To sell your executives on your search marketing proposal, you must think like an executive. To understand what executives are looking for, we explore the questions on their mind, and then show you how to close the deal at the end of your presentation.
Ten Questions Your Executive Might Ask
In a sense, there is nothing different about search marketing from any other proposal you would sell to an executive. With any proposal, your executive wants to understand what it's about and why we should do it. We have found that almost all executives are interested in the same information to make their decisions. Not every executive asks all of these questions, but you should be prepared to answer them, or, better yet, answer them in your presentation without waiting for them to be asked.
What Is Search Marketing and Why Do I Care?
Typically, your executive will not understand the basics of search marketing. Although you should gloss over the details, a couple of charts that explain Google and provide some of the "gee whiz" numbers we showed in Chapter 1 should convince any executive to hear you out the rest of the way.
Demonstrate that search is a growing area of marketing and that it complements current marketing activities. If you have done surveys of your customers, or you have industry surveys showing that your own customers are using search, that's even better.
How Does This Help Me Achieve My Corporate Goals?
Remember spending all of Chapter 5 figuring out what your Web site's goals are? This is why.
The more closely the benefits of a search marketing program align to the executive's existing goals, the higher the probability that you will get your program approved. With every executive, showing that your organization's goals are being met by your proposal makes the sale easier. However, different executives have somewhat different goals and concerns. Make sure you know who is on the receiving end of your pitch:
You probably get the idea. Think carefully about the executives you need approval from, and make sure you appeal to their needs and concerns.
Where Do We Stand Today?
Most executives are born problem solvers. As these fix-it types size up your proposal, they will ask themselves, "Exactly how bad is this, compared to all the other pressing problems I know about?" The best way to answer that question is to show them. Show your executives that when your customers search for your products, they don't find your company. Show them over and over. Query after query. That usually gets their attention.
For some executives, just performing the searches in front of them is compelling, but others want to see more data. You can dig out the ranking check that you did back in Chapter 7 (in Table 7-6). Seeing how poorly your site ranks for a slew of keywords across all the search engines will win over even the most skeptical data wonk.
If your executives use the Web, remind them of the way they search. Are they checking out result #45? No? Neither are your customers.
What Are Our Competitors Doing?
Executives are, by nature, notoriously competitive. They are supremely motivated to beat the competition, and they do not like to lose. Go back to Chapter 7 and break out your site's competitor-ranking matrix (Table 7-7). If you can show executives they are losing and convince them they can win, you will get strong consideration for your proposal.
You can use your competitors in other ways, if you know how to pitch to your executives. Risk-averse executives will be comforted if one or two of your competitors are actively pursuing search marketing. Alternatively, if none of your competitors are engaged in search marketing yet, you can play that up with a visionary executive as the new way to get an edge.
What Are You Proposing to Do?
This question requires a very crisp answeryou need a high-level version of your plan, such as the one shown in Figure 9-2. Executives get proposals every day. They have a sniff test for which ones are practical enough to implement and which ones are pipe dreams. It is not enough for you to show a business case.
Executives check a proposal's practicality in several ways:
If you are presenting to an executive who wants to see the details, make sure you explain the cause and effect of each action with its beneficial result. If you are recommending to the IT executive that all dynamic URLs be rewritten into a spider-friendly format, be ready with the explanation of why that is important. Do not assume that you can show a laundry list of actions without justifying each one. Eliminate any actions that are not absolutely necessary, at least from your first plan. Propose the Volkswagen, not the Mercedes.
What Business Value Do You Expect to Achieve?
This is a broader question than it might seem. Yes, you should present the missed-opportunity matrix you developed in Chapter 7 (Table 7-11). And we do want you to show your business opportunitythe case for your entire scope and the one for your first campaign. But you need to think more broadly than that. Remember the work that you did in Chapters 5 and 6, "Identify Your Web Site's Goals" and "Measure Your Web Site's Success," respectively? Explain how the search marketing program directly leads to higher sales or more leads or whatever conversion your executive is interested in. Don't just show the numbers; demonstrate your logic, too.
Keep in mind that anyone can show big numbers, but the executives are judging whether your plan will deliver on those numbers. If you have a track record of solid proposals, or you can demonstrate that others have followed this plan to success, or your executives have all read this book (okay, that is unlikely), they will believe that executing your plan will actually produce the promised results.
How Much Does It Cost?
You will, of course, be ready for this question. You have the costs estimated and totaled for a full search marketing program across your entire scope, but you also have today's requestfunding for the first campaign.
You need to be prepared for a lot more questions on cost than just the raw numbers. Executives know that estimates are just thatestimates. They want to know why you believe these estimates are correct. They want to assess the risk that the actual costs could be higher.
There are several ways to buttress your estimates. If you are using an external search vendor, you can present the cost estimates from each vendor to show what the range can be. Another approach is to show the details behind the estimates, if your executive can judge that level of detail. You can also appeal to the expertise of your extended search team, who can validate your cost projections for the tasks they must perform.
How Long Will It Take?
This is a difficult question to answer. Make sure that you understand this question. Because you are down in the details, you might think the question refers to when the actions in your plan will be executed. It does not. Your executives want to know when they will see the results.
You need to be careful when you provide your answer, because some factors are hard to predict:
Everyone wants to promise quick results, but it is more important that you show credible results. Coming back to an executive to ask for more time will not position you well for your second search campaign.
When executives ask you how long it will take, they might actually be asking a different question: "When will I see payback?" This question tells the executive how fast the costs of the program are recouped, and is usually expressed in units of time. Fortunately, most search marketing campaigns pay back in a matter of months. In Chapter 7, we analyzed the monthly revenue expected (in Figure 7-6). You can plot your revenue and expenses month by month to be ready for this question.
Why Should I Fund This Project over Current Projects?
Be prepared for this question. There is no "new money" for a search marketing program. Whatever money you want is money that cannot be spent on something else. You must demonstrate that your search marketing program will generate better results than whatever it replaces, which is not that easy.
You can fall back on studies, such as the one mentioned in Chapter 1 (Figure 1-17), but you will have a far stronger case after you have executed your first campaign, when you will have hard numbers from your own business. Perhaps the studies will persuade executives to approve your first campaign as a test. Then you can make a direct comparison of the traffic and conversion numbers for search marketing versus other marketing techniques.
What Are the Risks?
All projects have risks and a search marketing campaign is no exception. You can line up all the usual suspectscost overruns, schedule delays, and overbooked resourcesbut search marketing has its own special risks.
The biggest risk concerns organic search. No matter what anyone tells you, high organic search rankings cannot be guaranteed, no matter what you do. Consider that there is only a single #1 spot for each query. If ten companies perform that perfect search marketing campaign, only one of them can be #1. If your keywords are highly competitive, it might be very difficult for you to get the rankings (and therefore the traffic) that you want.
Similarly, ultra-competitive bidding in paid placement is also a risk. When you investigate your chosen paid keywords, you might assume that paying a few cents more than the current bid maximum will land you #1, but others might raise their bids in response. You could find yourself in a bidding war that is unaffordable for you. You might have the Hobson's choice of losing traffic or blowing your budget.
Despite these possible risks, search marketing is rarely a high-risk proposition.
Close the Deal
If you are armed to answer the executive's questions, you need to be prepared to do something else as well: get your proposal accepted. You must enter every executive meeting knowing exactly what requests you want to make of that executive that day. Do not explain your whole proposal "as an FYI." Know what you want and ask for it.
Here are the typical things you should request:
Your thorough proposal, prepared while reading the previous few chapters, will convince almost any executive. Make sure that you are prepared for successthat you know precisely what you need from that executive to maximize your success.