How do you tackle multiple clients in one industry?

Chris_Gregory

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Jul 21, 2012
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55
I would like to know how fellow Local SEO's have handled multiple clients in one vertical / Industry.

I have one of the largest HVAC companies in my local areas as a client and one of the smaller competitors reached out and wants a monthly SEO package. In truth they wouldn't compete much as this new client would be fighting over the bottom of the SERP's while the large client is fighting for top dog. However, eventually they will compete which will cause a conflict of interest.

This is coming up more and more as our client base grows so we are wanting to come up with a policy that is both fair and transparent. However, every plan so far isn't fair to either us as a company or our clients. The only truly fair policy is one client per vertical market but that can be very limiting as an SEO company.

How have you all tackled this problem?
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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Hi Chris,

You posted in the Private Pro forum where only pros will see it. It's such a great question and important topic I moved it to public so everyone can benefit from the discussion. Hope that's OK. Now I can Tweet it, to try to get more play too.

My business when I did Dentists was quite small since I worked alone and could only handle so many clients at a time AND I also didn't keep clients on long term. My program was only 3 months.

So I did offer a city exclusive for the 3 month period. But in big metro areas I stipulated I could take on 2 Dentists in that city, just not in the same quadrant. I never got any pushback and also never had to turn away a client due to location conflicts.

But again if you are working at a bigger scale than I was and focused on a single vertical it would be tough to offer exclusives. But then again if you work with all kinds of clients it would be easier to manage.

For me though what's right for the customer is an exclusive. I would personally feel like it was a conflict of interest to try to rank 2 competing clients in the same market.

My 2 cents... What does everyone else think?

Off to Tweet and anxious to hear what folks say.
 

Chris_Gregory

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Jul 21, 2012
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55
Thanks Linda. I'm totally fine with this post being wherever you think it does the most good.

Your model of doing a 3 month package makes sense and makes this problem a bit easier to tackle.

We focus on the Organics as well as Local and will also do content writing, link building and Social Media. Our typical client is over 12 months right now so locking up a vertical can be costly to us but given the amount of services I'm not sure we can do it any other way.

I'll be interested to hear how other professionals handle this issue.
 

DarlingSEO

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May 11, 2013
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6
We stick with the exclusivity clause. In a situation like this, I would refer out to a trusted indirect competitor of mine.

Guys in these verticals find the exclusivity thing important in my experience. That enhances your trusted working relationship with them.

The country is large so go wide and deep into the vertical to grow your business.

Btw... We work with the HVAC vertical as well if you need a decent place to refer them.

I hope that helps.
 

laurie

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Jan 18, 2013
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71
Interesting thread. By a three month exclusivity, do you mean that you work with them only in that particular city for three months and then go on and work with others in that same city?
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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Hi Laurie,

No sorry I mean my program was only for 3 months. (It was 3500 one time - but billed over 3 months and service delivered over 3 months.) So once service was complete and they had paid the full amount then we were done.

But I never prospected and just had Dentists come to me from all over so still seldom had in a market I'd already worked in.
 

Chris_Gregory

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Jul 21, 2012
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55
In a situation like this, I would refer out to a trusted indirect competitor of mine.
This is what I'm doing locally. There is a friendly competitor that I can refer them to but not sure how up to date they are on Local SEO. Which begs the next question. If we refer the new client that we couldn't help to a good competitor then aren't we creating competition for our main client and ourselves? (rhetorical) But directing the lead to a bad SEO is unethical. We can abstain and just say no but I got into this to help small businesses out and not turn them away.

I'm kind of ranting as much as looking for solutions but this is a dilemma that is fairly complex and doesn't have a simple solution IMO.

Thanks for the feed back.
 

DarlingSEO

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May 11, 2013
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This is what I'm doing locally. There is a friendly competitor that I can refer them to but not sure how up to date they are on Local SEO. Which begs the next question. If we refer the new client that we couldn't help to a good competitor then aren't we creating competition for our main client and ourselves? (rhetorical) But directing the lead to a bad SEO is unethical. We can abstain and just say no but I got into this to help small businesses out and not turn them away.

I'm kind of ranting as much as looking for solutions but this is a dilemma that is fairly complex and doesn't have a simple solution IMO.

Thanks for the feed back.
Yes... competition is so healthy though. It gets me totally energized. There is only one number 1 spot but many people are pretty happy with #2 spot too. It keeps you on your toes. :)

You are right, referring to a bad SEO does no one any good and would leave a bad taste in the mouth of the business owner you referred out.

I have found also that the electricians, plumbers, and HVAC guys I work with often refer work to their own competitors when things get really crazy busy. The really good ones have a mutual respect for each other and often pass work back and forth. It's like their own good ol' boy network they work within. Yet, they prefer that their online marketing, local SEO specialist, or PPC manager only works with them exclusively.

I'm starting to work very closely with another SEO specialist in this area. The thing is, they are way better than me in certain other areas. What I find is there is so much business to get and so much opportunity, it's not profitable to worry about how to keep competitors from getting your next client. It's more profitable to focus on delivering the best services you can for your clients. At the end of the day, as long as you are providing results, they are going to stick with you because they trust you and like you.
 

