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Selling SEO and Social Media to Baby Boomers and Generation X

One of the most difficult things for any marketing agency that focuses on SEO and SEM can be selling these services and showing their value to older generations. It’s not that these people are less intelligent or don’t want to utilize modern marketing to build their business, it’s that they are resistant to change and require more education about SEO and social media services.
Decision makers born at the end of the Baby Boomer era and the early years of Generation X have been in business for decades and built their sales and client lists through cold calling, networking and traditional advertising. Over the last two decades, sales and marketing have slowly begun to shift towards the virtual realm with the invention of online advertising, the importance of search and the relationship building opportunities of social media.
Being a highly visible company no longer means putting your mark on billboards and TV spots, it’s developing a multi-faceted online presence. Going through your Rolodex is now going through your LinkedIn connections and customer service is now interacting with fans and followers. We live in a time when any marketing promotion print, online, etc … can be tracked, traced and measured on a granular level with phone, web and visitor tracking allow us to discover, aggregate and analyze information to determine a campaign’s success or failure.
As impressive as those technologies may be, presenting them to older decision makers can be a difficult task especially when you are an agency competing against the constant stream of sole proprietors, part-timers and overseas firms that promise the same results at a fraction of the cost. Consequently, you have a curious but skeptical audience that is loyal to their ways and needs to be educated about the marketing possibilities of SEO and social media.
The following list shows misconceptions, attitudes and emotions that play a role in selling to this audience. These don’t speak for everyone but they are fairly common issues that emerge during the sales process.
Search Engine Optimization and Conversion
SEO – “I can get an international service to do it for $300/month and get top rankings. Why do I need to pay a premium to an agency that will do the same thing?”
Business owners are inundated each day with unsolicited emails and cold calls from SEO companies offering “Top Google Rankings” for $200/month. They prey on unsuspecting business owners with internet double speak promising junk services like search engine submission, thousands of directory submissions and getting your site on page one. What business owners don’t know is they are paying for bots and only returning long tail keyword rankings. Even worse, the methods used by these companies could incur penalties from search engines.
These companies tout their results by highlighting number one rankings for searches like “austin car repair shops on lamar that fix nissan stanzas” and it sounds great because their clients see ranking first for that keyword as opposed to “austin car repair” as the same end result because they don’t understand searches have different volumes. Even worse some business owners are brainwashed into the idea that they can’t rank for top terms anyway so the smart thing to do is target the one search a month terms.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have companies charging exorbitant fees for these services that prey on non-savvy business owners. One company in Austin charges $2995 to submit your site to the top 10 search engines. This service is often unnecessary because sites have already been indexed and even when it’s done manually it takes less than 10 minutes.
It’s almost criminal but people do pay for these services without knowing the value of what they’re actually getting.
UX – “There’s a phone number and a form, it’s not that hard to understand.”
For many, if they have a site contact page with their phone number, that’s a good user experience. While this may be a start, often sites are either poorly designed or are based on unappealing templates that hinder navigation and don’t include a call to action. Furthermore, they don’t have any insight into their bounce or conversion rates. A click is NOT a client.
Social Media
Facebook – “Kids stuff, its full of games and isn’t appropriate for corporate use”
Twitter – “I can tweet uninteresting information, why should I pay you?”
LinkedIn – “I don’t need to add people I already know”
Convincing decision makers to pay for social media services is an uphill battle because often they don’t use social media and if they do they don’t understand the sales potential. Many business owners see social media as being outside of their target audience and a waste of time. To them, 100 cold calls is worth more than 100 fans, connections or new followers. One has to understand that their idea of getting business through social interaction is networking events and on-site visits not virtual interaction even though you can measure social ROI. While those old techniques might get results, they are time and resource intensive and you stand a better chance to convert if you connect online before making a business visit.
Emotions and Attitudes
Pride – “I’ve done things my way for 10, 20, 30 years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
This is the most difficult aspect of selling to older generations. Their sales and marketing methods have worked in the past and continue to work to a lesser degree. They don’t want to be left out in the cold and deep down realize that younger, more tech-savvy competitors are taking their business. There is also a perceived experience gap of a company that’s been in business for five years telling them how to run a business that’s existed for three decades.
Some decision makers don’t want to acknowledge their shortcomings because it could be seen as a sign of weakness and they believe that admitting this during the sales process will encourage the agency to charge a higher rate to take advantage of their vulnerability
Fear – “What if I pay all of this money and don’t see any results?”
There is a certain fear that they will end up paying a host of services and receive nothing in return. That’s a valid concern especially if they choose a firm that provides sporadic updates and insufficient measurement. When you engage a company like Fahrenheit, everything from phone calls to contact requests can be recorded, measured and evaluated to determine what works, what doesn’t and ways to improve campaigns.
So with all of these obstacles, how can a company effectively sell these services?:
Make client education the priority: Business owners don’t want to be left behind or put at a competitive disadvantage. Glazing over topics that your prospect might not understand is a disservice. It’s important to show concrete relationships between SEO / social media marketing and sales.
Be prepared for “so what?” You might be in the middle of explaining the benefit of community interaction on Twitter when you hear “I can write random musings and updates about what I ate for lunch. So what?” If you don’t have a response, you’ll lose the sale.
Expect to encounter businesses that either overpaid for services or expect top rankings for $300/month. You might encounter sticker shock from business owners expecting agency services to be priced at rates comparable to the $299 Top Rankings emails that have been filling their inbox for the last few months. On the other end of the spectrum, you may encounter business owners who were suckered into expensive campaigns that believe that a lower rate means a diluted service.
Move slowly. Explain all technical terms and encourage questions and feedback.