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Client Management

The Primary Thing PPC Consultants Should Be Doing To Retain Clients

As the head of a 78-member strong paid search agency, I tend to think a lot about how to retain clients. In fact, every single consultant must and should be thinking about the magical number that is your churn rate. It is much cheaper to keep your existing clients than to chase new clients. Keeping your existing clients should be your number one responsibility, and it is for us in White Shark Media.

As a PPC consultant, it can be difficult to retain clients. Especially if you work with smaller clients where the need for ongoing optimizations is smaller. Keeping your clients for more than 6-8 months can be tough nut if you don’t have a set strategy in place. Luckily, the solution is rather simple.

Learn to Provide Value Every Single Month

When a client stops using your services it’s because they don’t see any further value with the fee you’re charging them each month. You worked relentlessly the first couple of months bringing their account to where it is now, so you might think that it’s well deserved to lay back for a bit. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The good-will from the initial months of good results will only take you so far. And that’s not very far.

Adding value is an old trick that not only pertains to consultancy, but also stretches into offers, discounts, selling, communication, and many other areas. For PPC consultants, value can be perceived in many ways and is therefore a rather vague term.

Think Of The Report You Have To Send

My best tip to ensure you add value every month is to think about the monthly report that I hope you’re sending your clients.

Whenever you optimize a client’s account you should always consider the question:

Is this enough for my client to be happy paying my fee this month? Will this report present enough value?

By asking yourself this simple question, you will look more closely at your process and avoid the checklist mentality. Many PPC consultants just check off tasks from a checklist:

  • Paused under-performing ads – CHECK
  • Added new negative keywords – CHECK
  • Changed bidding – CHECK

However, this strategy tends to get stale and your client will begin to doubt whether you’re truly worth the fee every month.

Therefore, remember  to provide one or two things that will show value when you send your monthly report.

Think Of The Money You’re Being Paid

Another good strategy is to look at the monetary value you’re bringing in. If you’re solely maintaining an AdWords account month-after-month with no progress to show, it will be hard to defend your fee.

If you know exactly how much revenue (either through e-commerce tracking or call tracking) you’re creating every month, you will be able to better make a case for why your fee is an investment instead of an expense.

7 Tips For Providing More Value to PPC clients

1. Do More Than What Is Expected

I always like to deliver more than what my clients expect. If they’re paying me to set up a regular search campaign, I regularly either pitch in with some of the other campaigns, or at the very least provide extra feedback on what they are doing.

If you are getting stuck in the same old optimizations every month, consider starting brand new initiatives. Set up a remarketing campaign, do research for good websites that could go into a display placement campaign or expand on your client’s PLA efforts.

Just make sure that you have your client’s consent if you start touching areas that are outside of your contract.

2. Go Deeper Than The Basics

SEJ Number one thing PPC Consultants should be doing to retain clients Go Deeper than the basics The Primary Thing PPC Consultants Should Be Doing To Retain Clients

I often see consultants get stuck in the monthly optimizations without any direction on where to go next. Once a search campaign is running well, it’s time to look at some of the deeper optimization techniques.

Anything from Ad Scheduling to Bid Adjustments, Mobile Ads, More Extensive Sitelink Descriptions, etc. can be helpful at this stage.

3. Try New Keywords or Locations in Limited Test Environments

You should consistently try out new keywords. Eventually, it gets hard to find more keywords to test, but make an effort to look for them every month. There might be seasonal keywords coming up or other events you can take advantage of.

4. Provide a Landing Page Assessment With Tips to Improve Conversions

Your end goal is to improve conversions for your client. For example, I often provide clients with landing page assessments. I’m not a conversion rate expert, but since I work in online marketing I tend to know what works and what doesn’t. Even basic improvements to client websites can produce greater returns – a win-win!

Once you start to see better conversion rates, you will have a completely new task ahead of you in your PPC campaigns as well. Keywords that formerly didn’t convert profitably can now be eligible for new experiments, or current keywords can receive higher bids.

