This is a guest post from Mark Thompson. It is part of The “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.

Expectations, Expectations, Expectations…I just can’t say it enough.  No matter how many times I try to provide realistic expectations to my clients or myself for that matter, I need to keep reinforcing those expectations.  For anyone who is managing Internet Marketing clients or is working on trying to market their website via the web, it is imperative that expectations are discussed on a regular basis.  Everything from expected goals/objectives, traffic growth, roles and responsibilities (client & agency), marketing budget, communication frequency…the list goes on.

So the following list is not meant to be a scare tactic to anyone, but I will say this, if you are able to communicate these crucial truths to your client/company, you will be trusted, respected, and be able to maintain your strategy for the long haul.

1.  Internet Marketing is Not a Silver Bullet

So many people, especially smaller business owners are under the impression that Internet Marketing is a silver bullet to increased traffic, viability, and sales.  There seems to be something about Internet Marketing that because its a new form of marketing and there is a lot of BUZZ words surrounding it, that is must be a magical source to sales.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  Yes, Internet Marketing is probably the best form of advertising you can do (little bias), has the best ROI if done properly, and can yield some outstanding results, however there are no guarantees.

2.  It Takes Two to Tango

I know many clients feel that because they don’t understand Internet Marketing that they can’t help or think they can hire an agency and they are completely hands-off. Yes, to some degree that is true, but to see the BEST results, you need both parties involved.

Here is Why:

  • Content Development: In order to create really valuable content, it really needs to come from someone within the company that has the knowledge and expertise.  If you are looking to outsource the content creation, I would strongly recommend finding someone in the industry that is an expert.  This will prove to be a big part in creating content that is not just the same re-written stuff that everybody does.  It will make your blog/site stand out!
  • Link Acquisition: The agency should definitely be the driving force behind the link building strategy, however with the help of the client you may be able to gain some high value links just by reaching out to their partners, organizations, and groups that they are affiliated with.
  • Off-Line Engagements: Yes, off-line marketing is still a great way to build your brand and credibility, so having the client attend conferences, local meetups, and other events can in-turn help your online strategy.  A plus would be if they are able to speak or sponsor certain industry events.
  • Specials/Offers: As an agency, they can provide suggestions and examples of specials/offers that they feel would entice more people to take action.  However, the client needs to have some input since ultimately it is there business.  Gaining some feedback on what has worked in the past, their margins on their products/services, and what are their “bread and butter” products/services will help to create a well crafted offer.
  • Industry News: Let’s face it, even if a client hires an agency to help with their marketing, the agency is not necessarily going to be keeping up with the industry on a daily basis.  Hopefully the client is already doing that, so it should be their responsibility to let the agency know of any upcoming events, industry news/buzz, or anything that could affect their marketing strategy.

3.  Your Company Has to Buy Into It

So this has happened a few times from my experiences.  Where you start working with a marketing department on an Internet Marketing strategy, then the CEO of the company comes in and is wondering what this charge is for 3rd party internet marketing services.  Not to stereotype older CEOs, but they are typically fans of “old school marketing”, so when they find out they are spending thousands of dollars on a Facebook Campaign, they freak out because its out of their comfort zone.

The point I want to make is that you need to make sure everyone within the company understands what you are doing and is willing to pitch in.

4.  Nobody Said Building a Brand and Traffic Was Cheap

Just like anything, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.  Internet Marketing is no different.  It takes time, resources and money to build your brand and traffic.   Of course, if you have a great strategy and good people behind you, your can spend less to get more, but you still need to spend.

Financial & Employee Investments in:

  • Website Design & Development
  • Branding Package (Logo, Business cards, Letterhead, Checks, etc..)
  • Marketing Strategy & Execution
  • Advertisement Opportunities (Paid Search, Banners, Sponsorships, Reviews)
  • Software/Tools
  • Trial and Error (Learn from Experience)

Probably the biggest aspect though is going to be time.  It takes time for people to trust you, build credibility and position your company as an expert in the industry.  As you move forward with your marketing strategy, hopefully you are starting to build those things.

5.  You Don’t Always Get It Right the First Time

Hopefully whether your agency or your in-house team is taking the time to do in-depth keyword research and competitive analysis, so that your strategy is sound. However even with a great strategy, you still need to learn to adapt and modify your strategy as you move forward.  There are almost always going to be circumstances that arise, so it is important to plan for failure. If would be naive to think that everything you do is going to be 100% perfect and that you don’t need to adjust your strategy at all. If you already have the expectations that certain aspects of the strategy will fail and it is built in to your client expectations, it will make things much easier.

  • A/B Testing Landing Pages
  • Testing Different Paid Search Platforms
  • Testing Paid Search Campaigns/Keywords
  • Testing Offers/Promotions
  • Testing the Conversion Funnel

6.  If It’s To Good to Be True, You Are Probably Right

For every legitimate Internet Marketing firm out there, there are probably 20 that are full of ****.  Be careful about who you trust and work with.  If a company says they can guarantee first page without even understanding your industry and what your company does, just walk away.  If a company says they can do the exact same work that another agency quoted for $99/month, you will probably get what you pay for.

All I am saying is that you just need to be careful with who you work with.  You need to feel comfortable, have a clear understanding of what they will be doing for you, and open communication.  I would say to get some references but the problem I have with that is the company is obviously not going to give you a bad reference to contact.

Here is one little trick that clients can do, even if you don’t understand much about how Internet Marketing works.

  1. Go to the agencies website
  2. Browse their portfolio and clients websites
  3. Find their footer footprint (most will have something like “Internet Marketing by Agency Name
  4. Copy and paste that footprint into Google with quotes ” “
  5. This should give you all of the sites that have that same footprint (aka, their client list)
  6. Do some Google searches on a number of their clients to see if they rank anywhere

Even though there are usually a lot of factors that go into Internet Marketing, it is a good exercise to start off with.  You can also try doing the same for the actual agencies website.

Let’s Hear From You Guys!

Your turn! For agencies please share some of your experiences with communicating expectations to clients (what has worked or not worked).  For in-house organizations, what challenges have you faced with trying to understand expectations that come with Internet Marketing?