After working with about 100 different interactive clients in various industries over the last five years, I can confidently say… When you work at an agency, there are things clients can do to help you succeed for them. And there are things clients can do to make it difficult or impossible for you to help their business.
Most businesses fail, so it doesn’t seem far-fetched that many businesses are doing things that either won’t make them thrive or will actively hasten their dissolution. Businesses don’t fail in a vacuum. Bad decisions, inappropriate strategies, low-ROI tactics, team-problems, leadership deficiencies, negligence, and inexperience all conspire to block business success.
8 Ways Clients Can Help Their PPC Agency Succeed:
1. Trust Your Agency
Things work best when the client trusts the agency’s PPC expertise. Yes, there are some agencies that are negligent or not as expert as others. Yes, if you were burned by a bad agency, you will be hyper vigilant for a while. But after you see your new agency is competent and has succeeded for others, let them do their job. Ask questions to learn and help them meet your goals. Don’t conduct witch hunts or make them prove their expertise repeatedly, or you could lose a good agency. Experts want to do a good job, not sell you on their value over and over.
Unfortunately, some companies try to manage their own PPC until it becomes clear they can’t handle it – this precipitates a crisis of poor results, which the client may want the agency to fix immediately. But since the best way to make improvements is by testing, and tests take time, you must expect gradual improvements. It’s difficult if the client is unfamiliar with scientific marketing and testing- your agency may have to explain how long each test requires for adequate data gathering to make wise optimizations. Impatience is incompatible with scientific marketing.
2. Collaborate with Your Agency
In the ideal situation, the client makes suggestions, and does not try to micromanage at the tactical level. Pay per click is more complicated than you think and too complicated for you to manage if you don’t do it full-time. That’s why you hired experts, right? Let them show you the best way to achieve your goals. It makes sense to suggest keywords and ad ideas, but not to decide which of these to keep – the data will make this abundantly clear to your PPC manager.
3. Communicate with Your Agency
In our most successful relationships, our clients provide the information we need to create ads and target the right audience. Some clients are uncommunicative. Our best clients meet with us regularly to get a status update, exchange information, and discuss high-level strategy and new ideas. These meetings are pleasant and productive.
Stress arises when clients don’t understand PPC in detail but try to micromanage a complicated technology-based advertising platform that requires intensive training and months of hands-on experience to understand. These micromanaging discussions lead to education attempts by the agency and frustration about PPC’s complexity from the client. Trusting the agency to find the best ways to meet your goals is always the most efficient and productive path.
Another thing that can block productive communication is the middlemen – or middlepersons – preventing necessary contact between the right people on each side of the table. It’s most efficient if the client’s marketing director or interactive marketing director speaks directly with the specialist who manages their PPC account. When there’s an account management layer, it works best in combination with group conference calls wherein direct interaction between the client representative and PPC manager can occur as needed.
4. Create Good Products and Services
This is an issue that might not be fixable by the time you’re in the advertising phase. Many companies have learned the hard way that even heroic advertising efforts cannot save a bad product.
What sells well via PPC? Good products and services that people need. If your offering lacks appeal or no one needs it, advertising won’t change that. Sometimes you won’t know a PPC campaign is doomed until you’ve tested it for several months. All good PPC is scientific marketing, and we start with only educated guesses. PPC can verify for you whether a product is saleable online. You might think it would be easy to know this ahead of time based on keyword research, but some clients want to proceed with a campaign even when informed difficulties may lie ahead.
5. Understand Online Need
Every situation is unique- sometimes there’s a huge population that needs your offering and is already searching online for it. In the best scenario, a lot of people want to buy right now what you sell online. In other cases, they just want to express interest or you can’t sell it without human interaction, so you do lead generation.
But if your audience isn’t at the buying stage, if what you offer is not well known and you have to make them aware of it AND sell them on it, then you have a bigger task. Your conversion rates will be lower and your sales cycle may be longer, so PPC will seem more expensive. The ROI or CPL results won’t look as good as in immediate-buying scenarios.
Or you may be targeting people who want what you have now, but there just aren’t that many people searching for what you offer. Then, no matter how good the ROI or CPL looks, you won’t be able to spend very much money. The lower click volume also means it will take much longer to optimize your ads and keywords. Unless your agency has a service pricing structure for low-volume accounts (where possibly reporting is quarterly rather than monthly), it may be too expensive to pay an agency to manage it.