Brian

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Nov 2, 2012
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38
I think it depends partly on what vertical you are choosing and how many competitors there are. I work with attorneys and tell my clients that I will work with a maximum of of 3 clients in their area if it is a large city. A large city may upwards over 500 competing attorneys (mostly small firms). The fact that I am working with three of them does not create much of a conflict in my view. The key is to be open about this. The HVAC market is quite different because there are less firms competing and often times there are a few big firms that dominate. And taking on two of the big firms would be a huge conflict of interest.
 

Marie Ysais

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Sep 18, 2012
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242
This is a great answer and sometimes it does come up in smaller areas. I have had really big firms ask for exclusive SEO meaning I wouldn't work with any of their main competitors. But often the really big guys are not as concerned with the smaller fish. So I wouldn't have an issue with taking the smaller guy on for SEO. There are so many factors for local ranking including proximity. I don't see a problem with taking on a smaller firm and a larger firm in the same industry. It s a great question and difficult to answer. I think every situation is different. For me a smaller and larger company wouldn't be a problem to take on at the same time.

The larger companies that have asked for exclusive SEO ask for a 50 mile range. And there is a fee for that.
 

Chris_Gregory

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Jul 21, 2012
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Yes... competition is so healthy though. It gets me totally energized. There is only one number 1 spot but many people are pretty happy with #2 spot too. It keeps you on your toes. :)
Well said and I couldn't agree with you more.

---------- Post Merged at 09:54 AM ---------- Previous Post was at 09:44 AM ----------

Brian,

Your right on with the HVAC industry. There are usually 2-3 really large ones and then very small shops. Having one of the large ones (what we call Tier1) makes it very hard to work with anyone else in that category. Which at the end of the day is what we decided to do.

The challenge is lets say you start with a small client in a vertical and a Tier 1 client comes knocking. Do you stop working with the small client to take on the large client? We haven't faced that yet but right now we are running through all the scenarios that "could" happen to come up with a company policy.

I'm liking Linda's package more and more for small clients. 3 month SEO cycles for smaller clients and then if what we are calling a Tier 1 client comes calling you'll be free to work on them as no small clients are long term which probably suites them better anyway.

---------- Post Merged at 09:57 AM ---------- Previous Post was at 09:54 AM ----------

Marie,

I agree with you on being able to work on a small client and a large client. It actually allows you to double up on domain knowledge on the industry which helps both. Not every client will see it that way but some might.

I like your 50 mile radius for a fee rule as well.
 

laurie

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Jan 18, 2013
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71
Hi Laurie,

No sorry I mean my program was only for 3 months. (It was 3500 one time - but billed over 3 months and service delivered over 3 months.) So once service was complete and they had paid the full amount then we were done.

But I never prospected and just had Dentists come to me from all over so still seldom had in a market I'd already worked in.
Thanks Linda. So you never took on more than one dentist for local seo in that area?
 

DarlingSEO

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May 11, 2013
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6
The challenge is lets say you start with a small client in a vertical and a Tier 1 client comes knocking. Do you stop working with the small client to take on the large client?


That has happened to me. It will test your integrity. What did I do? I stuck to my word and made my smaller client so successful they became a force to be reckoned with. Also, the smaller they are, the smaller the geography I will promise exclusivity in.

I guess, at the end of the day, it depends on your vision, goals, and how you intend to be known in your community for what you do.
 

Tony

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May 23, 2013
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15
I've always compared this conflict of interest to trying to have one coach for two teams. Ranking is as competitive a business sport as you'll find. Between two companies, there aren't many publicly known measurables to help keep score, but Rank certainly is. It's the equivalent of being at a game, hearing a fan taunt another, and the targeted person simply says, "Scoreboard.". lol

I work in a vertical with a large client pool to draw from, so it's actually not too common. I do not take on legitimate competitors, to the point that when I get a referral via a friendly competitor, I ask for a compelling reason as to why I should entertain the idea. I have never accepted one. (And, truthfully, the friendly competitors who gave the referral will often hedge, as they were just trying to be nice, and I do the dirty work by turning the new company down, due to the conflict. Win/Win)
 

jerry

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Mar 1, 2013
Messages
41
I've always politely refused. It's conflict of interest, whichever client you put the best effort is going to reap more benefits and that would be the client with biggest budget. While you may benefit from some short-term financial gains, if clients find out you burned both ends of the candle, that's not good ethics. The right thing to do would be to turn down second client and explain to client why, they will respect you for doing so.
 

Nick.SEOSpark

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Aug 4, 2012
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343
I'm liking Linda's package more and more for small clients. 3 month SEO cycles for smaller clients and then if what we are calling a Tier 1 client comes calling you'll be free to work on them as no small clients are long term which probably suites them better anyway.
Yes, I very much like Linda's pricing. I think that everyone "ideally" wants monthly pricing because of the lure of "passive income" but it actually has some subtle disadvantages. I've also found that it's not financially viable to a lot of small businesses. They prefer a "one-off" package.

So, I have moved the pricing more towards offering monthly only to those who can afford it, and want it.

In this case, it would work well, as you would work with the small business for a set amount of time.
 

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