I’ve been fortunate to be involved in SEO as a consultant since 1998. I’ve also been fortunate to have been consistently referred to new consulting engagements by those I’ve worked with (both corporate in-house colleagues and individual consulting clients). Referrals from corporate roles are more frequent simply because in-house exposure to separate team members is broader than the typical 2 or 3 contacts common with consulting work.
This past week while reviewing a monthly report with a client and discussing a graph showing long-term ‘upward and to the right’ performance. I was asked, “What is the start date of that graph?” I checked to find the chart began in 2017. I pointed out that the graph started immediately after a rebranding (and change of domain name). We had worked together for two years prior to that change. So a total of seven years.
That long-term client came via a referral from a former corporate colleague with whom I’d worked in-house for a couple of years. That prompted me to look at other clients for longevity. I knew that even the newest on the client list has extended our relationship beyond the initially planned six month agreement. They chose to continue that business relationship because of meaningful business gains.
Of course there have been dozens of short-term clients – and it occurred to me that most short-timers had come from various types of paid leads, from marketing placement sites, and from typical sales activity. I’m not a great salesman – I focus on results. I often use those long-term ‘upward and to the right’ performance graphs to show potential new clients what they can expect when we work together.
I’ve now confirmed that all long-term work has started with an existing business relationship! I’ve regularly been frustrated by paid sales channels (paid leads & ads). They produce short term work from businesses that aren’t committed, don’t have dedicated marketing budgets or are not clear about their competitors. Some of the short-term projects are due to business failures or pivots away from original goals.
So I’d simply like to publicly say thank-you for those word-of-mouth recommendations. I’m grateful to former corporate colleagues, which has included Product, Design, Web Producers, Software Engineers, the C-Suite and former fellow Marketing team members. Consulting clients also refer after we’ve worked together. When contacts move from one company to another, I hear from them when their new company needs consulting.
All those referrals have contributed to long-term clients that I didn’t need to pay to find. Nor did I need to work through long sales funnels to acquire fresh long-term work. I’ll continue to use paid channels when it’s warranted, but it is needed far less frequently thanks to long-term relationships.