Cialdini’s Influence Principle:
Liking & Guilt by Association In Relation To SEO Clients.
Why I Turn Down 50% Of Clients Nowadays.
There’s an incredible marketing book called Influence by Robert Cialdini, by many it’s considered THE single best marketing book of all time. For me it’s definitely in the top 5.
Re-reading this week I spotted something that unconsciously I think I may have picked up in the past 6 months. The basic principle is guilt by association OR conditioned association.
I’ll give a quick explanation for anyone not familiar with this principle.
The basic principle is as follows and dates back even as far as when your parents would say: “Don’t play with the bad kids in the neighbourhood” – Why would they say this, even if you weren’t going to do anything wrong?
Guilt by association. Is the reasoning.
So WTF has this got to do with marketing and more specifically an SEO agency?
Well, about 6-9 months ago I stopped taking on what I term “bad” clients. To some this might seem like an arrogant statement and it’s tough to do at the start when the money is on the table, but most successful agencies in any industry will tell you the same thing – Bad clients are worse than no clients.
I thought my decision was based on the 80-20 principle (20% of your clients cause 80% of the hassle/headaches.) Hence remove the 20% and remove the 80% of hassle – Great for business.
But looking into the “no bad clients” principle further, I believe the primary reason may be the association principle.
Let’s take a look at 2 examples.
These examples and figures are actually real but I have hidden the names of the clients to protect their identity.
1.) Campaign A for Company A.
Company A sells high ticket items. They cost £500 and they have a lifetime value of a client of around £2,000.
We started a link building / SEO campaign for them in 2015 and fired these clients in late 2017. Long story short the results were really good, I’ve even used these clients in some case studies as it perfectly demonstrates the profitability of SEO.
So why did the relationship break down?
Generally it comes down to 4 core reasons:
- Their business’s systems and models were poor – Lacked scaleability.
- They didn’t hire good team members – Opting to go for cheap over good, hence left a lot of money on the table when leads arrive. Specifically the sales team which just was none existent (the admin person answered sales calls etc)
- Didn’t write/update content – Another key one that relates back to hiring poor employees, bad/no training.
- Very cheap – Didn’t understand the invest upfront in a business principle.
- Always chasing our company – which ultimately led to a lack of trust.
The results though – 45 CONFIRMED leads per month, with a lifetime value of a customer at £2,000+. They also only invested in SEO. No other marketing sources. I think the conversion rate for these leads was approximately 30% but easily could have been 80% if not more. (They had the cheapest product for a highly generic product.)
The end result – We finished our campaigns on poor terms after having such a successful campaign this was strange. So I decided to dig into this and just simply ask why this was happening. Unsurprisingly it turns out the company was having issues financially, poor allocation of resources was the turn I got. Ironic I thought as personally the root of the problem was with the systems, team members and overall cheap-ness of the company.
Nevertheless the campaign was seen as less successful because of the association with a poorly run company.
2.) Successful Campaign B for Company B.
Campaign B is for a company that sells a very high ticket item and lifetime value of a client is around £10,000+. At time of writing officially this campaign’s results are slightly worse. Traffic slightly lower and leads are hovering around 10 per month with a 30% close rate.
The difference is this company is run properly. Good systems, great management, strong CEO etc. Even the staff are friendly.
Result: Still a client, continue to make 1000% ROI a month and increasing each and every month. Most importantly client loves us and we love them too.
But if you take a look at the metrics of each they are essentially the same. Roughly £30,000 per month in new business through organic search on a £1,000 monthly SEO campaign. The difference? How the business was run.
Don’t fall into the guilt by association trap in SEO!