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How SEO and web design agency Zoek scores big ticket clients - and retains them

Discover the importance of leadership commitment to client engagement and the power of staying close to the customer.

Profile picture of Joe O Connor


4 min read

Client success is agency success.

But it often feels like agencies need to work twice as hard to keep clients happy in a competitive, rapidly changing landscape (or just keep them, period).

Web design and brand optimization agency Zoek knows how to delight clients over the long haul. It’s how they landed notable clients like Papa John’s, Sylvan Learning and Century 21, while boasting a 94% retention rate. We caught up with Kellyann Doyle, Zoek’s marketing operations manager to discuss some ways to ensure client success.

Set realistic goals

“First, we always make sure we set clear and realistic goals with our clients,” says Doyle. “That’s where a lot of people fall short. They don't have realistic goals. So the number-one thing we focus on is making sure we have the right goals in place.”

Doyle says that agencies should always make sure that their clients really understand what they're looking for. If they're trying to build a website, for instance, is the underlying motive to garner traffic, or to say, have a home for their brand? Are they using it in their marketing efforts? Are they selling products?

“From there, we can really start to understand what they would consider success to be in the first place, and then make sure we’re building strategies around their definition of success,” she says. “That way, when we hit those marks, they're actually excited about them, versus getting disappointed when unrealistic expectations aren’t met.”

Manage expectations

It’s important agencies test their messaging and general marketing efforts for clarity. You don’t want to spend precious time on call with prospects explaining what you do - that part should already be understood - rather, you should show them how your services eliminate their pain points. (Related: How to generate leads for your agency)

“It’s once we actually start talking to the leads that we start converting them into customers,” Doyle says. “Now, the biggest thing we focus on is making sure that our onboarding process is top notch, starting with an in-depth questionnaire that gets quite nuanced, followed by a meeting to go over their answers and ask them to expand, or set a more realistic timeline.”

All sorts of different factors might go into site creation, so you’d rather know them all upfront instead of discovering them during the design and development process. As the agency, it’s your job to develop that understanding of what’s needed (and expected) in order to deliver against those goals in a timely manner.

Prioritize timelines by budget

This may seem obvious, but budgets are a good way to prioritize how much time you give to each client. “We do work with business owners that might only have $500 a month to spend on marketing efforts, and others that have upwards of $10,000, and so those are going to be two completely different strategies,” says Doyle.

She adds that normally people with smaller budgets might have shorter term strategies in mind, say, to get a website up and running, or enlist a professional agency’s help with a rebrand. Conversely, longer term strategies typically involve SEO growth strategies; people trying to build and evolve their brand from the ground up, not those pursuing a side project or extra work.

“And so, our timelines depend on who we're working with and what their goals [and budgets] are,” Doyle says. “If they’re not looking for SEO services and they’re not looking to create a whole new brand, maybe they just got their cosmetology license and want to do hair on the side, then a simple website might suffice. We’ll prioritize it as such.”

Find clients who understand the need for long-term marketing

“A lot of people don't seem to understand that marketing is an investment. It's not something automatic where you see results right away. And so whether that investment is just one month, or six months, or a year, clients need to understand that it’ll definitely take time to start seeing that money back.”

Perhaps counterintuitively, the right agency will communicate this truth up front. It’s best to let clients know if certain expectations are unrealistic, rather than getting to that point further down the line. This ties back to the previous points about setting realistic expectations for your marketing initiatives, managing client expectations from the start, and prioritizing clients who understand that true client success is a marathon, not a sprint.

Leadership must commit to being available for clients

“You might have 100,000 customers, but you want each one of them to feel like they're the only person you’re worried about,” says Doyle. To that end, she recommends setting up meetings as much as possible to demonstrate genuine effort in staying close to each client.

“Everyone speaks to a sales representative first, but eventually they’ll have a project manager or an account manager depending on what service they have,” Doyle says. “We make sure the client always has two points of contact: the sales rep and the dedicated project or account manager.”

It may seem like an unscalable practice for most agencies to uphold, so follow in Zoek CEO’s footsteps. Doyle explains that their CEO often responds to messages sent to the company’s general inbox. “Sometimes he’ll get notifications at five in the morning that someone forgot their password, and he’ll be the first to respond to help them reset it,” she says. “Him leading with ownership and accountability has really helped the rest of us step forward to the plate.”

While we’re not saying leaders should stop everything they’re doing to address lower level concerns, it’s critical that everyone has a direct pulse on customer needs, pain points and general sentiment.

Stay close to the customer

As the saying goes, it’s best to underpromise and overdeliver. In order to do that, make sure to set realistic goals, manage expectations, prioritize timelines by budget, find clients who understand the need for long-term marketing, and make sure leadership commits to setting time aside to engage with clients.




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