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5 Keys To Reselling Search Engine Marketing To Small Businesses

Through the years, Marchex has created, managed and optimized hundreds of thousands of small business search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns on behalf of our partners. These include some of the world’s largest small business aggregators, such as AT&T and Yellow Pages Group Canada. This is really hard work – we’ve made plenty of mistakes and we’ve learned a lot along the way.

We have established important frameworks to deliver consistent success, which really means becoming one of the best lead providers in the industry by driving calls, clicks to a web site, emails and form fills to small businesses.

If you are currently selling SEM to small or local businesses, or considering doing so, here are five points you can use to create a successful outcome:

1. Select The Right Product & Set The Right Expectations

If you’re not selling an SEM product that performs and meets the needs of your small business customers, you will be confronted with some serious challenges out of the gate. In my experience, the right product must have the following basic components:

  1. An effective rules-based engine that delivers against clearly set expectations, such as “traffic” or “leads” goals.
  2. The ability to support a variety of potential traffic sources such as online and mobile search, mobile applications, and call directories in order to maximize the quality and quantity of traffic or leads.

In addition, you must set the right expectation with your customers by ensuring that you deliver on the promise of your sales and marketing efforts.

2. Train & Motivate Your Sales Team

No different than selling any other product, a knowledgeable and motivated sales force has a greater chance of being successful. A good starting point is getting your sales team up-to-speed on the fundamentals with an SEM 101 class.

Equally important is to provide advanced training that includes objection handling, how to position SEM with–or against–other media, product differentiation, and understanding changes in the market (e.g., mobile distribution). This is necessary given that many small businesses are actually quite sophisticated and becoming even more so every day.

Your sales team must be prepared to engage in these conversations, which will ultimately help drive initial sales as well as renewals. Also, keep in mind that SEM expertise requires continuous learning because search engines evolve, products transform, and customer attitudes and objections change quickly.

Therefore, sales training should be an ongoing commitment for your organization to keep skills current and the team excited about selling. In fact, we’ve found that ongoing training results in up to 30% lift in customer acquisition.

Providing sales incentives can also be a fundamental component of successfully selling search. Typically, search engine marketing is one of many advertising and product offers your sales team is pitching. If the sales team is not motivated properly with bonuses, prizes, recognition, or similar incentives, then you risk losing momentum for search product sales. Once that happens, it’s very difficult to recover.

3. Have A Clear, Simple Message

Too many times I have seen search engine marketing materials that are sure to make a small business owner’s head spin. You may get more interest and better adoption by highlighting the benefits of SEM. These benefits may include generating more qualified leads, delivering measurable results, saving time and greater efficiency.

Often times, the message focuses on the complexity that goes into planning and executing a campaign. SEM can be a difficult concept to grasp for small businesses (and even for professionals in the industry).

Therefore, it’s critical to deliver a message that is clear, jargon-free, and easy to digest for the small business owner. Then, your sales team can provide the campaign set-up, management and optimization guidance when called upon by the more sophisticated prospect or customer.

4. Bundle With Complementary Products

Often, SEM is easier to implement initially for a small business if it is part of an advertising bundle. An advertising bundle for a small business may include search engine marketing plus print advertising, web hosting, online presence management, website creation, and/or listings submission.

Once a small business advertising solution goes live, it is imperative to show results specific to search marketing campaign performance. This is the best way to prove the value and effectiveness of SEM for a small business and reduce churn from this product.

5. Show Value To Your Customers

Last, but definitely not least, are two primary reasons small businesses terminate their search engine marketing contracts:

  • A small business customer doesn’t believe he’s getting the results he paid for.
  • The small business owner doesn’t understand what exactly she’s paying for.

In both cases, the problem usually isn’t due to an under-performing account. It’s more likely that the small business doesn’t understand the results or benefits of the program.

It’s important to simply and consistently prove the value of search engine marketing to a small business by communicating account performance through basic reporting, e-newsletters and alerts, and renewal campaigns.

A thoughtful and relevant approach here will go a long way to reducing churn, increasing revenue and improving customer satisfaction.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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