Eight months ago, I came closer to a real nervous breakdown than ever before.

It all started when my wife and I decided to add a deck to our house…Crying Baby

You know the rest. Cost overruns, missed deadlines, large men with humongous biceps outside the house drilling and cutting and sanding and swearing.

The experience gave me real perspective on life as a client. So, while the title of this post may sound whiny, or like I’m going to make fun of my clients, I’m not. This is a list of earnest questions from earnest people, why they make my soul weep, and the perspective from which they come:

1: Can I get some blog posts?

Sigh. Sure. But this is about content, not blog posts. Maybe we should work on your product descriptions? Or something else?

Perspective: Many firms charge clients for every change to their site. That stifles creativity a wee bit. So, the client builds a Blog, Where They Can Write Stuff. As far as they know, that’s the only place they can do anything.

Just like: The voice in my head shrieking “ALL I WANTED WAS A F–KING FRONT PORCH” as the work on my house spiraled out of control.

Answer: Sure, but I’ve looked at your product descriptions, and I think we can do some great stuff there, too…

2: Can I use this content on four sites?

Sob. Noooo, not a good idea, unless you like pandas. Google claims they handle duplicate content just fine. At the same time, they cite unique content as sign of ‘high site quality.’

Perspective: The client’s paying for something. Why not re-use it? Besides, their friend the SEO said it’s totally fine.

Just like: Me, asking whether we can just re-use the existing siding, while the architect rolls his eyes.

Answer: Review Panda guidelines with them. If they insist, just make sure you’ve explained the risks, in writing.

3: How many blog posts will I get?

Sniff. See #1. Also, quantity really, really isn’t the game here.

Perspective: What’s the client buying? From their perspective, words and sentences and stuff. They don’t see the larger goal: Growth.

Just like: Me, trying and failing to get the contractor to commit to any completion cost after we’d gone 50% over budget.

Answer: Change the game. The client needs customers or visitors or voters. Quantity’s a red herring. Set real, measurable KPIs. That makes the client comfortable changing criteria. “Measurable” means “numbers involved.” Connect micro-conversions with conversions. Then repeat the connect to the client again and again. Remember, you’re not the top priority. They’re doing a million other things. You need to restate and re-teach.

4: Is it working?

Wail. I’ve nearly ripped out my own eardrums over this question. There’s no on/off success/fail switch.

Perspective: The client paid for something. They want results. Wouldn’t you?

Just like: My temptation, after the project dragged on for 8 months past the deadline, to burn my own house down. OK, not really, but it sure felt good to get that off my chest.

Answer: See #3. Set KPIs. Look at the data. Is content driving real attention? Does that attention lead to sales? Don’t just say “oooh, content’s driving great engagement!” Say “We know folks who sign up for your newsletter average $50/year in purchases. This content generated 500 signups yesterday…”

5. Why do you cost so much?

This is where I get into violence territory. Seriously? $2,500 for a professional, publication-quality piece of content? Content that you’ll own forever and will, at worst, generate $50,000 in business? But again:

Perspective: The client sees Fiverr hacks offering “500-words articles for SEO” for $5. They get ‘greetings of the day’ e-mails on an hourly basis. What would you think?

Just like: The guy who knocked on my door and offered to finish our project for $1,000. It seemed odd. No way I’d hire the person. But I couldn’t say exactly why.

Answer: Transparent process! Make sure the client knows what you’re doing, from ideation to editorial to proofreading. Explain you’ll help them lay out the article on their site (you do that, right?). You’re not a black box. Don’t make your process one, either.

Teach it

You can handle almost any client question if you’re willing to teach. Explain how and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Show them how you measure. Teach them how to do it. You won’t lose a client (if they leave, you never had one). You’ll gain their trust.

4 thoughts on “5 Content Questions That Make Me Cry

  1. Yeah, I like to suggest that anyone who wants 500 words for $50 (haven’t been asked about the $5 posts) to give it a try…just keep in mind you will still need to tell them what to write about, manage the process, edit it and then there’s the whole marketing your content piece…I know they promise it is original, high quality and full of “SEO”.

    It is good to be on the other side of the table sometimes to know what it is like trying to hire (and manage) people or companies that do things we don’t completely understand and couldn’t do ourselves (construction in your case and mine).

  2. SEO is like fertilizer: you need to sell it and measure it by what you grow, not by the pound.

    The problem is, with SEO, rankings USED to equate to how many pounds of….um…fertilizer…you applied :-). And because it worked, so many clients have learned to equate generating tons of horse manure content as somehow magically turning into value.

  3. Keep tilting at those windmills Ian. I still grieve over how daunting client education is and how much advantage is taken because of the education gap. I haven’t given up either, but it seems more quixotic all the time on any kind of scale. More a case of looking for a few good client/pupils that allow help.

    Let’s start a club; Jaded – but Keeping the Faith

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