This post is a bit different in that it's written specifically to the SEO / marketing community, but the principles behind it apply to any business person. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people interested in doing something more with their website. They're not sure the tactics they need to use, but they know they need results that good marketing can provide.

“I want to rank in Google for [whichever phrase is most relevant to their business specialty].”

“I need more website traffic.”

“I need more online sales.”

With the goal in mind, we can begin creating strategies that will help us get there. The idea may just be something sketched out on a napkin for ways to grow interest in a client, or it could be a highly detailed proposal on letterhead with the specifics of how to get customers’ and search engines’ attention for a specific service.

With the plan all drawn up, the real question comes up.

Does your client trust you?

Let me tell you, there’s a world of difference between getting a client to start the conversation and to actually sign off on the work proposed. And, even after the work has begun, proving value of something like marketing and search engine optimization is a challenge if you and the client are not on the same page.

Your reputation will only get you so far. Your ability to schmooze will only get you so far.

You have to be able to deliver, and you have to be honest about the quality of your results. Not everything you do will be perfect. It just isn't possible -- despite how much you might try to protect yourself from failure.

Will everyone be happy? No. They won't, but "making everyone happy" is a terrible metric anyway. The question is, are you helping your clients? Are you giving them something of value -- even if it doesn't create huge traffic right away?

Before I go further, I do need to take a moment to say that the expectations you set and the reaction you give when something goes awry both make a HUGE impression on how your clients will respond. Trust is vital in this equation, as are composure and appropriate expectations.

Earning Trust with the Skeptical

When you seek to earn trust with someone for the first time, how would you normally approach it? If this was a person that you had very recently met, would you ask for a huge favor?

No way. I mean, some people do, because they're kind of oblivious like that. (And sometimes that even works, crazily enough.) But most of us recognize that you can't ask for a big favor from just anyone. You have to build rapport first.

The same goes with getting someone to commit to a big campaign. You either build rapport with smaller jobs, or you nurture a relationship for a longer period of time before making the big ask.

I prefer the several-small-jobs approach so that I'm able to prove myself instead of asking for everything in one go. Others who are more comfortable with sales or perhaps more comfortable in their relationship with their clients may be geared more towards making the big sale.

What about You?

Whether you're in marketing or not, how do you establish trust with your clientele?