Online Marketing
Published February 09th, 2017 by

How to Make the SEO Sale: Overcoming Small-Business Hurdles

You’re in sales at a killer SEO agency. You know your services work and your clients are happy. But how do you gain the buy in of additional small-business owners? While SEO campaign challenges exist for any company of any size, small businesses certainly face the toughest battle:

  1. They have smaller budgets,
  2. They’re strapped for time,
  3. They have less clout and fewer connections to gain the necessary useful links,
  4. The owner may be clueless concerning SEO, OR
  5. The owner may understand SEO well and have been burned by previous agencies.

Fortunately, you’re no newbie to sales and you’re not easily disappointed or discouraged. You just need to prepare to solve these common hurdles and you’ll be on your way to helping small-business owners increase their website traffic and grow their business.

Let’s deal with these hurdles one at a time:

1. Smaller budgets

Naturally, smaller businesses have smaller budgets. Depending on the current stage of the business, the owner or executives have bare-bones budgets for all “non-essential” activities. While they’re smart enough to understand marketing is an essential activity, they may have maxed out the small marketing budget with basic advertising activities. Perhaps they understand the necessity of online marketing and are running PPC campaigns.

But SEO? There’s no room in the budget for such a confusing, unclear marketing activity. Especially with Adword and Facebook ad analytics which provide clear ROI metrics, convincing a small-business owner to allocate spend on a marketing activity that will “likely” produce results at some future date is a tough sell.

Luckily, you’re not out of options. You know SEO produces results and you know your agency produces results. Prepare yourself with a clear case for ROI based on other success stories from your company. Present the budget (and don’t by shy if it’s more than what they currently spend on online ads), estimate click-throughs based on company data, take their lead conversion rate, and, based on their average customer spend, BOOM–you’ve got your ROI. Which will be more than the current ad spend ROI.

2. Strapped for time

Very closely related to small budgets, small-business owners often have very little time to allocate to additional activities.

The business may have one marketing person who tries to handle everything from social media to billboards. They may have a small marketing team but no real SEO focus or know-how. Best-case scenario, they even an SEOer on the small team. But he or she is likely to be juggling multiple marketing activities and SEO is far from receiving the attention it needs.

In any case, no one has time to focus on SEO and no one wants to. Fortunately for you, this hurdle is only a hurdle for them since time is no issue for you. Move forward with the strategy outlined in challenge #1 to help the small-business owner see the value and ROI in SEO and he or she will be glad to push the work onto you. Added bonus if they were halfheartedly trying to do SEO: that person now has more time to focus on something else.

3. Few connections to leverage for links, etc.

The lack of clout in the industry is particularly relevant for small businesses trying to compete against large, institutionalized companies. However, the challenge still exists in industries dominated by many small players.

You know that Google favors brands and uses age (and size) of a website to rank as well. Additionally, household names and big players in the industry naturally garner more organic linkbacks across the web in addition to their active PR and SEO techniques.

Small businesses have few resources to seek out opportunities and leads for links and few resources to produce PR and other web content to begin to make a name for themselves. So to the owner of a small businesses, the challenge of competing in the SEO ring may seem like a David and Goliath situation.

This is yet another area where you pull the heavy-weight card. As an agency, you possess the scale and network to provide small-business owners with the clout and reach they need to compete with the big dogs. Explain the disadvantages listed above–disadvantages faced by all of their small-business competitors–and then highlight your agency’s ability to get around those barriers through your extensive writer and publishing network.

Additionally, if the small-business owner on the other end of the phone is competing with many other small businesses rather than a few large businesses, they’ll certainly want to hop on board to get a jump on their competitors.

4. Lack of understanding

Many small-business owners don’t understand SEO. While we hope this concern continues to lessen as SEO matures, lack of understanding of the benefits and strategies plagues small businesses and stands in the way of the success of many great SEO salespeople.

Two opposite types of misunderstanding exist: either small-business owners don’t understand what SEO really is or offers (I can just pay to be at the top of Google?) or they are mistaken either from misinformation or a poor previous experience with a black-hat SEOer (yeah, that’s just basically spamming the internet and leaving dumb comments on all the blogs–I’m not investing in that).

