Any seasoned marketer knows that the digital marketing industry is constantly going through a state of change; it was only a few months ago that Google released the Pigeon update, for example. It’s the sort of stuff that we, as marketers, are supposed to know. Every Google algorithmic update, content viral and successful PR stunt, it’s our job to keep our finger on the pulse.

But what does all of this mean to a potential client?

With an influx of contradictory articles by authors claiming to be experts, the web can prove to be a difficult sea of information to navigate through. Business owners and managing directors are often left frustrated by the mixed signals and ‘theories’.

When you’re presented with a potential client that has been misled or thinks marketing is all about links! links! links! then it’s time to educate them, and here’s how.

Firstly, cut the jargon. You might think you sound impressive throwing around SEO terms like they are going out of fashion, but I can tell you now, it won’t win you any marketing contracts. That’s not to say business owners and corporate heads don’t know their stuff, but think of it like this, it’s like turning up to someone’s house for dinner without bringing a bottle of wine – it’s rude and bad manners. Speak plain English and explain your pitch in a way that makes sense to your audience and their company goals.

Obviously, to know your potential clients’ goals you’re going to have to do your research, and I don’t just mean Googling the website. Look into their latest blog posts, familiarise yourself with their competitors, monitor their social activity and always check for technical issues. Think of the pitch as a first date, there’s a lot of promise and excitement on both sides and the last thing you want to do is leave the potential client feeling disappointed and in need of a chocolate bar!

So the pitch is going well and you think this is a closed deal – you couldn’t be more wrong. So many marketers will promise a client the world and deliver very little. Like in any relationship there has got to be compromise and understanding from both parties. Be realistic and manage expectations. If you fail to do this in the initial meeting, nothing you deliver month on month is ever going to be good enough. A client has to understand that the industry has changed, it’s not all about links anymore. Audience engagement and appealing to the right people is the key in 2015.

Forget what you think you know and go back to the drawing board. Too many marketers put together client campaigns with a pure focus on generating links, while some marketers still have set link goals each month. There’s no quicker way of landing your client a Google penalty than building up a backlink profile littered with 10 guest posts every month, it screams ‘unnatural’ and we all know Google isn’t stupid!

Now I’m not saying clients are easy to educate but what does make it slightly more manageable is to back up your research. Show clients just how damaging black and grey hat SEO tactics can be to a website’s rankings and conversions, let’s face it there are plenty of examples on the web.

To show what sets your agency aside from others is to present a potential client with case studies, existing client testimonials and improved client conversion rates. These are the visuals that companies need to see. Many potential clients may say they want links but is that what any business really wants? Of course not. They want more sales, an increased return customer rate and a healthy brand image.

If you manage to land the contract, it’s time to get creative and ensure you’re clear on their KPIs. Just always remember to keep the line of communication open between you and your client.

Lee Wagstaff