The Small Business SEO Agency Reseller Model

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by andrewsho

The Red Pill or The Blue Pill?

I tend to get a lot of calls from start-ups trying to go the small business SEO agency reseller route to get their services in the hands of SMBs.  Often they are looking for feedback on their service, introductions to potential resellers, or a SEO strategy to get in front of potential customers.  I have had this conversation so often in the past month, that I figured I would save everyone some time and give you my initial feedback on your business model here.

Before calling a potential reseller, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does your service make the agency more money than their current system?  (I can basically stop right here, but you called me for help, so I guess I owe you a bit more than that.  #Etiquette)
  • How does your service make the agency’s job more effective/efficient, etc.?  Can you prove it?
  • Why is this worth the agency’s time v. the fifty other things they could be doing?  See #’s 1 & 2.
  • How long can you hold your breath? Give yourself a long time before you see meaningful traction.  Big agencies/yellow pages companies, etc. are notoriously slow in making decisions on adding new SKUs to their menus.  They already have a hard time getting sales people educated on the stuff they already sell and new services, particularly those with low/no financial incentives for the sales people and the agency tend not to get mentioned when talking to the client.  And once they decide to do a deal, they might roll out a small test and then take six months to really get behind it.  And smaller agencies who might be faster to take on your service, will sell a few packages and then probably forget about it because they are too busy and it wasn’t enough revenue or it was too much effort to sell.  Remember, small search marketing agencies are basically SMBs, and trying to do business with them is no different than trying to do business with a kitchen counter guy.

For a SEO agency reseller model to succeed, I think you need to hit one of the following points, in no particular order:

  • Your service is a better substitute for something the agency is already doing.  For example, if you can produce crappy infographics cheaper/faster/better than the agency’s current solution, perhaps they should give you a shot.   Showing data that proves results from actual case-studies always helps.
  • Your service does something the agency doesn’t, but needs to do.  Emphasis on the “needs”.  For example, if Google announced last week that it’s going to demote all non-smartphone-optimized sites and you have a smartphone-optimized site builder, then perhaps an agency that doesn’t have a smartphone SEO solution should give you a shot.
  • Your service does not require the agency to ask their clients for more money.  I am not saying an upsell model can’t work, but it’s definitely going to have a harder time getting traction unless it’s the kind of thing that clients are already asking for, like a smartphone-optimized website.  Most small business SEO clients are not spending a lot per month and if your amazing new thing is going to cost 25% of the client’s billings, the agency is not likely to want to eat the costs, and the client that already feels like they are spending way too much money on this stuff (even at $100/month!) isn’t going to want to spend more – unless perhaps it’s for a smartphone-optimized website or something.

There are plenty of great businesses that rely on agency resellers – SEO tools, data management, smart-phone optimized websites, etc.  –  so I don’t want to be a wet blanket.  But when you enter the Matrix of small business SEO agencies, I always recommend you take the red pill.



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