When the goal is qualified traffic, does it matter to your clients whether you use SMO, PPC, SEO, Affiliate Marketing, Banner Ads or Online WOMM? When it comes down to it, the client's bottom line is the quality traffic that converts and makes them a profit, not whether one channel is working over another. Granted, it's not to say they shouldn't be concerned, but facts are facts when it comes to the bottom line, the almighty dollar is what rules.
You can be ranking #1 for a bunch of terms, but if those terms are not converting, your client doesn't care. You can manage a ppc campaign to a certain ROI and feel extremely proud of that fact, but when the clients margins are slim on that product and your campaign costs just busted that limit (even though the ROI was great), the client won't give a hoot. You got your client to the front page of Digg and all that traffic even crashed the server (go on ... you can high five around the office!), but out of all that traffic, only 2 visitors from Digg converted. Want to know what your client thinks now? They are thinking - "all that Digg traffic lost me a greater number of sales from my normal channels because this event crashed my server."
As search marketers, sometimes we live in a very isolated world where ranking #1, hitting ROI goals and making it to the front of Digg is all that matters - it's the stuff that we identify as making us top notch and what gives us "bragging rights". But somewhere along the line, a reality check needs to take place. Understanding there's a lot more to a client's bottom line than just what makes us "top notch" in our industry is what makes online marketers who understand a business's bottom line much more valuable than how many top ten rankings you've gotten clients in the past.
Aligning your goals with your clients is probably the most important thing you need to do before starting any project. If your goal is to get them top ten rankings in the search engines, and that's it, you've probably missed the boat already. In contrast, if you're goal is to get your client top ten rankings on keywords that will lead to "X" number of conversions, now you are aligning yourself more with realistic goal setting your client understands.
The point here? Don't make the mistake and assume your goals are the same as your client's. Break out of the fishbowl, and become the valuable asset to your client, not just another commodity.