The reality for the modern marketer is that while the discussion about SEO resources (in the form of software and tech tools) may be getting long in the tooth; it continues to occur and evolve as the market itself matures. Companies big, small and in the middle — not only in search but in digital marketing as a whole — are dealing with a whole new set of industry demands… and buzzwords.
The industry has evolved, and this evolution demands a whole new value proposition from tool makers. Or does it?
I’ve just spent the better part of the year evaluating, reviewing and otherwise discussing tools with brands and providers, and I’m a little disappointed.
While the business has made some enormous technical steps forward, I wish I were more impressed by some of the other “advancements” in the space.
I really can’t blame SEO tool companies for the insanity that’s occurring across the software as a service (SAAS) category. The sales process is longer than it needs to be, but the process is a product of its own making.
The new demands of an ever growing industry, fueled by the dominant search site’s magical mystery algorithm and the ever-increasing complexity of technical content consumption have pushed the SAAS sales process into a cumbersome place.
Listen up, oh venture-capital enriched, big exit roll-up hopefuls, I have some big-data-defying common sense to help move things along for you.
Kill The Euphemisms
This is a recurring theme in tech. The pressure to come up with cool names takes a back seat to problem solving and getting the work done.
What’s a “client magic success fairy”? How do I budget for “hyper-implementation scheduling”? What are the qualifications for your “senior intelligencer ninja,” and why does that person cost extra? It’s almost like the 11-year-olds are in charge, and they’re convinced they are better off without parents.
If you need to add more people to expedite a new client’s implementation, say so. I know search is inherently dry and a lot of people think it’s boring, but don’t try to jazz it up to the point where no one knows what you’re talking about.
While I am on the subject, cool names aren’t differentiators. Not every young thundercat you employ is an expert. It’s not a team of experts just because you call them experts internally or because you put them through a two-hour training class.
Stop telling me I have a team of experts, ninjas or gurus. If I wanted a team of ninjas, I’d just hop in my time machine and head off to feudal Japan. It doesn’t make you sound hip; it makes you sound like a tool trying to sound hip. By the way, a “ninja” is not exactly a role model. I’d really like to see this just go away.
You certainly don’t have ninjas, but you might have people who have been adequately trained or have a great deal of time with your software. So just tell me that and spare me the fly nicknames.
Ask For The Order
You’re in sales; act like it. You want my business. I want you to want my business. Aside from the euphemism issue, the level of negativity associated with the sales process has risen to the phobia stratum. No one wants to look, sound or smell like the used car salesman, but we seem to have taken “not looking salesy” to an extreme.
Stop tap dancing around the questions. You don’t want to “get a feel for my budget,” and you don’t care about “feeling my timeline,” you want to know what the budget is, if we have one, and how we arrived at that decision and when we plan to implement. It’s OK to ask, I assure you.
SEO tools toil under a mountain of FAQ’s and an endless supply of case studies that can be applied to any situation while, at the same time, often fail to achieve the intended purpose. Well, they certainly fail if the intended purpose is to generate revenue. If the intended purpose is increasing the time it takes to close a sale or make your client scratch their heads at a higher frequency, I’d say there are some real winners out there.
Stop scheduling more conference calls because that’s what the script says and learn when your client is ready.
Stop telling us we have a dedicated team. If a person with fourth-grade math skills can add your fee structure to costs and figure out “there’s no possible way you can have a dedicated team on my business even if you made them work in a barn in Oklahoma for one-third minimum wage,” maybe your team isn’t dedicated to us. Put another way, if your annual fee for a software subscription is $50,000 USD, we don’t have a dedicated team, unless of course, everyone on said team is making a lot less than minimum wage.
Forget dedicated teams; I’d settle for someone that could get on a call with a client having spent 15 minutes looking up the client’s business, or for that matter, someone who knows a little bit about the people on the calls.
If I were a vendor and wanted to differentiate myself from competitors in the space, I’d have my sales support people running bios on every call we set up. Yes, I know what that volume looks like. When the sales people get on a call, they should know who they are talking to, or at least have an idea what it says on the company website. All the information you need is out there and so easy to put your hands on, so why not?
I’ve been on more than one call in the last couple of months (with people who had my email address and company information prior) and have been asked:
Q: “So, Kevin are you new to search?”
Q: “So Kevin, what does moatviddy do?”
I wanted to answer “Yes, this is my first call, ever” and “We do film production but only near castles,” but I’m pretty sure the answer would have been, “that’s cool, so let me begin my taking your through our sales deck.”
The Kids’ New Math
I didn’t pop out of the womb good at my job. I still have a lot to learn, but I have no intention of taking it easy on the next generation.
Long ago, in the land right before digital, I was sitting with my huge, undeserved, world-renowned, fifth-avenue client in an annual review. I was very proud of my ability to categorize spending and decided to dispense with the ad budget language in favor of calling it an “investment analysis.”
The most senior brand person in the room stopped me dead in my tracks and said, “Son, around here we call that spending money; if you are telling us that how you are spending money is good, then say that.” Lesson learned.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.