6. Work on Your Pricing and Promotions
One of the best things to put in an ad is a special offer. If your promos aren’t compelling or aren’t competitive with other PPC advertisers in your niche, clickthroughs and conversions will suffer. Another good ad element is a price point. This can help to qualify those who click on your ads- since you pay when people click, qualifying people by price point can improve your PPC ROI. You don’t need to reveal your price in the ad if you do an incredible job selling your value on your website and/or reframing your price to make it seem like a better deal.
7. Choose Clear, Quantifiable Goals; Prioritize Them; and Stick With It
In order to optimize, you have to decide on a key performance indicator, your most important metric. It’s ok to have a set of metrics for several goals, but you should know what your most important goal is and which KPI goes with it. For example, you might sell something AND get leads for another offering AND collect emails to market to later. If you’re taking a long-term lifetime value approach, maybe email signups are most important- maybe cost per email lead is your KPI. Or you might just want to sell now, in which case immediate ROI is key. You must decide, because your decisions to pause or keep ads and keywords will change the demographics and psychographics of those who click your ads. If you optimize for immediate purchases, you may get fewer emails, and vice versa.
You can’t change your goals and KPI too frequently, or you risk driving your PPC manager nuts and endangering your results. To optimize for your KPI, you have to run tests, and tests take time. If you have a moving target, or can’t decide, you constantly commit your PPC manager to cutting off keywords and ads that might be good for your next target- and it’s maddening trying to keep track of what you paused when- thinking about having to bring back keywords and ads that didn’t work for one goal but might work for the clients new goal… it creates inefficiencies and is difficult, if not impossible, to manage.
Your goals must be supported by a technology infrastructure that allows for goal measurement. For example, if you generate leads and are concerned about lead quality, but don’t use Salesforce as your CRM, you have to custom program your forms and uniquely tag the URL for every keyword and ad, or you won’t know which keywords and ads got you the best leads. Without backend CRM coordination to tie in which leads turned to sales and correlate that granularly, optimization for lead quality is impossible. The best you can do for lead generation without Salesforce or custom programming and tagging is optimize for cost per lead. As you might guess, you can lower lead cost below a certain threshold and you’ve filtered out all the serious prospects. For this reason, lead generation without granular CRM integration is suboptimal- and doesn’t allow for optimization to the degree that ecommerce does.
Another consideration is that if your site gives visitors a phone number, the percentage of PPC visitors who become use that could be substantial. You should use call tracking with a phone number particular to PPC- a little programming can take the phone number from a PPC destination URL and place it in your site. Sometimes the calls-from-PPC numbers are so impressive they make up for lower onsite results.
8. Commit to Website Usability Improvements and Conversion Optimization
There’s nothing PPC can do for you if your website does not convert, unless you have an infinite amount of cash to throw away on “website hits”. And surprising as it may be to some, websites can convert at drastically different rates. We like to see- at the minimum- ecommerce sites converting above 1% and lead gen sites converting above 3-5%.
The conversion rate of your site is a critical determinant in your PPC CPL and ROI. We learned the hard way that if a website doesn’t already have analytics, you have no idea if the site is converting well enough to expect a decent return from PPC. The site may be converting at 1/2 , 1/3 or worse of the rate it should, so cost per conversion will be too high.
Here’s how the math works:
- Cost per conversion = CPC / CR
- Return on Ad Spend = (Revenue / Sale) / (CPC / CR)
Given your profit margin, conversion rate, and the estimated average CPC, you can find out ahead of time if PPC makes sense for you. If you don’t know your CR before you start PPC, you’re gambling- you’ll know after the first month or so (depending on click volume), if PPC can work. Given time, you can improve PPC performance.
Unless you’re converting sales at 5-10% and leads above 30-50%, you can optimize your website for conversion rate. This is NOT pay per click. Conversion optimization is a completely different discipline. It is the application of scientific marketing to usability and web design. For more on this, the authority is Future Now at GrokdotCom.
In my opinion, everyone who spends more than $5000 per month on PPC should also be doing conversion optimization. You could easily double your website profitability, or more. It’s amazing to me that this isn’t prioritized more highly. Of course, you need traffic before you can conversion optimize your site, but if you’re running PPC, you have that, don’t you?
Brian Carter is the Director of Search Engine Marketing for Fuel Interactive, an interactive marketing agency in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He is responsible for the SEO, PPC, SMM, and ORM programs at Fuel and its partner traditional agency Brandon Advertising & PR.