This goes for other areas as well. Remember that even though you’re not an expert, you most likely know the basics about:

  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Landing Page Optimization
  • Retargeting
  • Web Analytics

Offering “accidental” advice on these topics is great for your retention. If you accidentally stop by your client’s Google+ page and notice they haven’t updated their cover photo format to the new format (happens to all of us I’m sure), shoot them a quick email letting them know and include a link to the new size and Best Practices.

Small efforts like this can go a long way in showing that you truly care about growing their business.

5. Bid Higher, Get More Budget, & Provide a Bigger Return

SEJ Number one thing PPC Consultants should be doing to retain clients Bid higher get more budget The Primary Thing PPC Consultants Should Be Doing To Retain Clients

This is my biggest piece of advice. I often see PPC consultant get complacent with their campaigns. For me, I’m not satisfied until my client is in the top 1-3 spots for every profitable keyword. To be fair, attaining this is not always possible with the initial budget you’ve been granted. One of your main tasks, therefore, is to continue showing a high ROI and turn this into a bigger budget.

My end goal is always to attain such a high budget that I’m essentially without limits and can truly start maximizing the ROI.

Another bonus of getting a bigger budget is that your fee seems smaller. If you’re paid $1,000 to manage a $3,000 campaign, you’re essentially being paid 33%. However, if you are all of a sudden paid $1,000 for managing a $10,000 campaign, you’re only paid 10%. This means the downside for letting you go far outweighs the small percentage you get paid. Also, remember that with the bigger budget you’re also providing a higher ROI, which means your client depends upon you more.

6. Always Let Your Client Know What Is Coming Next

I must admit – sometimes I fail at this. I have this amazing outline in my head, or scribbled in Evernote, detailing how I will grow my client’s campaigns. However, I don’t share it because it is just that – scribbles – and I don’t want to show something that doesn’t look professional. Before I know it, I’m receiving notice that they are pulling out of the contract and are trying in-house instead.

Every time this happens, I beat myself in the head for not following my own advice. I’m often able to retain the client by presenting the long-term plan. Upon seeing the plan, the client is often surprised about how much more can be done with their campaigns.

A failure to communicate your plan of action and not sharing your thoughts with your client negatively affects your client’s perception of the value you provide.

This helps when your competitors are calling your client preaching the latest features, or asking them why you’re not doing “x”. It is a lot better if your client already knows you’re not running remarketing yet because you just installed the tag and don’t have enough visitors, but you will be launching in 45 days.

To sum it up – Be Proactive

7. Present Your Work Favorably

You can do all the amazing work in the world, but if you don’t know how to present it favorably to your client, all your efforts will be for naught. By presenting favorably, I don’t necessarily mean you need an extensive report with fancy graphics (although graphics help a lot).

At the very least, you need to ensure your client understands the work you’re doing and how it is helping him grow his business. Mastering writing and sales techniques go a long way when it comes to getting your point across effectively.

Chase The Value You Want To Present

I like to think of each new month as a new hourglass that needs to be filled. With every action, report, and optimization I report to my clients I fill up my hourglass with positivity towards me and my company. Each month I need the hourglass to be at a certain level in order to allow me to achieve my goal:

For my client and I to be equally happy about paying my invoice at the end of the month.

Therefore, I start every month from scratch knowing I need to fill up that hourglass. One of the great icons of business Warren Buffet once said: It takes 15 years to build a good reputation, but only 15 seconds to tear it apart” (paraphrased). I believe the same is true when it comes to consultants. You earn trust every month you’re both happy when the invoice is paid, but you still need to start every month from scratch.

What Do You Want from Your PPC Consultant? 

I would like to hear feedback from in-house consultants. Above are my experiences from five years in the industry, but they don’t paint the full picture.

