A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: Winning Business with Pre-Sales Audits for SEO and Content Agencies
A discussion about how pre-sales audits can help digital marketing and SEO agencies win business, avoid pitfalls, and reduce costs.
Erin O’Brien, President at GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Hi and welcome to today’s episode of FOUND Friday, a weekly series dedicated to discussing search and content marketing. I’m Erin, the president of GinzaMetrics which is a platform that provides data and insights around search and content for brands and their competitors.
Today we’re going to be discussing a topic that has been brought up a number of times recently which is pre-sales audits for agencies pitching new business. Pitching new business is often one of the most expensive things that an agency does like expending tons of resources to do research and legwork to prove why they’re the best choice for the client. As listed agencies competing for business continues to grow, organizations have started asking for more and more upfront work often unpaid to prove agency capabilities. And I know that a lot of agency folks are expressing some concern over what this really means overall for getting new business.
For agencies a lot of times it does mean getting access to insights around potential clients, their competitors and industry needs – this actually needs to happen this quickly and affordably. And conducting what are often referred to as pre-sales audits is a popular way to highlight understanding of current issues on a site as well as in a market from and SEO and content standpoint. They’re also expanding to combine both search and content as well as sometimes we’re starting to see some social factors being added in there as well. Let’s kind of talk about what’s involved in pre-sales audits, how they can help you win business, some potential drawbacks, and how to get set up quickly and effectively without breaking the bank.
First, I want to review the purpose of a pre-sales audit in the new business prospecting phase for agencies. For most agencies, there’s a review process that happens when clients are considering bringing on outside help. Whether it’s for creative, technical skills, the combination of the two, there are a lot of options and different agency styles, team setups and philosophies for tackling problems.
Some of the most important things in creating positive client and agency partnerships include understanding the real goals of the client both what they’ve stated their goals are as well as what they’re being measured on and what they haven’t told you about . There’s always something that they haven’t told you about or that they don’t even themselves know that you’re going to find out later.
Knowing what they’re expectations are and how your team would be meeting those expectations. Knowing who’s involved in both the day-to-day process as well as who has ultimate decision-making authority and how you are uniquely capable of helping them reach their goals. Obviously, they’ve got a lot of different choices, there has to be something that sets you apart at least hopefully because you really need to be able to stand out and hopefully you have a different philosophy and a way of tackling things than everyone else.
For search and content agencies, a pre-sales audit can help you get positioned better for accomplishing those things. Some of the things that a pre-sales audit can help you do include getting a shared baseline of current site and content performance, giving some insight and detail into the client’s expectations around improvements in traffic, rank, conversions and other benchmarks or KPI’s that they may have, and understanding kind of the overall market including directing indirect competitors. These are some things that a pre-sales audit should be able to provide for you and help you get a little bit more color around.
First, let’s talk about setting a baseline of current site and content rank performance. This gives you and the potential client a shared starting set of metrics that you can discuss. You may find that they disagree with your findings or that what you consider to be bad performance for a certain content or ranking is actually something that they feel is acceptable or vice versa. You may also find that they have unrealistic expectations in terms of total traffic conversions, changes in rank or other metrics based on the starting point that you determined during this initial audit. You can also find out that they may have something like unrealistic or different opinions of expectations based on their stated budget, resources, other competitors and market and a lot of other factors. This is a really great time to see where any of those mismatches occur so that you can go ahead and start those discussions and hopefully avoid some painful conversations later where people really just feel like their wants and needs haven’t been met.
When it comes to performing the audit, another key component is helping the client really understand their place in the market and the competition. Too often I really see and hear about agencies focusing on how the competition is performing overall and not expanding the client’s view of who the real competition is and how it’s actually affecting different segments of their business.
What I mean by that is when we’re looking at an entire site, there are also a lot of different types of content there. Whether it’s individual features and products based on audience personas, different locations or just the difference between overall general awareness kinds of content and deeper more educational material or support materials, there are a lot of different types of content going on in this site.
To do the best job at understanding site performance, you really need to create content groups that can then be leveraged to understand and analyze and compare how all these different types of content are working. What kinds of keywords are driving traffic to these types of content? Who the real competition is for each of these types of groups? What improvements need to be made and what groups of content are the highest priority now? Because most often when we get started working with a new client, you’re not going to just be able to tackle everything all at once. Or even if you could, you should still probably prioritize and focus on making incremental improvements so that you can actually measure and do some experiments. Let’s say you really want to focus on one particular type of group of content, you can actually take the improvements that you’re making in that content group and show how that group of optimized content is performing better than other groups that you haven’t started to optimize yet.
Going back to this idea of competitors and finding competitors and how people maybe are focused on here’s you and here’s your competition and here’s where they’re outranking you and here’s where you’re outranking them, we want to talk about finding competitors at the group level. What we’re looking for is not just other brands that are vying for direct dollars, we’re also looking at any content that’s taking traffic away from your potential clients.
For example, if we’re working with Nike’s running shoe department and you know that Brooks and ASICS are competitors and you’re already comparing their rankings and content. What you’re also likely to find is stuff like Runner’s World and other publications. Mass aggregators as e-commerce sites and things are also garnering a considerable amount of traffic for your keywords. While you may not be directly competing with them for the sale of a particular type of shoe, you are competing with them for attention, education, and overall attraction of eyeballs. So knowing what content they’re creating that’s actually resonating with your target audience can give you powerful information for what you might focus on.
