Business Issues For the small SEM Shop

Dec 4, 2006 - 11:28 am 3 by
Filed Under SES Chicago 2006

SEM Firm Track

Session: Business Issues For the small SEM Shop Desc: It started out small and slow, but now your business is ramping up fast. An email agreement for work no longer seems safe. Is it time for formal contracts? If so, what do you put in them? And does billing hourly still make sense as you better understand the long-term value of your service? What do you do when a client wants in house training? In this session, advice from those who've dealt with these and similar questions and come through to success.

Moderator: Anne Kennedy, Managing Partner, Beyond Ink

Speakers: Anne Kennedy, Managing Partner, Beyond Ink Todd Friesen, Director of Search Engine Optimization, Range Online Media Ken Jurina, President and CEO, Epiar Inc. Jessie Stricchiola, Founder, Alchemist Media Inc. Greg Boser, President, WebGuerrilla LLC

AK = Anne Kennedy - unable to attend conference TF = Todd Friesen KJ = Ken Jurina JS = Jessie Stricchiola GB = Greg Boser - unable to attend

(Starting late...missing a speaker. Room was very hot when we first arrived but thankfully they turned down the temp. Not a packed room. About half way full. Spoke with an attendee from NYC advertising and media firm. She explained Second Life and described it in more detail. You can create your own avatar and conduct business "for real". Virtual world with real money and real businesses. Greg Boser is not here.)

Anne Kennedy not coming due to death in the family. Jessie is moderating. Asks how many people are independent, sole prop. First speaker is KJ.


Asked how many people are new to SES. Welcomes everyone to SES. Owns a small firm. Growing. 4 Typical pricing models. Monthly fees, retainer based. Monthly maint. Pay for performance. You take commission of that. Fee for service, project based. Hourly consult, quick approach and SEO suggestions.

Funny scribbled papers displayed about "Our extensive planning": Start small and build. The reality is your not charging enough. 85% is fee for service, spec. deliverables, 10% ppf, 5% customized services. Analyze keyphrases, keyword placement, inboud link campaigns and reporting, online PR. Stick to your "profitable" business model. If necessary offer customerized services. You're the expert. Don't let customer dicate to you. Customer ser vices. web site audits (yay!), Show whats going well and going wrong and "inherit the mess". Reviewing sites, looking for problems, don't fix problems for free. Web analytics, before and after. Monthly maintenance and marketing plans. Hourly consult. Hourly is 3rd party copywriters, agencies web dev companies. Plan for it, estimate the time it takes to educate client. Allow time working with internal personnel.

Cusomter Profiling. Determine your target market and go after it.Get the decision maker into the presentation. If marketing person makes decision, find out how much moneyand authority they have and get to the person who has more. Pricing and perception - initial was fixed at i.e. $25K. Clients understand the process if educated and given opportunity to tast the goods. Phone and email contact vital with client. Detail what you will do. Don't confuse them. They may not understand what you are doing. Establish trust. Be clear. Outline price, deliverables, time frame, price - all in the front, first page of proposal. References in back, info on your website. Be clear. Invoicing cycle be clear on when. Outline client and your responsibiles. Show professionalism.

Location. Different pricing depend on where your business is located. Pricing points depend on where the client is. Some companies expect higher pricing. Small town companies expect large companypricing. Be competitively priced. Focus on organized strenghts. Proprietary software applications. Focus on preferred biz model, find niche. Small companies provide product and services. Find out where you make your profit and capitalize on that. Find local great brands, for referrals. Right customers help you prospect new ones. Be active in industry events, blog, training seminars, SEMPO, associations, exhibits, sometimes you may the only one there (no competition!) and focus is on you. Exit you have one? Value in your intellectual property (software r & d costs).