I would also love to hear what you believe PPC consultants do wrong or well. I’m confident many of you have experiences with PPC consultants you can’t wait to share!  :)

Image credits:
Illustration 1 “The Number One Thing PPC Consultants Should Be Doing To Retain clients” created by author on 01/27/14.
Illustrations 2 “Go deeper than the basics” created by author on 01/27/14.
Illustrations 3 “Bid Higher, Get More Budget And Provide A Bigger Return” created by author on 01/27/14.
Illustrations 4 “What Do You Want From Your PPC Consultant?” created by author on 01/27/14.

 The Primary Thing PPC Consultants Should Be Doing To Retain Clients

Andrew Lolk

Co-Founder at White Shark Media at White Shark Media
Andrew Lolk is the author of the 189-page free AdWords ebook The Proven AdWords Strategy. He's worked in AdWords since 2009 and have co-founded White Shark Media; A leading Search Marketing agency and Google AdWords Premier SMB Partner.
 The Primary Thing PPC Consultants Should Be Doing To Retain Clients

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23 thoughts on “The Primary Thing PPC Consultants Should Be Doing To Retain Clients

  1. Hi,

    I think you are right. The key to retain client is communication. If you have not the results your client is waiting for, there could be a lot of reasons: his website, his budget, … You must talk with him. I work with client who told me they had any contact with their previous agency after the campaign was launched.

    Reporting is also an important thing. It highlights your work and you can explain with statistics what you did, what you expect, what your client has to do (if you don’t manage the website for example). Your client deserves to know how his money is spent. But it’s important to show him you are working hard for him. Sometimes, only to maintain the performance is a victory. You can’t always do 30% progression each month !

    1. You’re mentioning a very important point – you can’t show a performance increase every single month. Sometimes you will test certain areas that doesn’t produce a positive return, which can be detrimental if you only rely on presenting your work through reports.

      The way you present, spin and ultimately communicate your results and efforts will ultimately be equal to your customer retention rate.

      1. Thanks for your reply.

        I will be happy to have your feedback on SunnyReports, an Adwords reporting service we have launched a few days ago. The goal is to deliver sexy and efficient Adwords reports to your customers easily and quicly.

  2. Thankyou for your input Andrew I am just about to start a ppc campaign for a client I was just wondering what kind of conversion rate would you typically expect from lets say 500 clicks

    1. Hi Dean,

      I think there is not an answer to your question. It depends of the context: sector, the website, the objectives of your client, … All steps in the sales funnel from keyword selection to the final button is important. At each step, you can loose prospects.

      Clicks are money you spend, conversions are money you earn.

    2. Hi Dean,

      It depends on a lot of factors:

      What are you tracking (lead gen, transactions, downloads etc.)?
      What industry is your Client in?
      What budget do you have?

      On top of that comes all the individual factors like ad copy, keyword match type and landing page quality.

      Conversion rate is a prickly metric because it can be very easily manipulated. If you use a broad keyword with low CPCs the conversion rate might be 1%. At the same time if you use a very specific keyword the CPCs might be high and the conversion rate 10%. That doesn’t mean that both keywords aren’t profitable.

      I wrote this post a couple of months back that I think will help you a lot:

      http://www.searchenginejournal.com/forget-about-cost-per-conversion-its-time-for-adwords-metrics-2-0/66155/

      Let me know how it all pans out :)

  3. In my opinion the key to have a good relationship with clients is to understand what they need and give them more. In addition you have to be open to their suggestions and feedback. At least that’s what I do with my clients.

    1. That’s a good approach, Samy.

      On the other hand I see this take overboard too. Especially small business advertisers tend to have preconceived notions about what they need and if you follow their every whim you will be left with an angry client.

      In some cases it’s better to take charge and get the client over in your own camp.

    1. Hi Justin,

      I would back Bastien up. Their tool looks helpful.

      I’ve shortly tried to work with JimmyData.com as well, but to be honest I didn’t have the patience to set the report templates up.

