — you’ll know the pain points they have, and how to address them in a way that they’ll understand. It’s a great way to establish trust with prospective clients they won’t have with general agencies.

2. Create a strong reputation

It takes a long time to cultivate a reputation as the go-to SEO provider among local businesses. You have to establish yourself as a leading authority, so your own clients and customers will spread the word that you’re the best of the best. When people seek you out, they’ll come with a trust they wouldn’t have with any generic agency.

The first step is to get out there and put yourself in front of local businesses — but not in a sales manner. Look up your city or town’s chamber of commerce. They will occasionally hold events and seminars where experts address companies that choose to attend on a number of topics related to business.

It might cost you a bit in time and money, but start building relationships with the Chamber of Commerce members who hold the events and see if you can eventually become either a speaker or even a host or sponsor.

Being able to give out advice and tips to other business owners on matters relating to SEO helps you establish your expertise in the field.

You might even have some of them come up to you after you speak to ask you questions, so you can start building relationships that might eventually lead to them contacting you for your services.

3. Leverage your relationships

Networking and relationships drive the business world. Being able to use the connections you have, and make new connections over time can really help your business grow.

If you’re just starting your own SEO business, make sure you put it out there that you are open to helping family, friends, former co-workers and other professional connections that you’re open for business.

Chances are there aren’t many degrees of separation between you and someone you are connected with who works as a manager at an SMB. Even if there aren’t many people you personally know who own a small or medium business, they might know someone who is in need of help.

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How to Approach Potential Customers

First impressions are important, which is why you should spend a lot of time refining how you first approach a customer. Many agencies go for a quantity over quality process, just sending out the same generic emails or cold calls to any business in the area that they can find.

Unfortunately, the inundation of those sorts of calls and emails means your job is a lot more difficult. Your customer is probably already tired of hearing from people like you.

You can take a soft approach by focusing on marketing. Put your message and your business out to people online using the same SEO and digital marketing techniques you would use on for them.

Make social media posts, white papers, press releases, and newsletters that get people to sign up to receive more information. That way you are attracting people and businesses that have an active interest in what you can offer. It makes selling your services easier.

Then there’s the more direct approach, which involves finding and reaching out to local businesses yourself. It is the most tedious and most difficult way to do it, but if you can do it well then you can get the most reward.

Do your research into their business so you can figure out what approach might work best for them. Try cultivating a relationship with them first. Seek them out at events they host or are attending so you have a reason to approach them in person.

Don’t just spam them with emails. It’s very impersonal and they already receive them on a daily basis. If you do send them an email, customize it to speak their needs and their industry. You can play around with different subject lines that get to the point, but that are personalized for each business.

How to Make Your Sales Pitch Stand Out

Once you have a potential client’s attention and they agree to hear your SEO sales pitch, the hardest part may be over but you still have work to do. You want to be able to stand out compared to your competitors, including any SEO provider they already use.

Establish your expertise

The customer needs to be able to trust that you can provide them with the solutions they need, which means two things: you have to show off your knowledge, but you also have to do it in a way that they will be able to understand. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Provide case studies or examples of what you did for other clients similar to their business and how successful they were
  • Back up your claims with statistics and quotes from authoritative sources
  • Showcase your knowledge of new SEO trends and algorithmic updates
  • Analyze their SEO and online presence
  • Analyze their competitors to show what they do well and what they don’t

This will require a lot of preparation on your part, but it can really pay off in the end if you have solid evidence that they can trust your abilities.

Showcase the solutions you can offer

You need to use the above to show the customer how you will use that expertise to help their business. It’s not enough to simply say what you know, observe a problem on their website, and think that’s enough.

You have to illustrate a problem they have, explain why it’s a problem, and then say exactly what you can do to fix it. You don’t have to delve deep with a technical answer, but you can’t just say “I’ll solve your problem”.

Be transparent and set expectations

This means when you are telling them what you can do to fix their problems, map it out for them. Give them options, timelines, and costs so they can start thinking and planning on fitting your services in their budgets, and forecasting the potential impact on their sales.

Focus on the customer’s needs

Never base your pitch around what you want, how you want to do your presentation, or what you want out of them — there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach since every business is different and has different needs.

If they don’t have many local competitors, focus on bringing them new business from farther away. If they’ve used an SEO service in the past, or currently, you don’t have to do a comprehensive SEO pitch and can focus on their biggest problems.

Be flexible

This should be worked out before you actually present your sales pitch, but make sure the client can pick the amount and quality of service that suits their needs and their budget. Map out the cost for individual services, have some packages that make sense, give them the option to walk away at any given time rather than forcing them into a contract.

Make sure they always have access to the work you do for them and don’t hold it hostage so they stay with you.

Give them an extra incentive

It might be a demo of your services that they can try out either at a smaller scale or for a limited time. You can make it free or at least cheaper for them to try it, but don’t make it so long or so comprehensive that you’re giving away work for free. They just need a taste and enough time to be able to see the immediate and long term benefit of your services.

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

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