Pricing and Contracts for the Small SEM shop. He started out as the 1-man shop. Did everything. Now works for a larger agency, about 53 people. Never compromise on these. Walk away from client who won't accept them. Protect yourself. Indemificaton is a two way street. Identify yur client for negligent acts or ommissions. You want to be protected. Agreement Termination is give your client a way out. Restrict a a clients right to terminate the contract to you submitting a serious breath that cannot be remedied within 14 days time. Be fair. If client screws up, try to fix it first before walking away.

Intellectural property rights - you own that. Never agree to relinquish your intellectual rights to anything you create or contribute to unless you've negotiated a separate (large) fee.

Confientiality. Do not give away client information. Works both ways. You don;t want to lose business because someone found your secret methods and are using it. Resolving disputes. You don't want the expense of being sued. If something goes wrong, you want your own lawyer. Google changed that, not me (example.) Performance based contracts. Growing in popularity. A lot of fun. Spinoff of affiliate marketing. If Idon't drive you biz, you don't have to pay me anything. Pitch a huge cost, scary. Pitch performance, and charge more for it. Esb proper baseline data. Be accurate. Always workoff of gross revenue. You get "x" percent of money. Don't gouge them for something that was easy for you to do. Be reasonable. Bring real value. Give them an out. Let them go when you are obviously not offering them any value anymore. More work is done is up front. Provide an early exit clause for the client. Don't force them to stay with you. Service - if you charge hourly, triple it! Don't be afraid to charge more money. Lower money brings in crappy clients who are more needy. They expect the moon for less. More value associated with higher fees. You must know what you're doing. Larger companies understand the higher paid consultant. You will be left alone to do your thing. It will change your client base. download old episodes. is his other site to come and visit.


Survival of the smallest in SEM Consulting. She also talks about underselling our services. She tells a story of someone who tripled fees and he increased his business. You can learn from "big dogs". Small biz don't have many resources. You rely on word of mouth lead generation. Lack of top 10 rankings for sem related terms. If you are new or small, your biz is not ranked as high as big dogs. Focus on local client base. Limited cash flow. Client issues are dealing with tech/design teams, external agencies, prior sem engagement/expecations, ego. You are dealing with your clients issues. Create sucessful client relationships, even before you start the work. Expectation managment. Prescreen your client, for better sucess rate. Client selection is the biggest factor. Do they understand SEO, have they hired others, committment, financial stability. Did they go through many SEM's before you? Find out how many? Why hasn't it worked for them? You want to be the savior but hold back from that. Why after two or three did they not work out? This is a red flag. Problem is likely on their side. Proceed with caution. Important to discover is their resources. Don't let them delete your work! Do they have access to your work and can mess with it? They may be dealing with their 3rd party providers, which is another hurdle for you. If they are limited, so are you.

Is your client available. Do they have resources available to you if you need them. Who is responsible for managing your campaign? Find out their Net payment date. Net 15, Net 60, Net 90 (no!). Determine whether you will have a direct accounting contact for payment and if you are okay with the arrangment. Get a contact. Person who signed the deal is not the person who signing the check in many cases. Communication is vital. Don't keep secrets. Doesn't fly. They need to know what your doing. Explain what you will do and not do and how. Describe your methods. Establish trust so they can handle risks or bad news better. They will feel informed. What are your expectations of their team throughout the project. Are their risks involved with the SEO process and if so, explain it to them.

Choose clients wisely. A lot of business going around. Make sure internal unity. Everyone is on the same page. Do they have good communication skills. Cultural fit. No ego factors. They shouldn't choose the top keywords. You do. Time zones are an issue. Some clients are casual, some are suit and tie. Pre-screen clients. Don't settle. Develop the long term potential clients rather than short term ones. Don't rush for cash flow reasons.


Tools - What kind of tools can a small shop use? Firefox extensions, web analytics, download Web deveoper extension, search status search status, quirkco. web developer toolbar firefox, aaron wall seo book seoforfirefox extension. has good tools.

Pricing cross country issues. Pricing on first page will scare off new client? Demonstrate what you will do first. Give verbal overview and then make a presentation. Webex presentation.


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