Is there a conflict of interest when all an agency's clients are in the same vertical? Advice for clients and agencies.
One day, an agency received responses to proposals it had sent to two potential clients. In one case, the agency's proposal was accepted. In the other case, it was rejected. For both, though, the reason was the same: "All your other clients are just like us."
Vertical market knowledge can create an emotional dichotomy in client prospects. On one hand, clients want SEM (define) firms to use their experience and expertise in the client's favor. On the other hand, clients don't want that experience and expertise to be used in any other company's favor.
This is a natural reaction, and to keep all clients happy, SEM firms must respect and address it. Prospective clients must realize that ethical SEM firms will do everything possible to benefit all clients within a specific industry and will go to extreme lengths to avoid harming them.
Advice for Search Marketing Agencies
When you're trying to attract clients with the lure of vertical industry knowledge, it's extremely important to put the client at ease and make sure your insights into their industry create comfort, not paranoia:
Advice for Potential Clients
If you've come to an SEM firm that claims expertise within a given industry, you have the right to see some sample results. Many SEM firms have nondisclosure agreements with existing clients that prevent naming clients, at least in print. If the SEM firm can't budge from this even in an informal conversation, let the firm know it's already lost points for touting an expertise it can't verify, and ask for some additional information to substantiate the its claims. Two more tips:
A search agency with in-depth vertical expertise has a great deal to offer clients of all sizes within that industry. Success relies on the agency being upfront and honest with prospects prior to signing and quickly predicting and addressing any client concerns. It also relies on the client having reasonable goals and trusting the vendor to share aggregate information across campaigns that doesn't damage either client.
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Erik Dafforn is the executive vice president of Intrapromote LLC, an SEO firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Erik manages SEO campaigns for clients ranging from tiny to enormous and edits Intrapromote's blog, SEO Speedwagon. Prior to joining Intrapromote in 1999, Erik worked as a freelance writer and editor. He also worked in-house as a development editor for Macmillan and IDG Books. Erik has a Bachelor's degree in English from Wabash College. Follow Erik and Intrapromote on Twitter.
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