To handle both of these non-understandings or misunderstandings, you have to break down SEO and explain in clear, transparent terms. I know, Sales 101: speak their language. But you’d be surprised how difficult it is and how often I see salespeople trip up at this point.

I’ll share with you one tested-and-tried method I use and teach. It requires energy and effort and is not for the impatient and simple cold-caller. But the effort is worthwhile and shows the company that you care and that they can trust you.

This strategy, is essentially showing a very clear and transparent case study from another success story. Use a similar company, but not too similar. Be as specific as possible while preserving client confidentiality.

Explain that Jane Doe at Boutique Z was experiencing a sales slump. She was dumping x% of her revenue into marketing but her team (or sole marketeer) was overworked and she was not gaining any ground on her competition. You went in, found her competitors ranking well for four ideal keywords and her sort of ranking for only one or two.

Continue to explain exactly what you did: website content update, tag optimization, blog build, technical SEO like iframes (but leave out the SEO jargon), etc. Explain each step in simple yet helpful detail so the client understands that this is within their reach, albeit a bit out of their skill level or time resources.

Then explain the results and the time frame. Share charts and graphs dealing in percentages and show exactly how much time it took to achieve those results as to set up proper expectations.

If you use the correct language and the perfect level of depth, your potential client will come away with a correct understanding of SEO and its capabilities and value and you will come away with a new account.

5. Previous poor experience

This hurdle is the opposite of the previous hurdle of no understanding (although the strategy to deal with this lead is similar). Sometimes you come up against someone who knows exactly what SEO is and knows an interesting cross-section of strategies. They’ve put money into SEO either in-house or via an agency and, for one reason or another, they didn’t see any results. The in-house strategy was poorly executed or didn’t have the long-term buy-in from the right people or the agency wasn’t transparent enough with the company and over-promised and under-delivered.

Essentially, the owner knows the basic benefits of SEO but either thinks it’s not for them or that they’ve proved their money is better spent elsewhere.

First, a warning with these types of leads. If the SEO failed because of lack of buy-in from the top, be wary as you proceed. No matter how awesome your company is, if the boss pulls the plug, drags their feet, or otherwise impedes your efforts, you, too, will fail and waste resources on both sides.

If you feel good about proceeding, then the strategy in dealing with type of lead is quite similar to the lack of understanding strategy.

Figure out exactly where their previous SEO marketing efforts failed. Find out who was the weak link, what the time frame was, the keywords they targeted, and why they decided to stop their SEO strategies.

Then go through the same technique as #4 but with special attention to the places they failed previously. If the company wasn’t patient enough, emphasize the time frame you used with Jane Doe and Boutique X. If they targeted national keywords for their local business, highlight the nature of the keywords you targeted for Boutique X and that you focused on the competitors in their local geography. And so on.

Address their concerns fluently in your demonstration and you’ll be on your way to helping them forget their previous poor experiences and on your way to a great, long-term relationship.


Again, you know the ropes when it comes to sales. And if you’re prepared to face these challenges with your small-business owners, you’ll be able to champion any sales experience. Interested in partnering with an SEO firm that can deliver on all of the promises above? Head over to Boostability Partners to see if your company is the right fit!

Jon Bennion

Director of Sales at Boostability
Jon Bennion has more than 15 years of sales experiences. But he says his sales career goes back even further! His first sale came at the age of five when he sold his art collection to his grandma for $5.00. And he’s been selling ever since.

Jon began at Boostability as a part-time sales agent and quickly became their top performer. His achievements landed him the Director of Sales position. As Director of Sales, Jon managed 25 sales agents and implemented sales practices and trainings that resulted in millions of dollars in revenue. Now Jon works with top Boostability partners and launched a “sales support” initiative which enables Boostability partners to sell more online services.

Through Jon’s career he has trained hundred of sales agents across the country. He specialises in online marketing sales, especially SEO, Social Media and Websites. A significant contribution to digital sales is his ability to teach “traditional marketing” sales reps how to sell digital marketing.

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