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How Does Your Agency Handle Multiple Clients in the Same Industry?

It’s an inevitability that your agency will get requests from competing customers, especially if you’ve done an exceptional job at helping your clients gain widespread visibility in their desired space. For the most part (and speaking with colleagues over the last 10 years), the ‘ethical’ thing do is either reject these opportunities or refer these clients to a trusted source (potentially, for a referral fee); however, as the digital marketing landscape grows, should your agency be saying yes more often?

Adster, like most agencies, runs into this obstacle almost weekly. Everything is dependent upon specific circumstances and for our SEO engagements we will typically only work with one customer per industry within a city for certain reserved keyphrases. From a technical ‘SEO’ standpoint, things get a bit more interesting. With Google’s proximity based search, especially with respects to Google Maps listings, if you’re looking for a “south edmonton dentist” and you live in Clareview, Google is far more likely to show you results within a 5km radius, regardless of how well your website is ‘optimized’ or how many backlinks you have. It’s also not realistic for a dental clinic to appear in the top 10 organic listings for every iteration of the word “dentist”. SEO has evolved, and so should your agency with respects to setting expectations with your clients.

The cold hard truth, is some clients have substantially larger marketing budgets than others. These companies are more keen on spending a good portion of their budget on enhancing their digital presence, whether it be website upgrades, social media campaigns, YouTube, or offline advertising, which will inherently drive more online action. I read an interesting comment on a reddit post a few years back, discussing this very topic:

Two clients will have different sites, may use different CMS, with different content (before you begin), the sites will be of different age, their pre-existing links will be different to each other, their user metrics / time on site / bounce rate, will be totally different, their social media profiles and efforts can be wildly different, etc etc. So while a consultant should do the best he or she can for both sites, the reality is that there is a lot outside of his or her control. If that is the case, why not work with more than one firm in a market?

Additionally, the two firms may have very different views about SEO. I have worked with several real estate agencies over the years in the location I’m in. Some actively wanted to generate online leads and were very keen to be involved, wanted to allocate budget for a redesign, links, outreach to journalists, etc. Another I can think of had a terrible site that was 8 years old and barely functioned, was slow as hell and refused to spend any extra money to sort it out.

Why should two companies like that deserve to get the same rankings?

Answer: they should not!

However, that doesn’t mean that an SEO consultant can’t help them with local listings, citations, some backlinks, improved on page, etc.

In my professional opinion, if your client is looking to laser target visitors (especially if they’re hung up on “rankings”), Google Adwords or Facebook ads might be a far better platform to use for them, as they may not be aware that you can target specific demographics or specific postal codes as opposed to ‘regions’ within the city e.g “South Edmonton” vs. “T6X 0W5” (5km square radius, vs 0.5km square radius). With respects to Adwords and the direction they’ve been moving and will continue to move in, our agency abides by the adage of ‘one’s a trial, two’s a crowd and three’s a specialty’. Our team has built tens of thousands of campaigns since our inception,  has a detailed knowledge of over 100 service industries and has created stellar negative keyword lists and default campaign builds/settings that can drive leads for as low as $10CAD per lead inside of 90-days with conversion rates exceeding 30%. Our mix of machine learning, creation and utilization of automation/scripts, world class reporting and human judgement makes our flexLOCAL™ Adwords Management program best in class.

So, how can Adster and your agency work with multiple clients in the Adwords space ethically?

  1. If we’re working with another client in their space and they ask, we’ll let them know, unfortunately, it’s not our place to disclose whom we work with. Would the client rather work with someone who has no experience and you’re their test project, or would they rather work with an agency who has tons of insight and knowledge in their particular niche? Only your customer can answer that question!
  2. Not all clients service the same areas of the city. With SEO you’re typically using blanket city modifiers, or region modifiers (Edmonton or South Edmonton) whereas with Adwords, you can become much more granular with demographics and radius targeting.
  3. Not all websites are created equal. If we don’t have buy in from CLIENT A to enhance the website speed or build additional pages, CLIENT B who has spent the budget to make these modifications is likely to get better results.
  4. Not all clients have the same budget, and unless they’re willing to have an unlimited budget (think $15,000/mth in Edmonton alone) you’re not going to be able to capture all the clicks and have 100% impression share 24-7.
  5. A moderately well-optimized campaign with a $2000/mth budget is going to typically outperform even the most exceptionally built campaign with a $1000/mth budget. No two campaigns are created equal, but in many cases, more budget is going to equal more results, unless of course, the $2000/mth campaign is an absolute train wreck!
  6. Yes, technically Adwords is an auction system and more competition drives up the costs, but each business has unique goals, hours of operation, buyer demographics (income, age) etc.
  7. The search marketing pool is vast. There are over 150 dental clinics (insert whichever industry your client serves) in Edmonton for a reason. Regardless of how big your client’s ego is, the pool of potential customers is bigger and there’s no way your client can serve them all even if they wanted to.

From our side, it’s important to note an agency is still a business. Limiting ourselves to only one client per industry, per city (as much as the customers might try) can and will limit growth. At the end of the day, we do work exclusively with some clients and it’s written into their contract. That being said, exclusivity for clients does and should come at a cost. Is it worth it for you to limit your entire model on one dental clinic paying you $500 – $1000/mth? Maybe, maybe not, it depends on the size of your agency and your overall vision. Keep in mind, exclusivity may not necessarily be financial, it could be the client’s willingness to refer you outside business, provide testimonials and/or case studies or something custom you’ve mutually agreed upon.

What are your thoughts? Let me know your experiences owning/running/working in an agency in the comments below!