      In White Shark Media we have a custom reporting tool that’s customized for our needs. I know some of the bid management tools out there have great reporting capabilities, but they tend to be pricy if you’re just choosing them for their reporting module.

      My recommendation would be to check Bastien’s tool (sunnyreports.com) or JimmyData.com. Both seem strong for the agency/freelancer who can’t develop their own.

  4. Thanks Andrew,

    What is the maximum number of SME clients an account manager should manage in order to provide an optimum level of service in order to retain them?

    1. Hi Tashy,

      It depends a lot on the individual Account Manager and how the company is organized.

      In White Shark Media we put a lot of emphasis on client communication so we tend to lean towards the low end. No matter an SEM Strategist’s AdWords capabilities in White Shark Media they all have to do at least x amount of hours of Client communication every month.

      Our internal guideline is between 20 and 30 Clients once they are up-to-speed.

      This number can be increased if you put a lesser emphasis on client communication or if you specialize employees in specific verticals.

      I hope this helped :)

  5. Great post, 4. Provide a Landing Page Assessment With Tips to Improve Conversions: We use Crazyegg Tracking that helps direct clients to what they are doing well & what needs improving on their website.

    1. I’ve worked a lot with Crazy Egg Tracking and I believe it to be a very healthy exercise for many online advertisers.

      They have my big recommendation too.

      Thanks for the tip, Scott!

  6. Having worked in-house, agency, and freelance on paid search I can say that honestly the best thing a consultant can do is show they actually care about improving the business. I’ve lost track of the number of campaigns I’ve taken over that were just on a set it and forget it mode. Maybe a couple bid adjustments a month to show a little activity but no ad copy testing, no negative keywords, no keyword expansion. The consultant just sat back and cashed their check.

    And when you take over an account and put forth that little extra effort the client loves it! They want to be successful and you want them to be successful so just so them :)

    1. Couldn’t agree more.

      Auto-pilot accounts are often a sign of agencies or freelancers not relying on their colleagues for help and feedback. It can be hard to reinvent the wheel yourself every month – especially in smaller accounts – but getting feedback from your peers can be invaluable.

  7. This is a great article, Andrew! Always at the end of the month I find the report creation one of the hardest jobs since I am fully aware that in fact what I am creating is almost like a new business proposal. Luckily enough, it’s so much easier to keep an existing client than to win a new one!

    1. I’m happy that you liked the tip, Simona.

      Report creation can be one of the tough ones because it doesn’t produce any direct value to the Client (besides knowing the numbers), so many don’t see it as a necessity. However, reporting is the primary way you can present the results to your client. Especially if your contact isn’t the owner of the company you really want to be able to present nice reports as the report will be your only access to the real decision makers.

  8. Thanks for the sharing,

    In My opinion, most of the small scale customers won’t ready to believe or admit what we are saying. They spend money, they need the profit. Thats’ every businessman or a company looking for. But how to make them to accept the fact of PPC. Thats the huge task i think. Paying the reputation from the client and make them happy its not happening in all industries. Some clients only spending very less, but ROI is huge for them, but for some its reverse. That the worst thing in the marketing. Any suggestion to change this or how to tackle them and maintain them as a profitable one?

  9. Hi Daniel,

    I hear you about SMBs not being able to believe what you’re saying.

    However, you must understand where they are coming from. They might have heard what you’re saying hundreds of times and believed it before. They just don’t believe your words any longer. That’s a fact.

    The best thing you can do is to have proof of what you’re saying (case studies, testimonials) and be ready to go all out for your clients. Many consultants don’t let their clients know about their limitations.

    Be ready to tell a client with a bad website that they won’t get anything out of PPC.

    Be ready to tell a client with a bad business that nothing in the world will work for them if they continue to do bad business.

    Be honest with your clients, have the proof to back up your claims and you will see many of your challenges today go away.