We’ve done a lot of conversations around Competitor Discovery, competitor groups, keyword groups, content groups, so we’re not going to focus on it now. But in terms of getting the most out of your audit and leveraging your kind of overall site and search data and your content data, it’s really critical to be set up correctly there and parse things out into these groups so that you’ve got the best shot.
Another question we get a lot around this is what should agencies consider in this pre-sales audit idea and had discussions that include suggestions ranging from full-site audits with recommendations for improvements and these big documents, more like executive summary, key findings, a couple of bullet points.
Some of the concern for agencies naturally is that clients will take this information that you’ve provided for free up front before signing a contract and get these recommendations from a really quality shop and then either make the improvements internally themselves or hire somebody less expensive to implement and execute all these changes. This is a real issue because it does happen. So taking into account how much you’re willing to provide up front is important and that’s really something that you have to determine internally what you’re really willing to do.
One big deciding factor obviously is how much resource expenditure is happening on your end every time you do one of these pre-sales audits. If each time you do one of these audits it’s costing you thousands and thousands of dollars, obviously you may be considering not providing as much information or being a little bit more close to [9:18 inaudible] that or only using it for people who you feel like you’re 95% of the [9:24 inaudible]. But if you have a way to do this regularly in a systemized fashion, it doesn’t actually eat up a lot of time and money, this may be something that you can use as a prospecting tool to close a lot more business.
One of the things that we’ve done at GinzaMetrics is to create custom dashboards and reports that can be used to pre-sales audits. These dashboards can include a variety of different types of analytics and insights modules for the sites that you’ve chosen can then be edited. Each module can be edited to show the data, the timelines, the information that you want. You can also add your own notes, you can add titles, you can put in little annotations with custom information. This creates a really personalized experience for each client but can be templatized into something that you can use over and over again.
One of the great things too is you can actually set it up as an automatic template that will generate every time you add a new site. So if you go ahead and add in a URL for a potential new customer, this report will generate automatically for you and it will just be ready and you don’t actually need to implement, put any code on the site or even have an analytics connection. A lot of the data that we can provide you is just already there and available. Because we allow you to have unlimited reporting, unlimited custom dashboards and white label everything for free, this tends to be a really great prospecting tool for folks in the platform to check out.
One of the questions I’m asked frequently when it comes to creating these templates is what else should be included? I always give this infuriating “it depends” answer. I’ll expand on some things that I think are important.
Obviously, what all needs to go into a template depends on what kind of agency you are or what types of services you offer and what your potential clients are interested in. That’s where the “it depends” part comes in. In my opinion though, providing an audit that just has standard information that clients likely already know from their own analytics providers or can get really easily isn’t going to leave a lasting impression or be very useful in starting the kinds of conversation you’ll need to have in order to have a really solid relationship and help them meet goals.
I like to include what we’ll call a baseline metrics obviously as we discussed earlier because it really helps you set the tone and some expectations for where you are but beyond that it gets important to dig for at least a couple of good insights that can spark ideas or give ideas for real change. Some of these possible areas that you might get insights from include Competitor Discovery, Keyword Discovery, the intersection of search and social, the universal search which shows true rank based on all elements on the page – that may be ads, Knowledge Graph, videos, photos – where your client is actually ranking even with all these other elements because they may be showing rank position 1 or 2. But in fact, there’s a video, ad, shopping results all on the page above them so they’re actually, in some cases, even below the fold for rank number 1 and so they’re not getting the traffic they think they should be getting, so this can be some real insight for them.
Then obviously local and mobile trends. Since we don’t have time to get into each of these individually on the show today, if you like more information on those, you can check out the blog post from this episode next week which will include things like links and more information. You can also view some of our previous shows that review all of these different features or go to the GinzaMetrics website at GinzaMetrics.com and check out our features, support and onboarding center with the Ginza Academy. You can also e-mail me directly which is email@example.com.
Last note about the importance of these pre-sales audits. They can really help you shorten the time it takes to onboard your client which is a common frustration for both parties. Getting onboarded and taking a bunch of time initially to go through a lot of things and do a lot of research and fact-finding. Once somebody already signed a contract means they feel like they’re already paying for something and aren’t necessarily seeing you make a lot of headway and you feel like you’re getting pressure from them to make a lot of headway without having done your due diligence and really understanding necessarily what they need from you.
As I mentioned earlier, when you’re setting up this baseline of current site and content performance using real data, you’re also able to have conversations around expectations, goals, and resources that come from understanding that starting point. So if you provide deeper insights and ideas as a part of your audit, you’re actually giving your potential client a look at your philosophy and approach to problem solving as well as guidance into the tactics that you’ll potentially be using to accomplish goals which a lot of people want to talk about. So sometimes you’ll find that they have tactics in mind already or an approach that they’ve already tried in the past that they didn’t like or that they’d like to see implemented differently.
A lot of times when you do an audit, you are able to actually talk about, “Hey, we noticed that this was happening. These are some things that we would normally do to address that.” Then maybe your client will have feedback based on either “Hey, that’s a great idea,” or “Actually, we tried that previously. We’re not really sure.” You can also gauge if there’s any hesitation around what those tactics might look like being implemented. You can learn from maybe some past wins and failures there.
That’s all the time we have today but you can always e-mail with questions or suggestions at either firstname.lastname@example.org or to me directly, email@example.com. You can also join the conversation or make suggestions on Twitter using #FOUNDFriday.
Until next time. Have a great day. Thanks for joining. Goodbye.