A Guide for Selling Search: 7 Proven Strategies

On the agency side, I feel like we do a poor job at selling. We are very good at planning, developing great strategies, uncovering complex technical solutions for clients, but when it comes to new business activities, like selling our core products or services, I feel like we can make some big improvements.

There are several reasons for this, but, fundamentally, an agency is not structured, trained, or incentivised in a way to think or act like salespeople. Yes, we create pretty decks and show inspiring data, but most of the people either pulling this data or building these decks are not truly focused on selling the product. Myself included. I am certainly not positioning myself as some sort of sales guru. I just simply recognise the fact that, as an industry (particularly in Asia), we need to pay way more attention than we currently do on the act of selling in order to be competitive, win new business, and drive innovation for our clients.

This year I have been a part of quite a few search pitches, probably more than any year in the past. Some ended in positive outcomes, while some others ended on the negative (losing) side. Regardless if we won or lost, we learned. We learned what elements of our story were most compelling and which elements were meaningless. We learned what core themes drew the most interest from our audience and which areas got the most yawns. Again, the point is, we learned. So below I’ve included an aggregated list of the top seven selling points that we had the most success from this year.

1. Run an audit. Spend some time to investigate what your prospective client is currently doing in search or within their owned media properties. Are they ranking well in SEO and is their site properly optimised? Document all this and match it against industry best practices. Also, try and present it as a checklist of sort that they can easily digest.

2. Dig into competitors. Everyone loves to see how they match up against their competitors. With SEO, run ranking reports pulling in top competitors and show how your prospect is ranking for brand, product, and category terms. Invest in Adgooroo, which is a robust SEM/SEO competitor analysis tool that can give you deep stats on SOV, etc.

3. Make data visible. The search channel is overloaded with data. And for any prospects that are new to search, it can be overwhelming for them. Emphasise your capabilities in dashboarding and other data visualisation tools as a way to make sense of all this mess. Talk about how these tools enable instant campaign reporting and can be viewed on the go across multiple devices – iPhone, iPad, etc.

4. Show the power of search. In Japan, we saw 9.4 billion total searches in August, up from 6.5 billion a year prior. This represents 300+ million searches daily. There are 78 million unique searchers (62 percent of the population) and on average 121 searches per searcher every month. Use data like this in a creative way to demonstrate how powerful search is.

5. Be inspirational. Search is all about intent. In my decks, I brand everything as intention marketing instead of search marketing. The ability to capture people’s intentions and to actively guide them down the purchase funnel is huge. Using language like this and making it a bit passionate is great, instead of getting caught up in our usual lingo.

6. Make it interactive. Again, some members of your audience will just not get search. Try and create breaks from your slides where you go into more engaging/entertaining sidebars. Ideas could be to create a YouTube search story, show interviews on how people search, interactive quizzes, or games that pull your audience into the process.


7. Deemphasise case studies. We rely and talk too much on case studies. They are of course good, but should be used only in small doses. Instead, make the conversation more specifically focused on your prospect, their challenges, and your great ideas to solve these challenges. Review the above key points on how to better customise and be more relevant.

We need to focus more on selling. And better selling at that. Our agencies sometimes get complacent and even negative about the ‘selling’ side of the business, like it is demeaning to what their core jobs are. But like it or not, rethinking your structure to be more of a sales organisation will be the single factor that will separate the winners from the losers.

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