In the online marketing space, a lot of emphasis is placed on search engine optimization, or SEO. We look for keywords and phrases that will generate more website traffic. We hunt for inbound links to give us the necessary Google juice to climb in the rankings so that our website appears on the first page of results in a search. We use plug-ins that will identify where our SEO is lacking. We alter our content. We work the system.
Depending on your business model, this may be necessary. For example, if you’re monetizing your blog through advertising and sponsored content, you may need that traffic to make your site more appealing to advertisers. If you run a travel or tourism based business, ranking on Google may be necessary to attract your target audience.
But as a service provider, my best clients aren’t coming from Google. They’re coming from referrals.
I recently analyzed our new client inquiries, focusing on where they were coming from, whether or not their needs were a good fit for our services, and who we actually ended up signing. Here’s what I found:
Kaye Publicity receives a couple new client inquiries every day. Of those inquiries, about 20% are quality leads (the authors are traditionally published, there is a 6-7 month lead time before launch, they have a budget, etc.) Those quality leads result in a discovery call, and if our personalities mesh well, I read their books. Then, I offer proposals on about 50% of the books I read (if I don’t love the book, I won’t take it on), and of those proposals, 90% of people sign. This means we’re signing, on average, 3 new clients each month.
Can you guess how many of these new clients found us through Google search?
Can you guess how many of the qualified leads found us through Google search?
And finally, can you guess how many of the unqualified leads found us through Google search?
This is why I don’t want to rank on Google. My ideal clients aren’t the ones typing “book publicist” into Google and contacting the top ten results. My ideal clients come through referrals. They’ve already vetted me, they know my clients, and they have an understanding of how I work. They’re familiar with my style and personality, they may have even attended one of my webinars or speaking gigs.
The leads I receive from Google are less familiar with who I am and how I work, and therefore don’t know whether or not we’d be a good fit. They may not dig deep enough to see that we don’t deliver full-service campaigns for self-published titles, or that we only work on books in advance of publication. The leads coming from Google just plug in their search terms and then start filling out contact forms.
You may be thinking, but this can’t hurt, right? What’s the harm in generating more traffic so people know who you are?
The harm is time.
Optimizing blog posts and website copy for SEO takes time. Fielding these unqualified leads takes time. Educating people, one-on-one, on who I am and how I work, takes time. And time is not a renewable resource.
This data reinforces that ranking on Google is not a priority for Kaye Publicity. Instead of focusing on SEO, I can spend my time nurturing relationships with referral streams.
As entrepreneurs, we are constantly inundated with information on how to grow our business, sign more clients, and increase our revenue. Whether it’s SEO or YouTube marketing or Facebook ads, the right marketing tactics for one business may not be the right marketing tactics for yours. Instead of focusing on the hot new trends, take a hard look at what’s already working well in your business.
Where are your qualified leads coming from?
Run an analysis, similar to what I outlined above. I always ask potential clients where they heard about Kaye Publicity when I respond to their email or talk to them on the phone. However, you can also add the question to your new client inquiry form or as a checkbox on your newsletter sign up. This way, you can collect information on auto-pilot, and even set up a system to import the info into a spreadsheet for analysis.
How are your most profitable clients and customers finding you?
Each quarter, I run a client profitability analysis to see which clients are profitable and which are eating away at our budget. To do this, I take their net revenue (income after expenses), then deduct our team’s hours as well as the percentage of overhead they account for. Whatever remains is the actual profit.
I then look for patterns in the clients that are most profitable, as well as the ones that result in a loss. In our case, the differentiation between profitable and not isn’t how they found out about Kaye Publicity; all of our clients have come from referrals. But in your case, you may notice a link between how the client found your company and how profitable they are.
Run a client profitability summary, then pull the data on where the clients heard about you and add it to the spreadsheet. Highlight any patterns.
How can you shift your marketing efforts to focus only on what’s working?
If there is a correlation between discovery and profitability, then congratulations! You can stop focusing on the marketing efforts that don’t actually work and use that time elsewhere!
You may get 100 leads per month from YouTube, but if those 100 leads are your least profitable clients, then is it really a good thing? On the other hand, if your most profitable clients all found you through webinars, then you can double down on those efforts. By focusing your energy only on the tactics and initiatives that turn the biggest profit, you can save more time and earn more money too.
It’s never been easier to market our businesses online. There is no shortage of platforms, tactics and initiatives, which is a wonderful thing. However, many of us find ourselves trying to do everything, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
Instead, we must look at the data. By identifying where our best clients and customers come from, we can enhance those efforts and avoid the overwhelm. So while so many of my contemporaries are emphasizing SEO and google ranking, I’m saying thanks but no thanks. I’d rather rank lower, reduce the amount of unqualified leads in my inbox, and have more time to focus on the tactics that actually turn a profit.